There was a Filipino team staying at the huts. They were unable to make the summit today. They left in the middle of the night but got turned around a few hours into the climb due to a white out and fiercely high winds.
The mountain is fickle in that regard. One minute you will be floating along. The next struggling for air as you drown in waves of cold.
The sleep here is dark, dreamless. You wake suddenly. Body shocked back into existence by a screaming alarm clock.
Last night the hut was warmer then I expected it to be. When I got into my sleeping bag I was layered up with fleeces and leggings and gloves. Throughout the night I began to peel out of them until I was just in a pair of boxers. For their lack of creature comforts these huts are brilliant.
Breakfast, like every meal prior, was huge. Bowls of porridge, tea laced with sugar and biscuits. Lots of biscuits.
Our climb for the day was to be to a place called Pastuhova rocks. At approximately 4600m elevation.
The whiteout that turned the Filipino team was still there. We climbed in this blinding white bubble. As we got higher it expanded. As it expanded the wind picked up.
It got cold.
We paused and the minuscule warmth afforded by walking dissipated. No-one talked as we wrestled with our crampons. Weighting our feet down as we carried on climbing until we around 5000m.
We stopped, ate a lunch that comprised mainly of chocolate (climbers have the same dietary requirements as a hyperactive six year old) before climbing down.
The wind picked up to around fifty kilometers. It cut through our clothes and whipped the heat from our skin. The descent was miserable. We were flagging when we got back to base camp.
Collapsing on the bunks we rested until dinner. Over dinner Andrey expressed concern about completing the traverse of the mountain. The weather was getting worse and the North face where we were planning our descent was exposed.
I got that. It would have been foolish to have tried in poor weather conditions. What I didn’t like was what he suggested next. He was worried about the physical condition of the group. Worried that as a group we would not be able to summit unaided. His solution was that we take a Snowcat (tractor) to 5000m and then climb the last 600m.
I felt the life drain out of me.
I came here to climb a mountain. I did not come here to drive up the majority of the mountain and then climb the last part. I didn’t train for months and come all the way to Russia to drive up a mountain.
It was as if the summit was the sole focus. But thats not what mountaineering is about. It’s meditative. It’s intimate.
We were told that we could sleep on the idea and tell him in the morning. My mind was made up.
I am going to climb this mountain honestly.
And if I fail? So be it.
The company that I am climbing Mt Elbrus with is Elbrus Tours. They are a small travel company based out of Moscow that specializes in trips to Mt. Elbrus but also offer trips to other mountains within Russia. You should check them out!