Just as we are experiencing our first real look at summer weather here in Canada, we are busy packing our down parkas and long underwear for our trip to Elbrus.
Weather is usually the deciding factor on when, or even if, we reach the summit - we always have one eye on the forecast in order to time our summit bid with optimal weather conditions.
As with most mountain trips, the temperature and weather conditions will vary wildly throughout our trip - Moscow is in the midst of a heat wave, with temperatures reaching the low 30's (Celsius), while Mineralnye Vody is experiencing temperatures in the mid to high 30s! Once we get into the mountains, however, temperatures drop about 25 to 30 degrees, and by the time we reach the summit, temperatures should be around -10C (around -20C with the windchill).
The biggest challenges will be the wind and snowfall. There has been a lot of snow this summer on Elbrus, which makes climbing much more difficult as we have to break a trail through the fresh snow. Our last day we will be roped up due to the steepness of the slope (35 degrees plus) and crevasse dangers, which makes movement even more difficult. If the wind is up and the snow is falling, the last day will be a difficult one.
Many professional climbers spend thousands of dollars a climb hiring personal meteorologists to predict the weather for them. On our last climb, one of the mountaineers that climbed alongside us had done just this, and would call his "weather man" a couple times a day!
We are very reliant on the forecasts provided on the internet - we call home once a day on our satellite phone and have our support staff (read: wives) check www.mountain-forecast.com. This website has proved more accurate then private meteorologists, and our guides usually wait for our reports from home before deciding how to proceed up the mountain! You can see the forecast at the various altitudes on our main page on the left.
We are scheduled to leave early tomorrow morning, so this is our last post before we hit Mother Russia... Here's hoping for low winds, warm weather and no snow!
“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