Leaving the Baksan Behind Us -

Wally grilling the shashlykThe soggy weather in the Baksan Valley continued through Thursday, just as Michael had forecast. After our ride back down the chairlift and cable cars on Wenesday, our hotel and the staff there gave us a warm welcome. Richard returned to his regular post at the sauna and pool, the rest of us would stop by there from time to time as well.

Karen led shopping expeditions to the Cheget ski area on both Wenesday and Thursday. The local women who run the stalls there were eager to sell their handicrafts and other wares. Spencer was a good customer and prided himself on getting good prices - although he was heard to exclaim after one of his purchases: "wait I forgot to negotigate" The woman who ran the stall laughed hard, her gold teeth flashing. She was quick to make it clear that a deal was a deal, and intended hard bargaining did not count once a price had agreeded upon.

Shashlyk is Served!Our farewell dinner in the Elbrus Region was Shashlyk, or barbequed lamb, cook outsided the hotel and served indoors, with our Russian staff from the Adlysu Valley Trip and Mt. Elbrus as our honored guest. It was a warm and lively evening of celebration and heartfelt congratulations and thanks shared all round.

Anatoli, who photographed our climb, showed up and had prints of their climbing day on Elbrus for each of the team members to take home. "Toli", who had become know as "Wally's Double" to the team members, had worked hard on that stormy day to get individual portraits of all the climbers high on the mountain as well as great group climbing shots. From the saddle, he had stepped into his skis and descended quickly to the valley to get the film processed. His appearence at the party was welcomed and everyone loved their photos.

Anatoli and Mike Fucci (Wally's Double)On the morning of July 25th we sadly said goodbye to staff at the hotel, and headed the airport for the flight back to St. Petersburg. Our last evening in Russia was spent enjoying the bright, active midsummer world of Nevsky Prospect, "Russia's Main Street". This cosmopolitan place is a world away from Kabardino - Balkaria and its mountain people. The comforts and excitment of the city were fun, but I think we all shared the sense that our hearts were still in the Caucasus Mountains and the great adventures we had shared there. This is a group that will stay close to one another for a long time because of all that good times we have had on this trip. We will depart with great memories of Russian friends and memories of one another that will bring laughter and emotion for years to come.

Shashlyk skewers in the air...

Our Elbrus team makes a toast

,,, and a toast to our great adventure!

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