MT ELBRUS - The Climb

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We flew to Mineralyne Vody and drove 3hrs to a ski chalet where we would spend the next 5 nights. ha ha ha no wonder I was paying so much (yes - worth every cent).  No freezing to death in a tent without toilet or electricity or heating - no no no let me tell you - a warm bed, hot shower and enough food to feed a king and the whole village for that matter.  We were the only ones staying here and it even had a sauna and heated pool.  Oh yeah and heated tiles too - no shoes required.  What can I say.  This is the life.  I of course was too tired to used any of the facilities except the shower and bed.  The guys however spent every afternoon in the sauna drinking beers and debriefing on life.

We spent the next few days doing acclimatisation hikes into the most beautiful surroundings - truly beautiful.  Looked like the Swiss alps really but then you see armed forces on the trail and remember oh yeah Russia!!!   As we went higher it got colder - ahhhhh.  Raf's watch said 13C but I was convinced it had to be broken.  I was FREEZING - I would die on summit day at this rate.  Of course they just laugh at the Australian that comes from the sun.  They all live in Canada and I'm sure they take picnics in the snow just for fun.  OMG!!

The next day we began moving to the BARRELS with all our gear and food.  Two gondolas, a chair lift and a snow cat later we arrived at our Orange Barrel.  Thank God I chose this company.  If you look at the photos you will see a group of blue and red Barrels - ahhhh.  Looks like prison barracks.  That is what everyone else used, wooden sleep benches, shared accommodation and one meal room for anyone and everyone. ha ha ha Now look at our Orange one - luxury again.  What can I say...   We set up camp and got into a routine with the guys attempting to 'fix' and renovate everything. OMG. Men. I hadn't laughed so much in ages.  Ted and I grabbed the bottom bunk fast.  The guys kept trying to come up with plans on how to level out the top bunks and not fall out during the night.  Seriously funnier than Idiot Abroad.

Finally set and it was lunch time.  Olga the cook created heavenly meals 3 times a day.  hmmmm hmmmm

OK enough relaxing - time for a little hike.  Up we climbed steady for an hour - hmmm nice and slow.  Not too bad.  

Day 2 - lt's go stretch our legs and do some crampon training.  Sure - yesterday wasn't hard. Ahhh An hour in and I though 'what the f@#k!!!  I need oxygen.  We take a break - 10min.  Right let's go.  Another hour - seriously???  Did I mention I needed oxygen in the first hour.  No one's speaking.  Shock has set in.  Brain has stopped.  Let's put the crampons on they say.  Yeah right.  We all resembled intellectually and physically impaired morons.  Their patience is amazing.  One by one they helped put the crampons on.  'Now let's practice a little and then we go back' says Vladimir(1)   'Oh OK so 5 min then' I say. ha ha ha 'Unfotunately maybe 45 mins' says Vlad.  'Now is the time to take your mind elsewhere.  Anywhere but here.  Do not think of the pain.'  What??!! We hadn't even started.  Can I go home??  Up and up we climbed, crampons and ice axe - one slow step at a time.  AND.. this was only training - I would surely die come summit day.   

"Don't worry' says Vladimir  'even when you are thinking what the ...###.  Just keep smiling.  Always smiling"     Ahhhhh

By the way I have to number the guides as they are both Vladimir.  The one playing the sax is (1).  Not only a well known climber, but also a famous photographer and author in Russia.  There is nothing he hasn't done.  The other No.(2) believe it or not is actually a Professor of Geophysics who teaches at the university and works in Antarctica as well.  He has 2 months annual leave each year and comes along to lead the climb.  What the @##??!!  These guys are amazing.  Then of course there is Wally (in the big yellow parker) - he's the owner and has summited Everest 4 times and the rest.  We need all the help we can get (or at least I certainly do).

The next day was Tuesday - the first summit attempt but they decided we needed a rest day.  How pathetic did we look on the training day. lol...  Thank God for that because it snowed all day and was miserable.  'Rest, eat and be in bed by 5pm' they said.  No arguments there.  We crashed and I prayed to the weather Gods all night.

Wednesday - finally summit day.  Woke at 2am.  HERE GOES NOTHING.

Pack, get dressed, eat (who the hell can eat??).  Ready - here we go.  Crampons on.  Get on the snow cat.  What??  How the hell do you that with crampons on??  Yep - only the start. ha ha ha  They were obviously so worried about my ability that they hired another guide for the summit.  Alexi - mountain rescue team member.  Seriously worried. OMG.   

We ride the snow cat in the dark

All sorted - let's start.

One step - rest. One step - rest. One step - rest. Breath slowly. One step - rest.
I was heating up fast. FAST. 3hrs later we reach the saddle. Drink. Really ??? People are running out of water. Mind you we had 3 ltrs each. Ahhhh. OK stay calm. Breath. Chuck is lying in the snow motionless. 'Are you ok'? Asked Vlad 1 - no reply. He looks at me. I shout 'Chuck' !! 'Hmmm' comes the reply. 'Are you ok'? 'Hmmm'. I would work out later that is the reply that everyone prone in the snow gave. Interpreted means 'leave me to die - I'm fine'.
We managed to get him up and moving. I say we but really I mean the guides. I was lucky to get myself up.Let's go. Time for ice axes. I choose to stay with the walking poles. The only thing keeping me up right and I figured if I went over the edge it didn't matter. Vlad 1 didn't use the axe either. Ha ha ha. I'm sure he could have run up there but Alexi was so worried about me that I had my own personal safety team. Where ever I stepped he was there. It's not like I was planning suicide. Well not yet.

​So 3 hours later and Vlad 2 is shouting at me all excited '5 metres to go'. I rest and take a few steps and he shouts motioning '3 metres you're nearly here'. I got excited OMG the summit and took the final steps over the ridge to find that we were at the rope in stage and ready to make the final ascend. What???? Anyhow this is it. Do not fall over the edge.
One step - rest rest rest breath. One step - rest rest rest breath. Rest rest rest. I can see it - yeeeeeeha only 20 metres away. A long 20 metres.

Finally a few more steps and YES WE MADE IT !!!!!!!!! Summited 11am Wednesday 10th July.  
After hugs and congratulations, Ted made his appearance and held his composure at finding himself at the summit whilst I of course cried. Once we recovered it was photo time. Don't we just look sooooooo cool and collected. Ha ha ha
Right - now the easy part - down. You would think so anyhow. Rob started swaying and people started dropping along the path. I personally thought I was OK - extremely HOT !!!!!!! And dehydrating fast. Of course Alexi still thought I was going to commit suicide and roped in. My own personal ice axe. Lol... Mind you - everyone's water ran out and people were dehydrating. The weather Gods had produced amazing weather - but Wally and the others had never seen the weather so good so they kept saying it will be cold soon - keep the jackets on. I kept saying 'I have 5 under layers - I am hot'. 'You will be cold soon' they said. Yeah right. 1hr in and I'm about to DIE !!!!!! 'What's wrong' says Alexi. 'Please sit down'. What's wrong - I'M HOT !!!!!   As I lay prone in the snow - ah what a nice feeling 'Are you ok' 'hmmm' I reply. Vlad 2 appears - 'get her clothes off'. Oh yeah now they want my clothes off. I wasn't moving - Alexi did it all. Ah the nice cool air. Now surely I could just roll down the hill and be home sooner. Another hour later we arrived back at the Barrel and crashed. 😴

The following day we packed, carried the gear down the mountain and celebrated with traditional Russian kebabs and half a beer (that's all it took).
Now we have just landed back in Moscow and I'm about to collapse. Sleeeeeeeeeep. Hmmm 😴
Tomorrow I fly out to Sweden in search of Abba and those two mad girls Carin and Sofie. I survived the mountain but can I survive them???  
Stay tuned.I'll let you know how I go !!!! Mama Mia here we go again !! 

​Signing off from Russia.Marg & Ted - the mountaineers..

RUSSIA - St Petersburg to Moscow    (the start of the trip)

Part of the experience when climbing Mt Elbrus with Berg Adventures is the trip from St Petersburg to Moscow.  This in itself was magical.  The art, culture and architecture - WOW!!  The overnight train ride to Moscow was a highlight.  I have included this part of the trip on a separate page for those of you interested in seeing the full trip.

Enter the link here.  

This video was taken by Rafael Etges on his GoPro.  

We watched him play for hours with this toy.  Nice Job.

You can watch all his other amazing videos on YouTube.  Just search RN Etges.

DATES : 27th June - 13th July 2013

The team

The Climbers

Margaret Suanez

Rafael Etges

Terri Trueman

Tim Trueman

Robert Macdonald

Charles Tattrie

Gordon Buntain

The Guides

Wally Berg

Karina Mezova

Vladimir Kopylov

Vladimir Bakhmutov



CLIMBING WITH :  Berg Adventures International  (excellent company)

MT ELBRUS  - 5642m

The highest mountain in Europe (RUSSIA)

The adventure continues in Sweden...