Mt. Elbrus, Russia  •  August 2007

Nicki's Updates from the Elbrus Expedition

August 19, 2007  •  Summit Day

Well today we got up at 4am to head for the summit. I've still got a raging head cold, so Scott asked if I wanted to try for it, and I said I would. Advil works for a few hours at a time. Last two days were very cold at high camp, Pruit Hut, and it has been snowing, so we were prepared for bad weather. Well, we walked outside, and it was clear, not windy, and we could see the stars. We starting climbing at 4:30am and got to the summit after climbing across many steep traverses which had incredible views of the Caucasus mountains.

We stepped on to the summit of Elbrus at 10:20am and took many pictures with sun and blue sky around us. We got back down to high camp at 12:30, then went all the way down to the town of Cheget. So now it's time to relax and just be happy we made it. I will be home on the 23rd and looking forward to it.

—Nicki Branch

August 17, 2007  •  Planning a Summit Bid from the Priut Hut

Nicki called from the Priut Hut high camp at 13,500' on Elbrus to say they are doing well and planning a summit bid for the morning. They came up in a snow storm the day before and have taken a rest day at the hut... which is not as comfortable as it sounds. The Priut Hut is a bit like a two story Airstream with little dorm-style rooms. Built to offer climbers' protection from fierce storms that move through the area and flatten all but the sturdiest tents, it was constructed with a utilitarian approach, hermetically sealed aside from two exits, and full of climbers from all over the world. Though Nicki reports the hut is not very crowded right now.

She also says it's much colder on the mountain than they'd anticipated, and she's battling a cold but doing well and ready to climb.

Elbrus is not known for being technically difficult, but its 5,000 vertical foot summit day is among the longest, and the weather on Elbrus can get as sporty as any of the biggest, baddest peaks in the world. Nicki's team plans to come all the way off the mountain on their descent, which makes for a longer day than most people could even consider. We'll keep you posted.

August 14, 2007  •  Acclimating in the Baksan Valley

We are in Cheget, Russia, in the Baksan Valley. Last two days we have been doing acclimatization hikes on the mountains nearby. We can see Elbrus finally. Yesterday we went 12.5 miles and up to 10,000 feet. This morning there was a thunderstorm so we had to wait in our quaint mountain hotel. The people here are nice; Balkarian and friendly. Tomorrow we will do another hike up to an altitude of 10,000 feet or more, then the next day head up to the lower hut, spend the night, then two nights at the higher hut... then summit day.

—Nicki Branch

August 10, 2007  •  Arrived in Russia

Greetings from Moscow, Russia!

Scott met me at the airport after a long immigration line and me searching for a missing bag. It's in Amsterdam, and we'll get it tomorrow.

We are in the hotel Cosmos. A kinda ritzy place... like vegas, and we are definitely not suffering right now climbing!

Tomorrow we are taking a city tour, and we'll see Red Square and the Kremlin. Scott, Chris and I just had an excellent dinner of filet mignons (we always eat well before we get on the mountain!) and appetizers (grin.)

So next two days will be easy tourist stuff before we start hiking and climbing on the mountain.

Well, I've been up for 24 hours, I think... oh, and it's warm here in the city. Scott and Chris went to a lake yesterday.

We are 11 hours ahead of you at home, timewise. All for now, and I gotta hit the sack,

Over and out from Russia,
—Nicki Branch

August 8, 2007  •  The Plan for Russia

Date: August 9-22, 2007
Team: Guide Scott Woolums, Asst. Guide Chris Klinke, Nicki Branch
Itinerary:

  • Aug 9 - Nicki fly to Moscow, via Amsterdam
  • Aug 10- Arrive in Moscow, go to hotel
  • Aug 11 - Sightseeing in Moscow, the Kremlin, and Red Square
  • Aug 12 - Fly 2 hrs to Caucasus mountains, Mineralnye Vody, 4 hr drive to mountain hotel.
  • Aug 13 - Acclimatization ascent of Cheget mountain, 12,000ft. Overnight in hotel.
  • Aug 14 - Acclimatization hike in Adilsy valley. Overnight stay in tents.
  • Aug 15 - Climb to Gumachi Pass or Mt. Gumachi, 5 hrs glacier climb, descend to town and overnight in hotel.
  • Aug 16 - Ride ski lifts to lower hut on Elbrus, short acclimatization hike on slopes of Mt. Elbrus
  • Aug 17th - Acclimatization hike to Pastukov Rocks, 16,000ft on Mt. Elbrus, stay in Upper Hut.
  • Aug 18th - Summit Day. Leave base camp at 3am, climb to summit, 18,498 ft.
  • Aug 19th - Reserve day for climbing to summit in case of bad weather, or to descend to Baksan valley if climbed on the 18th.
  • Aug 20th - Descend to Baksan Valley and overnight in hotel. Extra summit day if needed due to bad weather.
  • Aug 21 - Drive to Mineralnye Vody, Fly back to Moscow, Overnight in hotel.
  • Aug 22 - Transfer from hotel to Airport, fly home.
  • Aug 23 - Home
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