August 8th – Glaciers and Spires

Hi I am calling you today from VCS Pass. Those initials stand for a Soviet Trade Union this pass was named for. We’re at 3,600 metres or some place around 12,000 feet. We are hiking these beautiful ridges and valleys of the Caucasus Mountains. We moved up very steep trails for about six continuous hours today. We put the “Wally pace”on it, I got out front pretty early on when the pace was getting too fast and slowed it down. For awhile Cindy wanted to try setting pace but she was voted out as being too fast and I got back up front again. We got successfully up here in the late afternoon.

You wouldn’t believe these peak faces, big glaciated faces of the Caucasus Mountains all around us, as well as some of the rock spires. Fantastic terrain all around us. We had a beautiful day walking. The pace proved that this group is strong. I knew that because the level of banter, chatter, story telling in the rear behind me was continuous all day. In fact I was asked to speed up the pace at one point to try to tone Alex Willis’stories down. But I knew that the hikers were really strong in this trip and I knew that I wouldn’t slow him down.

We have a new staff member today. A Russian staff member, ( I’ve already told you about Yury and Vladimir) Vladimir’s wife, Lara, has joined us. She’s really a lovely charming lady, quite the athlete herself. She’s going to be cooking for us when we move up to our camp, at what we call “The Green Hotel”, tomorrow. We actually look down onto that beautiful lovely green spot nestled in amongst the glacial moraines from far above today and it looks like it is going to be a great camp.

We are back off down along to the lodge. I’ll report back to you tomorrow from “The Green Hotel” before we begin our climbs above there in preparation still of course, for our climb of Elbrus in a few more days.

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