August 7, 2002 – End of the First Climbing Day

This report is coming to you near the end of our first day of climbing activity in the Caucasus Mountains. It has really been a great one. We left the lodge not that early this morning, not until about 9 am. We had a wonderful breakfast. They packed up our lunches. They cooked some food and prepared some lunch bags in the kitchen. We have a snack bar you might say, set up in my room, where people come in and supplement that with various goodies that we flew over from North America... so people left with really ample lunch bags, water bottles and even thermos bottles filled with hot drinks for a long day on the glacier.

We drove a bit and then hiked 2,500 ft. up to get started on a beautiful but quite steep mountain trail. It was really hot when we began hiking, unbelievably hot. Alex and Julie probably thought they were on one of their training hikes in north Georgia. In fact I told Julie I thought she was probably the most appropriately dressed climber today. She had on a long sleeved white shirt to reflect the sunlight, a good sun hat, and small boots with gaitors for the scree and snow that we were later to encounter. It got a lot cooler when we got to 2, 500 ft higher however up on the Kashkatash Glacier, when the clouds came in. We could look across and see the lower portion of the massive peak across from us – Mt. Elbrus... we saw the lower glaciers but couldn’t see all the way to the summit. On the glacier we did some crampon technique - we did a little crampon school. The group has varying experience with crampons. Some folks hadn’t been in crampons for years.

There’s people like Jack Maxwell and Hynek Dvorak, who just returned from the five day Intro Alpine Mountaineering course with Berg Adventures in the Selkirks. Their guide was Dave Scott. There is also Gary Bacon who was just on the top of McKinley last month. Various other folks have had a lot of experience. You have Alex Willis from North Carolina, who literally has never had his crampons on until today. Alex did great; everyone else remembered their crampons skills from before and we had a good introductory course on the glacier. Now we are walking back down the valley and we’ll be back to the lodge this evening.

I mentioned this being the “Russian Chamonix”; there are a lot of other climbing groups in the area. All Russian tourists and Russian youth are from the climbing camps which are a holdover from the Soviet days and are run privately now... but these are like summer camps for the kids to get climbing instruction and that’s a big activity in this area.

I’d like to introduce you now to two of the Russian guides that are working for me on this trip: Yury and I have been planning this program for months via email. He’s my chief guide here and we also have Vladimir, who has a doctorate in geophysics and is from Kiev in the Ukraine. I will report more again tomorrow, so goodbye from the Caucasus.

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