August 6, 2002 – Baksan Valley, the “Russian Chamonix”

Well it’s early evening on August 6th again. We are in the Caucasus Mountains, we’ve arrived in the Baksan Valley. The Baksan Valley is sometimes called “The Russian Chamonix” : alpine resorts in a Russian sense, a lot of old facilities for training athletes, a skiing area, just a general area of alpine activity and athletics.

We are staying at the nicest lodge I’ve ever seen. It’s a new place not very typical of what is available for accommodation in this area. If you could see this little dining room, it has been set for us with nice china and a very nice looking salad for our first course…. It is waiting for us as people have their showers. You might not have the image that we are roughing it in the mountains. We will be beginning soon as we move up on these beautiful ridges in the Caucasus around us, and begin our training class tomorrow. Certainly we are welcome in a very nice lodge in Baksan tonight.

St. Petersburg and Moscow seem to be a long ways away. It is almost hard to imagine or describe to you how far we are from those cities. I didn’t get to describe St. Petersburg to you in the cybercast much from this trip. It is a wonderful city this time of year. A light and lively air about it everywhere, people are happy and these days of “white nights” as they call it, when the days are so long and the city has a very summery appearance to it. From our hotel on Nevskij Prospekt we could take a left out the front door and walk down to the Hermitage and any number of other of the landmarks in that historic city and we did just that. To our right three blocks away is the rail station and as somebody commented, St. Petersburg this time of year is the best people watching in the world.

I’ll certainly go into some more details when the second group arrives – they’ll be on the same program. St. Petersburg is our home base in Russia. We’ll return there before departing.

Gary came into St. Petersburg from previous travels in Russia. He actually had come up on the same night train we took from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Cindy showed up in St. Petersburg after a month in India.

Now that we are down in the Caucasus Mountains we are in the frontier part of Russia. The Georgia border is not far away. The people here are a proud people and have lived in these mountains for generations. I also described to you in the pre-trip literature about these Berg Adventures climbing in the Caucasus. This “Russian Chamonix” is populated at this time of year by a community of climbers and recreational users mostly from Moscow. They are enjoying life in the mountains.

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