August 2, 2007 – Enjoying the Atmosphere in Cheget

A view of Mt. Elbrus from Cheget

This group has already settled into a routine that they will tell you they love.  There is local color, fantastic mountain scenery and variety in each of our mountain walks.  Today’s acclimatization hike began that the Cheget ski area. The twin summits of Elbrus were visible far above us.  Cheget is always a popular place with BAI groups.  The chair lifts run up the mountainside from a base area that is full of kiosks where women sell local crafts, sashlik, lamb barbeque stands and bars with outdoor seating where we can enjoy the views of the Caucasus Mountains and hang out with Russians on holiday.

Patrick and Alex ride the chairlift  

We rode the chair lift up past lush slopes filled with short green grass and wildflowers.  We got off the chair at 2680 meters (8800 feet) and began slowly ascending through wildflowers with views of steep glaciated mountain faces all around us.  Today we were carrying our passports as we were walking near the border with Georgia and Russia, but we were enjoying the trail with all sorts of mountain tourists from around the world. Lida and I began a conversation with a nice couple from Moscow.  Lida tried speaking some Russian with them then we switched to English when the man said that he had spent a lot of time in Toronto.  Later we learned that he actually lived in Portugal. When we reached our high point at 3466 meters (11,380 feet), we enjoyed introducing him to Alex, who was surprised to have a conversation in Portugese on a mountaintop in Russia! There were also hikers from Hungary at the top with us. 

The resort atmosphere of the Elbrus region is probably my favorite place in the world to acclimatize for Francois happy to be hikinga big climb.  We stood with our friends from around the world and checked maps, altimeters and took photographs in a fabulous mountain setting.

We made it back to the chairs just before they closed for the afternoon and caught rides back down the Cheget Base Area by 4:00PM.  Things had really picked up by the time we returned.  Local kids were dancing at the outdoor cafes. Lida took off to do some shopping.   Francois had spotted a woman who sold big cream filled doughnuts at the base of our hike yesterday.  He dreamed of that all the way up and down the steep trail glacier trail and at the bottom he enjoyed his pastry with a large “Baltica # 7” beer.  Today, he, John and James wasted no time finding an equally suitable spot for their afternoon refreshment.

Meanwhile I met with Olga, BAI’s cook for the Elbrus climb.  Those of you who follow our Elbrus dispatches each year will remember Olga well.  Planning the menu for our trip up on Elbrus, which will begin in three more days, was easy. Olga’s lists of the meals and snacks that were the biggest hits with our climber in past seasons are very thorough.  BAI’s gourmet cook on Mt. Elbrus!I was basically able to say, “Olga just do it again, Berg Adventure’s teams love your food!”

Before we left the hotel this morning we had told the woman behind to front desk to prepare the sauna.  It takes hours to get the rocks hot, so we made sure to put the request in before we left.  I have had comments from this group that my two first days hiking, which I described as “easy” were very demanding.  I think they are a bit concerned that if this is easy, what’s next?  And perhaps they should be.  Climbing the highest peak in Europe is and extremely demanding goal.  Muscles are sore and they will continue to be sore as this week goes on.  As any Russian will tell you the sauna is a great treatment for tired muscles and minds that have been focused on the incredibly high peaks and glaciers above us.  My legs feel like rubber now and I know that we will sleep well tonight.

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All Text, Images and Audio Files © Berg Adventures International 2007

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