August 13 – The Glory of Elbrus

OK, it’s about 4:30, twenty minutes till 5 a.m. on the 13th of August. I’m calling you again from Pastukhov Rocks. The entire team, all 13 of us, are on our way to the summit of Elbrus. Most of us were picked up in the snow cat this morning right on schedule. They changed our time and told us it would be 4 a.m. and it was, and I’m really proud to report that Hynek, Donna and Ryan elected to climb the entire elevation gain from the Refuge and decided not to ride the snow cat. They went with Vladimir as a guide and passed the snow cat just a few hundred feet before we turned around here at Pastukhov Rocks.

Leila’s back is fine after a day of rest down at the cabin; the entire team is together. It is a beautiful clear morning – it was warm down at the Refuge when we started. It is a bit windy now but we are underway and we will be reporting to you as we try to climb up through the Saddle at 17,000 ft. and onto the summit of Elbrus this morning.

(Later in the day…)

It’s a little after 1 p.m. and I’m looking at an absolutely great team. It is still a perfectly clear day; it’s eight hours after I last talked to you as we left that snow cat in the early morning clear darkness and it’s actually 10 hours since Ryan, Donna and Hynek left from the Refuge. The entire Berg Adventures Elbrus #1 team for this season is standing on the summit of Elbrus. I am just a few feet below looking up at them. Really a great scene…

Gary D. Bacon is up there on his three summits program: he climbed Denali in June, he just climbed Elbrus, he’s going to do Kilimanjaro by the Lemosho route in January and I think it’s going to continue after that. Jim Alexander was actually the first one to walk onto the summit. Jim helped me set the pace with Julie right behind through most of the long morning hours. You wouldn’t believe how hot it has been as we climbed through that saddle at 17,000 ft. Now it’s still perfectly clear, but quite windy and plenty cool.

This entire team has done really well, they are proud; I know everyone back home is proud. I’m thinking especially of one team member, Charles Martin, who but for a torn tendon in his finger would probably be here with us today. I know Dania and Alexander, who were also part of a Kili ascent a couple of years ago are here with us in spirit too. Their dad, Jack, is here and I’m thinking of all of you.

To everyone back at home, this team is about as happy and satisfied as a mountaineering team could be. You wouldn’t believe,….once again I’ve got to talk about how clear the skies are. We are going to close for now, head back down to the Refuge. Our adventures in Russia will be anticlimactic now I think, but are far from over. We still have the Caucasus Mountains to enjoy; we’ll be back down in the valley for the next couple of days. And you remember that I described St. Petersburg, that wonderful city to the north, as our home base in Russia. We’ll we back there in a few days – we’ll actually be meeting some members of the next group before long. We will continue to give you dispatches describing our adventures but hats off for the effort of this entire group of 13 today as I am watching them stand up the on the summit of Elbrus enjoying their accomplishment.

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


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