August 22 – The O. J. Trial or the Case of the Mysterious Black Gloves

I am calling you from VCSPS Pass. As you remember perhaps from the last cybercast, the initials stand for the association of a former Soviet Trade Union. We had a classic mountaineering day today. I am standing here now at over 12,000 ft. We can’t see a thing except the hard snow below us and we really had a good pace today. About an hour into this walk, Scott Wagner noted that we were climbing at an ascent rate of almost 1,100 ft. per hour.

Now five and a half hours later, on the top we’ve climbed 4,500 ft. and it’s been a good day. (Gus figured out the elevation gain and corrected my original estimation.) We are certainly strengthening our legs and getting ourselves conditioned for more climbs later in the week. The last group reported that this is either the second or third hardest day of our whole mountaineering trip in the Caucacus. I am looking around now at some faces that would probably concur with that.

We had one controversy…in the shakedown, I’m not sure that we got our equipment priorities straight. I’m not sure I know all the facts in this case, we’ll probably have an inquiry tonight. But all I can report is that we do not have gloves or finger protection for every member of the group. Norb Gorman was ascending with a really nice new pair of REI gloves which may or may not be owned by Scott Wagner. We’ll have to sort all this out as the day and evening goes on. One thing that is for sure is that when we go up into the mountains on our next section of this trip I know that this group will have all the equipment that they need and some backups as well.

OK, tomorrow as you know we’re going off on our camping adventure to the Green Hotel. Last trip we had a look down from this vantage point and we could see the Green Hotel. No chance today in this weather. But tomorrow we are looking forward to putting our big packs on our backs, taking our tents up and camping at the Green Hotel. We’ll give you a call from there tomorrow.

[Later down the trail as the mystery begins to be resolved...]

The gloves did not fit Norb Gorman but did fit Scott, and Norb was found guilty of taking Scott’s gloves. (Scott had been issued an extra pair from the guides pack, and in reflection felt they were even warmer than his missing gloves!) Justice is swift in the Caucasus. He has now been convicted of the crime and his sentence is to buy wine for everyone for dinner tonight when we return to our hotel. An unrelated judicial action: the guides issued citations to Gary Kenyon and Trey for wearing shorts at 12,000 ft. in a snowstorm.

Now on our way down, things look much brighter. It cleared and we did get a view down to the Green Hotel campsite where we will be tomorrow night – it looked pretty inviting. It’s not that far up the trail from where we parked at the road head and as you have heard before it is a beautiful campsite. It will still be a few hours before we are back at the hotel tonight, but it has been, as I reported before, a great mountaineering day. Justice was served swiftly and fairly and we are enjoying with somewhat rubbery legs, as we walk down the mountain, a nice hike down to our ride and then back to the hotel.

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