July 21 - Sunshine from the Barrels

"The Barrels"It is the 21st of July and I’m reporting to you from just over 13,000 feet (3,963 m) at the Refuge 11 hut on Elbrus on a beautiful, clear day in the Caucasus Mountains.

I can look back towards the Black Sea and the lower elevations and see some scattered clouds, but above us it’s perfectly blue skies. The people who are going to the summit today have exceptional luck and they should do pretty well.

Wally and pack on the chairliftAfter we returned from the Adylsu Valley to the hotel, we were tired. We slept in a bit yesterday morning and then, with Marsha, Alex, Yury and the rest of our staff, we headed out on Sunday afternoon.

It was a busy time at the cable car station where we began our rides up towards Elbrus. A lot of Russian tourists were about, but we managed to get on the cable cars with all our duffle bags and boxes of food from Marsha’s kitchen, and we rode up quite the scenic ride. Of course, it ended with the single chair lift ride with each member of the group on a chair to the barrels, the Garabashi Huts, where we are staying now.

Another view of the Garabashi HutsWe also loaded our duffle bags and other parcels of climbing gear on to the chairs and sent it all up the hill.

And I can report that this group is doing great. I’m looking across the glacier at Deborah Hickey. Deborah, from Ireland, was climbing in the Selkirks with a Berg Adventure Mountaineering Course just one year ago. Then at Christmas she was in Chile on Ojos del Salado, and now she’s back in the high mountains on Elbrus.

Inside the BarrelsI’m also looking at Denio, Mike and George who are quite the trio. They’re always cutting up, those guys, laughing and keeping the rest of the group entertained. They’re good buddies and whenever they’re around the rest of us are always laughing at their antics.

The entire group looks healthy. We’re enjoying a sunny day on the glacier. We’re acclimatizing, of course. Our adventures high on Elbrus are just beginning. I’ll report as we make our progress. The satellite phones and my Russian cell phone both work great from up here.

Above: Comet Hale-Bopp over Mt. Elbrus from Pik Terskol, Caucasus, April '97. ©"Observers", AlltheSky.com