August 12 – A Beautiful Clear Day Up High

It’s about 7am on the 12th of August and I just thought I should call in and give you another quick report. This morning Larry, Jim, Jack Maxwell and I were up early. We walked outside and were stunned to find an absolutely clear, windless and sunny morning. The twin summits of Elbrus are in full view and in fact we are watching a little line of climbers, the Russian and Ukranian climbers that were in the hut with us last night, ascend up to the saddle at 17,000 ft. We’re also looking across at the main range of the Caucasus Mountains, including the giant west face of Ushba.

We’re really happy we got up to this Refuge, at the old Priut 11 site. It was a great opportunity for yesterday. To describe the scene here: there are six of us sleeping in one big room downstairs, one big open bed, there’s five of us in the other. Hynek and Ryan are upstairs with the Russian staff and everyone else that’s crowded into the hut here.

It is a great scene. We rested well I’ve seen everyone now this morning and they look in great shape for their first night at this altitude. So the report is absolutely clear skies in the morning, as is often the case. That’s why when we go for the summit we’ll be starting as early as we do.

There are beautiful peaks all about and folks that look very acclimatized at this point. We’re going to be doing some climbing around here today to see how we feel after those long days of conditioning earlier down low in the valley. If things look good we may be starting for the summit of Elbrus pretty soon.

(Later in the day…)

OK, it’s 1pm. I’m calling you from the top of Pastukhov Rocks at 15,200 ft - Ryan, Hynek, Alex, Julie, Gary, Larry, Jim, Cindy, Jack, Donna, myself. Oh, here comes Alex Willis. We’re all up here, of course Vladimir and Yury, the Russian guides are here. Yesterday when we were loading those big loads on the chair, Leila threw her back out. She strained her back a little bit. It seems like it’s going to be fine. As a matter of fact after Lara gave her a massage yesterday afternoon it seemed to be on the mend. But Leila is back down at the hut.

We’ve got the rest of the staff getting our things organized because we have decided since I’m looking at a well acclimatized, fit crew that just ascended up here together with a good pace, and based on this clear stable weather that Yury and Vladimir and I are looking at, that we’re going to go for the summit tomorrow morning. We’ve ordered a snowcat to meet us at 3 a.m. at the hut and we’ll ride up here, a little below where we are right now. Then we’ll begin our ascent to 18,500 ft. the top of Elbrus. Now lest you think that a snowcat is an easy way out or for wimps, let me tell you and I’ll remind you again tomorrow when we get up there, that this is going to be a really difficult climb from this point on for this group. They’ve gained a lot of experience, they’ve pushed through a couple of long days so far and I’m betting we have a good day tomorrow. We’ll give you a report on the morning as we get started and for now we’re going to enjoy some sunshine and an easy descent back to a late lunch, back down at the Refuge.

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