After reaching high camp on the North Side of Elbrus (approx. 12,800 feet) and taking off our boots, we all slept virtually non-stop until 7:00 am the next morning.
We were exhausted - the beds were so hard they must have been used by the KGB as torture devices, but we all slept fitfully nonetheless.
We had to walk out 11 kms on the main trail to Base Camp (no chairlifts or cable cars on this side of the mountain) to get our taxi to Kislovodsk, where we would spend the evening.
Sounds easy, right? Not so. We were left with our assistant guide, who had never done the traverse, and who promptly got us completely lost in a large rock field.
Thankfully, after about 40 minutes of wandering and climbing, Adam, who always seems to have a better sense of direction than our guides, climbed a far away ridge and found the trail a good distance to the North.
This turned what should have been a 3 hour hike into a 4.5 hour march. Queue the Gilligan's Island theme (lyrics to follow).
We finally made it to Base Camp,which is in beautiful spot in a farmers field, at 1:30 pm - take a look at the video above.
End of story, right? Wrong. David and Adam (well, mostly David) decided that they wanted to carry less weight, so a porter was hired to take some of the heavy gear to Basecamp.
When the gear did not arrive and it was time to leave, we managed to convince one of our drivers to stay and wait with us for the bag while the rest of the team and the guide left for Kislovodsk.
One hour turned to two, which turned to three, which turned to four. By this time we had gone through lunch, tea and a bottle of Red Wine, as well as striking up a conversation with a striking young woman, Lisa, who was heading back to her home in Donetsk, Ukraine - yes, THAT Donetsk. It turned out Lisa would take the ride back to Kislovodsk with us.
Finally, the bag arrived after 6 pm, and our driver took us on one of the scariest, most beautiful 4x4 rides you will ever experience. The scenery up, over and across the valleys to Kislovodsk is probably the thing I will remember most about this trip.
We made it to our hotel at 8:00 pm, showered, went out for a celebration dinner at 8:30, got back to the hotel at midnite, and by 1:00 am were heading out to the airport for our transit home.
Tomorrow we will introduce you to some of our more interesting injuries as we make our way home... Anne, time to call in the specialists to look after those mangled toes and misaligned body parts!
“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