August 11 – The Refuge

It is Wally calling you on the 11th from about 13,300 ft. - just over 4,000 metres at what we call the Refuge. It is at the sight of the old Priut. The old Pruit hut burned down a few years ago. The newly rebuilt one is quite cosy and comfortable. We are inside now visiting with various Russian and Ukrainian climbers and tourists that are in the area... (we are) drinking tea and having a good time. Lots of transportation up here today, it was interesting. First we took a bus from our lodge then two cableways, or what we call in a North American ski area – a gondola – then we took an old single metal chairlift. This thing is pretty wild; it’s kind of hard to imagine, but a single chair, an open chairlift. Sometimes we’d put a person on, sometimes a person holding a pack in front and then we’d load boxes of food, packs, and duffle bags that we were sending up. It was quite the scene.

Then we took a snow cat the rest of the way up here. Now at this base camp we are looking at climbing higher on Elbrus. Of course we’ll take our first acclimatization walk tomorrow to at least about 15,000 ft. Then weather permitting, who knows what is going to happen.

The Russian staffers are inside cooking and preparing a lot of our equipment. We have a new head cook, her name is Nadia. She seems to be doing a really great job with our first meal and I’m sure she is going to be an excellent cook. Lara, who I already introduced, Vladimir’s wife, is up here helping cook as well. It turns out she is a gymnast and also trained in sports medicine in Kiev. It quickly became known she is also an excellent massage therapist. Donna was the first taker and the reports from Donna had everyone queued up to get a massage from Lara. Alex Willis has befriended several Russian kids, one really sharp young man named Mark, from Kiev from the Ukraine and also a Russian girl named Anna. There have been exchanges of email addresses and a lot of camaraderie has developed in here.

Mark’s father is up trying to climb Elbrus today. Mark and his family are waiting for him in turn. We are having a great time with great Russian and Ukrainian friends and we’re acclimatizing, it is cold up here, but the hut is warm and cosy and we’re right where we want to be as we look at getting ready to climb Elbrus.

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