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Elbrus Sarah Lee 81

Elbrus summit success!

Rus­sia any­one?? As much as I have trav­eled in my life I hon­est­ly nev­er pic­tured myself hop­ping on a plane and fly­ing to Moscow to climb a moun­tain! As always, Moun­tain Mad­ness made it hap­pen! Mount Elbrus is one of the Sev­en Sum­mits (or Eight if you are includ­ing Carsten­sz Pyra­mid AND Kosciusko) and it is locat­ed in South­ern Rus­sia along the Geor­gia bor­der in the Cau­ca­sus Moun­tain range.

The flight to Moscow from Seat­tle was quite the hop, skip, and jump away but arriv­ing in Moscow and being immersed into the cul­ture there was some­thing that is hard to put into words. My hus­band and I chose the express route which lim­its your time to explore Moscow but also lim­its your time away from work and every­day life back at home! We had plen­ty of time to see what Moscow had to offer upon arrival pri­or to our next flight down to Min­er­al Vody to begin our acclima­ti­za­tion in order to sum­mit Mount Elbrus.

As amaz­ing as Moscow was to vis­it, we had no idea how incred­i­ble the ski vil­lage was going to be that sur­round­ed Mount Elbrus; even in the sum­mer months. After a short flight from Moscow to Min­er­al Vody we were met by our Russ­ian guide Vladimir, who has been climb­ing in Rus­sia for 20+ years, and our group was trans­port­ed to the gor­geous town of Cheget! We made a quick stop at a local restau­rant halfway between the air­port and the final des­ti­na­tion which gave us a true sam­pling of the cul­ture and deli­cious food the coun­try had to offer! The views on the dri­ve into Cheget were beyond breath­tak­ing and our guides told us the his­to­ry of the area as well as the geo­log­i­cal com­po­nents of the moun­tains we were see­ing along the drive. 

When we all arrived to our chalet in Cheget we had the evening to set­tle in and explore and the views were just breath­tak­ing. All around were tow­er­ing moun­tains and glac­i­ers that were quite drool wor­thy for the new­com­er moun­taineer. With­in walk­ing dis­tance were plen­ty of shops, bars, and restau­rants to explore pri­or to the jour­ney to the Bar­rels” on Mount Elbrus. While at the hotel we were treat­ed to all of our meals which intro­duced us to the deli­cious Russ­ian cui­sine and hos­pi­tal­i­ty. There was (as to be expect­ed) a bit of a lan­guage bar­ri­er between the clients and the locals but that gap was com­plete­ly filled with the help of Vladimir who was always with us assist­ing with the trans­la­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion which real­ly made the trip so smooth and easy. 

Our first few days in Cheget were filled with amaz­ing acclima­ti­za­tion hikes with the most gor­geous back­drops that the moun­tain range had to offer. We were lucky enough to also be blessed with clear blue skies the major­i­ty of the trip! The group would be fueled each morn­ing with a very fill­ing and deli­cious break­fast and then we would all set out to explore the area as well as gain some alti­tude and hike some incred­i­ble trails pri­or to our sum­mit bid. 

The best part of any Moun­tain Mad­ness trip is their detail to the acclima­ti­za­tion for the entire group pri­or to the sum­mit attempt. There is always plen­ty of time allot­ted for every per­son to test them­selves at alti­tude in a safe and appro­pri­ate man­ner. Most clients were com­ing from sea lev­el and despite everyone’s exten­sive train­ing one nev­er knows how the alti­tude will affect him or her. We were able to sleep for a few days at 8,000 feet and climb up to 10,000 feet on suc­ces­sive days before pack­ing up and head­ing up to the bar­rels on the moun­tain at 12,000 feet. 

The day it was time to head up to the moun­tain was very excit­ing! The moun­tain expe­di­tion had start­ed! Every­one packed up their gear and took a van to the base of the moun­tain and the ini­tial ski lifts/​gondolas which would trans­port us up to our moun­tain house for the next few days. The amaz­ing group worked as a team to maneu­ver gear and sup­plies on the lifts and gon­do­las until we reached about 12,000 feet. The tran­si­tion was seam­less and yet anoth­er chance to accli­mate to the alti­tude. From the final plat­form we were greet­ed by a snow cat that would help us with all our gear and sup­plies for the last stretch to the barrels. 

The bar­rels were quite a treat. They had been ful­ly remod­eled with­in the last year and were sur­pris­ing­ly delight­ful. We had amaz­ing views from our win­dows, warmth, and com­fort­able sleep­ing areas. The inte­ri­or was brand new and offered us wood pan­el­ing and plen­ty of stor­age for our gear. They slept 6 peo­ple com­fort­ably and pro­vid­ed so much room to throw on our gear for the sum­mit morn­ing (quite the dif­fer­ence from tent life on most sum­mit attempts!). All the bar­rels sur­round­ed a cen­tral cook­ing” bar­rel where we were served warm, deli­cious meals through­out our stay. That bar­rel had a huge pic­nic table for every­one to sit com­fort­ably as well bits of Moun­tain Mad­ness his­to­ry dis­played on all the walls. It was a great place to social­ize, fuel up, and enjoy views of the two sum­mits of Mount Elbrus. 

The next two days were spent on the moun­tain climb­ing up to high­er alti­tudes, prac­tic­ing moun­taineer­ing skills, and estab­lish­ing our rope teams for sum­mit day. The weath­er is quite unpre­dictable on Elbrus; we would be climb­ing in blue skies and then see a mon­strous storm cloud roll in with­in a few min­utes. Being pre­pared for ALL the ele­ments is key on this climb. 

Sum­mit day was some­thing out of a sto­ry book. We were promised an amaz­ing weath­er win­dow so were able to sleep in and bypass the true alpine start”. We climbed up the moun­tain with the most cap­ti­vat­ing alpen­glow sun­rise I have ever seen; the views from Elbrus are hard to rival. Our group was for­tu­nate enough to all tag the sum­mit, every­one was strong and healthy, and we of course were climb­ing with Moun­tain Mad­ness who offers noth­ing but the best guid­ing! Moun­taineer­ing is always weath­er depen­dent, espe­cial­ly in this region, and we could not believe our con­di­tions for the sum­mit. The first rope team was able to spend about 45 min­utes sali­vat­ing at the sum­mit because of the lack of winds and clear skies. 

The whole group was on its own per­son­al high for the rest of the trip. The hard part was out of the way and now we had some explor­ing to do! We all climbed down the moun­tain as a team and had a cel­e­bra­to­ry lunch at the bar­rels and then it was on to a show­er (and some Russ­ian wine/​champagne/​vodka).

After our sum­mit cel­e­bra­tions our group was also lucky enough to expe­ri­ence the Russ­ian Banya! Our hotel had this spa next door which offered the most delight­ful local immer­sion to the cul­ture. I will not divulge all the details of this expe­ri­ence because it is some­thing that should be cher­ished and a sur­prise! Vladamir showed our group the best ways to relax after a climb includ­ing a series of hydrother­a­py tech­niques that is some­thing to write home about! 

Our days togeth­er were dwin­dling in Rus­sia and it was time to start our jour­ney back home. That is always the beau­ty of these climbs with Moun­tain Mad­ness; home is dif­fer­ent for every­one and every­one you meet has the most amaz­ing sto­ries. Climb­ing with Moun­tain Mad­ness always enables you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be touched by every­one else’s expe­ri­ences on this jour­ney that you share togeth­er. I have yet to have an adven­ture with Moun­tain Mad­ness that does not end with life­long friend­ships with all the clients as well as the amaz­ing guides that are respon­si­ble for our safe­ty and the enjoy­ment of the climb. We will con­tin­ue to climb with Moun­tain Mad­ness because of this tra­di­tion! My new mot­to is what’s next?! For us it will be Aconcagua with Moun­tain Madness!

Dr. Seuss said it best with Your moun­tain is wait­ing, so get on your way,” why not make that way with Moun­tain Mad­ness to help with your next dream!? 

- MM client Sarah Lee