August 27th – A Double Reason to Celebrate!

I am calling you from just a few feet below the summit of Elbrus. I am going to have to make this brief ‘cause it is quite windy, I am not sure how clear the transmission is.

I am happy to report that in just a few moments myself, Joe, Bruce, David, Trey, and Norb are going to walk to the summit arm in arm and we are happy to say that we are the second summit wave of the morning , 12 of 14 of us, have made the climb all the way to the summit. Mike and Gary are safely back down at the cabin, having turned around, each of them, with a Russian guide earlier in the day.

I will give you a full summit report on exactly how things went when we get lower and safely back at the Refuge. But for just now, know that we had two waves of Berg Adventures climbers; one leaving on the snowcat at 2:30 a.m. and the other one leaving on the snowcat at 3:30 a.m. An exceptional climb of Mount Elbrus on a brisk, windy, but beautiful day.

{Later in the day:}

Well, it is now a little after 5:00 in the afternoon and I am back at the Refuge. Norb and I walked in here just a few moments ago - the very last of the team to return and I am happy to report that all of the Berg Adventures crew is back down here safe and very satisfied from a great day of climbing on Elbrus. As a matter of fact, Mike, who I mentioned earlier had to turn back, went up and met me a short distance from the Refuge with a big smile on his face; I can tell that he was pleased with the effort that he put in today.

Mike’s problem was cold feet this morning and he would be the first to tell you that you do need good quality double climbing boots to climb Elbrus. But I can tell you that Mike was pretty satisfied with his efforts regardless. And the next person I saw was Gary - he also turned back, I didn’t have time to mention why earlier today, but we turned Gary back because he had visions problems as we begin to climb over 17,000 feet. It occurred earlier in the morning at 16,000 ft. and it seemed to get worse at 17,000 ft. This is not uncommon at altitude and we played it safe and had Gary descend which of course did take care of the problem. It turns out that in 1989 when Gary climbed Kilimanjaro, he had similar vision problems at altitude. Again, somebody pleased with his efforts and happy to be back at the Refuge.

As for all the other team members, I described two different snowcat departures this morning. To explain a little further: my team departed first, my team had the Russian guide Alex along and Evgeny as well. The climbing members were Gary, Mike, Joe, Bruce, Trey, David and Norb. We left first but we were the team who were determined to put a slow pace on our ascent all day and we knew that we would be overtaken by the second group who left one hour later, which was Kellie’s group. In Kellie’s group there were Gus, Mark, Scott, Richard, Paul, Bob and Kevin as well as the Vladimir number one, (our chief guide) and the other Vladimir along as well. As it turned out, team number two summitted first in fact they were on the summit scarcely seven hours after they left the snowcat. Team number one got to the summit more like nine or 10 hours after we left the snowcat. Elbrus was glorious today on top; it was windy and it was cold up there - it was a full mountaineering day but we had a great time on the summit. Both summit teams got great photos and in fact a Russian friend of mine, Anatoli, (he is a professional photographer who came along with us today) took a lot of photographs and after both the teams made the summit, Anatoli put on his skis and swished down the mountain. He did a fast descent to go to a processing lab down the valley and will show up at the hotel tomorrow night or the next night, with the photographs of our climb and especially of the summit.

Everyone is extremely tired, but also more than that – satisfied – and I am going to go back inside and enjoy one of Nadia’s nice meals for dinner and I am sure that we are all going to sleep very well tonight.

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