August 10, 2007 – Caucasus Mountains Beat with Rhythms of Home

John celebrates on the summit!

Our ride down the chair lift and the cable cars to Azau station in the Valley was a matter of teamwork, something that we have become very good at during this trip.  We moved our duffel bags full of climbing gear and smelly clothes as well as our boxes of trash, and left over food through each station efficiently using the “chain gang” approach of passing the bags off one cable car, through the stations to be loaded onto the next.  At each stop the temperature was warmer and soon we found ourselves standing in the green and warmth of the Baxan Valley.

James greets the world from the top of Elbrus!Showers and a sauna back at the hotel were calling us, but first we made some stops along the way.  We had rental gear to return to the mountaineering shops, and “Elbrus” tee shirts to buy.  Patrick had been firm that he would not purchase an Elbrus tee shirt or hat until he had successfully completed the climb; he did not want to “jinx” his effort.  Once we were down, he was the first to buy his tee shirt.

We took lunch – sashlick barbeque lamb and salad – at the Cheget ski area and finally made it back to the large clean rooms at our hotels and the welcome warm water for showers. 

The same smiles and hugs from Lida, Olia, Camilia and the rest of the staff at our hotel that had sent us off on our climb greeted us upon our return.  Even I, who have enjoyed the warmth and passion for life of the people of Caucasus for many years, was surprised at the joyous reception this Berg Adventures team got in the hotel lobby.  Once again tears were seen as we were welcomed back to our “home”. 

Thursday the 9th dawned as another clear Caucaus morning.  We really have had perfect weather throughout this trip.  Often we have cool thunderstorms in the afternoon, but each morning is clear, with great views of the mountains rising around us.  We spent Thursday driving around the Valley for some more shopping.  Vladimir suggested an excellent lunch spot.  The group fished for trout that was grilled by the stream side.  Vlad told me that the total catch that fed the group was 12.5 kilos.  Some were better fishermen that others, but each member of the group ate plenty of trout.  Later most of the group walked back to the hotel, enjoying the people they met along the way – everyone is in a holiday mood during he summertime in the Elbrus region, and on days like this it is especially relaxed and festive.  The afternoon thundershowers did not begin until everyone was back at the hotel and in the sauna.

Firing up the BBQ in Cheget

Last night at our farewell dinner we gave our thanks to all our friends in the Caucaus.  We came here to climb a mountain and I know that the memories of standing on Elbrus’ summit only two days before are fresh in everyone’s mind.  We will leave with a lifetime of memories of great climbing and great friends.  That clear day when each of us stood at the top of the continent of Europe will be in our minds and hearts forever.

Today we are beginning our journeys onward from Elbrus.  Four of us are returning to St. Petersburg, three to Moscow and John is going to begin his trip by train to Sochi on the Black Sea, the recently announced site for the 2014 Winter Olympics.  We will be taking the mini bus back to Mineralnye Vody with excitement for at least a bit more of Russia before we begin our travels home but also with our heads turned back toward Elbrus from time to time. 

Patrick sends a message home - He’s earned his Elbrus shirt now!

The amazing staff welcome ‘home’ the team!

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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",