August 24- Sunrise with a Brilliant View

I’m calling you now with what seems to be better satellite coverage than last night so I want to take the opportunity to give you a report. We woke up at 3:30 this morning after that drizzly rain I described last night. Our camp at the Green Hotel is at about 8,800 ft. and that’s why we are in a rain storm there as opposed to a snow storm I described the day before at 12,000 ft. All the same, that camp is about 2,500 ft. above the hotel in the valley, so it was good for our acclimatization.

This morning we awoke at 3:30 as I said, to a full moon, clear sky and an amazing view through the star lit darkness, of Mt. Elbrus off to the west in the distance. We began climbing up the moraine. A little while after we started climbing, Kellie looked back and saw the lights of the snow cat way across on Elbrus at 15,000 ft. at Pastukhov Rocks. It was pretty amazing to look across at the snow cat in the same place it will be in a few days, hopefully in such clear conditions when we are attempting our summit on Elbrus.

Now it is light, we’re up at the glacier at the base of Gamachi Peak and we are putting our crampons on to continue climbing. As the sun has risen we’ve been looking across at the most amazing view of Elbrus, absolutely clear, the light is changing every few minutes. We are stopping to take a lot of photographs and looking back over our shoulders at a beautiful sight.

[Later in the day...]

I’m calling you from roughly the same location that I called you this morning – it is the afternoon of the 24th of August. We have continued to have exceptionally clear weather as we climbed up on the glacier. We moved for six hours continuously and ended up at a col at about 11,800 ft. A quick look over the group showed satisfaction on most faces; they’ve had enough for today. We decided to sit around up there - it then got a bit windy. We enjoyed the view and began our descent.

The descent on a glacier is varied; you really walk through a lot of conditions as you come down. We left the cold wearing our down jackets – descended a short distance through a bergshrund. We had fixed a line over it. After we got down the fixed line we continued a ways and began to lose some clothes because it was warming up. We continued to descend on a glacier that was clean, with good firm snow that is very similar to what we’ll be on in a few days on Elbrus.

As we got lower the crevasses began to open up and we snuck over some really big ones. They are well exposed lower on the glacier at this time of year.

[Transmission becomes unintelligible - there is now a lot of noise of the wind and Wally’s voice cannot be heard clearly…more tomorrow!]

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