August 15 – Goodbye from the Caucasus Mountains

So what do you do in the Caucasus Mountains after a very successful climb of Mt. Elbrus when you are back in the valley? We had been blessed, as you could tell from the previous dispatches, with excellent weather on this trip. But today, we awoke surprisingly to a dreary cloudy day with intermittent light rain and sometimes-steady drizzle. The clouds hung low but the glaciers were still visible low on the big peaks around here.

We went down to Cheget, which is a ski area. There were a couple of chairlifts running up into the cold mist. We wandered around the shops a bit and ended up in a typical Balkar (that is the local people) restaurant for a barbecue. It was quite the festive scene…there were a lot of Russian tour groups in there and we had a pretty fun afternoon, just laughing and relaxing with everyone. There was a karaoke scene in there and before long Alex Wallace and Alex Willis were up in front of everyone doing a pretty passable rendition of “Stand By Your Man”. A little later under the leadership of Larry Crozier, Hynek, Ryan and of course Alex Willis was back up there, our group got into singing “The YMCA”. I don’t know if that was quite so well received, due to the Russian audience, but there was laughter all around and a great time.

Now we are back at the lodge and we are having a farewell final dinner in the Caucasus, a barbecue again. A lamb was slaughtered for our group today and we’re having a great farewell meal with Yury, Vladimir, his wife Lara and our cook, Nadia. The staff here at the hotel have put on a great meal for us and we are feeling great with our accomplishment. People are thinking about friends and loved ones back home and getting back. But we’ve got a wonderful evening in Russia here in the Caucasus with friends yet and of course we’ll be going back to St. Petersburg. This will be the final dispatch for this very successful first Elbrus Berg Adventures climb of the year. I’ll pick up again before long with the second group again as we begin to explore the beautiful city of St. Petersburg.


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