July 23 - We are back from the Glacier Camp and off to Elbrus!

On the way to the "Green Hotel"On Friday, we left the hotel just after 10:00 AM with our bags packed for an overnight at our beautiful glacier camp up high on the frontier with Georgia.  I think few members of this group had any idea what to expect as they left the security of lodge living for a night camping at higher elevations in a remote area.  There was concern about the size and weight of the packs we would be carrying – and as always, “how should we dress?’

Any anxiousness about the unknown was quickly dispelled however.  We were quickly processed through the border checkpost at the beginning of the trail and in two hours time we had ascended a beautiful streamside trail to our camp in lush green meadows at the edge of the Adylsu Glacier.

BAI’s local staff had moved up to establish the camp yesterday, while the group was ascending to VCSPS pass.  In the early afternoon we walked in to the glacier camp to find the tents set up and lunch waiting.  Our cook, Olga, was not yet known to the group, but she quickly won their hearts when she served hot chicken noodle soup that she had prepared while they were hiking up.  Later for dinner we had her Borsch soup, prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients followed by chicken and mashed potatoes. Several members of our team commented that it was the best meal they had had since arriving in Russia.  We were amazed because we have had great food since we arrived and Olga was working on camp stoves in a tent!Olge, the BAI cook, has been a hit with the team

Yesterday we awoke at 3:30 AM and began climbing up the glacial moraine by our camp at 5:15.  We put our crampons on about an hour later when we reached the ice and had a nice ascent on to the rock on the pass above our valley.  Just before we reached the top we crossed a Bergschrund [crevasse that separates flowing ice from stagnant ice at the head of a glacier] using a fixed line for protection.  Vladimir and Alex, the two guides well know to BAI teams from previous season, and I agreed that this team seems very strong.  Our pace was a strong one, and the group moved well together.  Although this day was a more demanding mountaineering day than when we hike to VCSPS pass, most everyone reported that they were less tired when we got back to camp.

Climbing on the glacier

This time Olga had vegetable soup waiting as we packed up and descended back to our bus which was waiting at the end of the road.  I had been dreaming of the sauna back at the hotel all day.  As it turned out Mike Shuel and I were the only ones who actually steamed.  The rest to the team met for drinks and story telling after they had showers.  As I listened to the laughter while they relaxed before dinner I knew this was a crew that could recover well.  The day had been long and tiring, but the spirit was one of fun and confidence as we concluded our acclimatization and conditioning before we move up the slope of Elbrus this morning.

Mike Shuel enjoying the nice weather

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