So if you have climbed before you`ll know that any climb worth its salt will not be an easy one, after successful summits of kilimanjaro and mont blanc i was ready for my next challenge. As im trying to climb to the highest points on every continent the next 'easiest' climb is elbrus in the caucausus range in southern Russia just above the Georgian border.
First issue is cost and training...but I wont bore you too much with this - all you need to know is that a fantastic company called Go russia did a great 'all in one' trip with my logisitics and transfers, they even helped with my visa, which is notoriously difficult to get- mine took three weeks and you have to send your passport to the Russian embassy- hurdle number one ! Second is training - eventually you`ll have to be working for upwards of 3-4 hours constantly on your legs....I split my time between walking on the highest inverted climb I could get out of treadmill with a 20 kilo pack on...then it was off to the weights to simulate boulder climbing on the old muscles...trust me this is the important part,...without tough , strenous training you will not make the summit - it is a simple as that.
After a flight to moscow, an overnight stay in the cosmos- the hotel featured on the russian film - Daywatch, I was hurriedly rushed through morning traffic by Roman my driver back to the airport...a 4 hour flight to Minerayle Vody (mineral water) and a 4 hr transfer in a smelly minibus up to 6500 feet - Terskol valley and I was at my hotel...here in the valley is essentially low base camp- yes you have a hotel, basic though it was, I had a bed and a shower, luxeries on a climb....we spent the next three days going up and back down to the valley to acclimatise, each time higher and higher...with climbing your body needs to adjust to the higher alttitute or you`ll get terribly sick, so you climb high and sleep at low altitudes to recover ...our last 'run' was made up the observatory above the vally nesting at around 10,000 feet, lovely views.... I was starting to get slightly breathless now !
On the 4th day I was a little tired but we made it to the 'barrels' which would be home for three nights- these are old oil drums retrofitted to fit 6 climbers...they smell of farts and old socks but you have a wooden bed with a very thin mattress....more then I got on Kili...and having only 6 of you meant that you could get a good nights sleep, unlike mont blanc when I had 20 frenchmen sleeping in the dorm with me snoring because of the alttitude and all the wine they had been drinking....on this occasion I kept up my british stereotype and had a couple of cans of lager - readily available - each night, much to the bemusemment of the russians and the Argintinian I was climbing with.
After a day acclimitising up to 13500 feet and practising safe falling techniques called self arrest and crevasse rescue, we sepnt the next day climbing up to 15500, we were all pretty tired and some of the climbers were now finding it pretty hard, some were slower than others, but the views were great. We then had a rest day back at the barrels, good time to rehydrate, eat as much as your stomuch will alow and take a well earned crap, always a massive focal point in camp...you dont want to be doing this any higher up, its too much effort.....the toilet was called 'a multiculteral experience' its was recently in a poll by national geographic as the nastiest and most dangerous outhouse in the world- it is perched above a 1000 feet drop- your contributions slide down to the glacier below, freeze and become a sort of new part of the mountain...the brown face we called it.
After rest day you wake at 2am, and start the 6000 feet push to the 18800 feet summit - it took me 15 hours up and back down to the barrels- the Russians we were with were not experienced climbers and 12 hours in and nearing half way back down they radioed for a snow cat to come and pick them up...only I and the Argentinean out of somesort of proxy national pride opted to trek all the way down, neither of us willing to show that we were tired when in fact I was shattered and so was he.
The summit is ....spectacular, with views right across the range, you get a little burst of energy in the end, so you forget how hard it all was, it is teeth shatteringly cold though- about minus 20 in the windchill so you cant stay up long- coupled with some dehydration and some wind burn on my face that was the count of my injuries- although I was 12st 6 when I left for Russia....I lost a stone in weight in 6 days of climbing ! - dieters take note, im not deterred however and am already looking to book my next climb in Alaska.