This is the one Russian phrase which I have been practicing incessantly over the past few weeks... Translated, it says "I don't speak Russian".
Language will no doubt be an obstacle on our trip, as both Adam and I don't speak any Russian. I decided a couple of months ago to spend a few hours a week with a Rosetta Stone online course to at least identify the words in the Cyrillic alphabet and be able to communicate like a two year old or Igor from Young Frankenstein (take your pick). I can now say please, thank you, how much, as well as "my socks smell and need washing" - all important phrases for our trip.
Our guide on the mountain speaks English, but many of our fellow climbers may not; in preparation, I have also started playing charades with my wife after work so that I will be able to communicate any issues without offending anyone.
Basically, we will be depending on our guides and on the kindness of strangers to get us where we need to go. I understand Russians are generally very friendly and willing to help, and we hope to test that theory in action in a week and a half. That is the essence of travel, when you get down to it - putting yourself out of your comfort zone to experience new people, places and cultures.
Here is a quote attributed to a Russian mountaineer -
Водка хороша для акклиматизации
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain