Monday 4/8/08 Climb to 3200
We woke up at 7:30, checked the weather, took the things we needed for the climb while leaving the rest at a storage room in the hotel whose owner was very friendly and finally started our climb.
After 3 km, we reached Terskol, which is the last village and we faced again the monster of bureaucracy because we had to do a visa registration. We visited the local post office and tried to fill a form that was in Russian (!) with our details. Most of the groups had a guide that did that but we had to do it on our own. Nobody was talking English and we could only get some partial help from foreigners that had them filled. After 2 and half hours we finished with all the bureaucracy and were ready to start our ascent. We bought some water, loaded on our already heavy backpacks and started walking at 12:40.
The path started from Terskol along green fields that in some way remind of the fields of the Alps. The place is surrounded by high peaks (needles) and only Elbrus is different as it is an inactive volcano. The path is very wide (almost a gravel road) but gets steep very soon. Our aim for that day was to reach the ice camp which is at the base of the Elbrus glacier at 3600m.
At 16:00 we reached the place called Observatory where we would take a break.
After we took some photos we started for the Ice Camp with a slower pace as the altitude started to have an effect on us. The scenery around us changed from green to rocky and we saw the first snow
Around 18:00 we arrived at a hut at 3200m where some Russian people were having a rest and informed us that the ice camp is around one hour. They also told us that they had tried the summit the previous date but the weather was bad and they couldn’t reach it. We decided to camp there because it was getting a bit dark and the clouds seemed to be gathering. The place was ideal for a camp as it was protected by wind and also had water supply from a stream. We placed our tents and cooked our dinner. After eating and a couple of photos we went to sleep at around 20:30. At the beginning I couldn’t fall asleep but after drinking a lot of water my body seemed to be adjusted to the high altitude and fell asleep as I heard the first rain drops fall on our tent
Tuesday 5/8/08 – 3200m towards Ice Camp (3600m)
The rain that had started from the previous night didn’t stop the next morning so we were sitting inside our tents. We slept again for some time while our friends in the next tent started to sing in order for the time to pass. Around 12:00 the rain became lighter and we decided to pick up our things and move them inside the hut where we could leave them to dry and have more space for some cooking and talking. We cooked some food and made our backpacks ready for departure. While we were waiting two women and a man came to the hut and told us that they had been on a hike. They also informed us that this hut was a Russian first aid station during the WWII when Russians were fighting with Germans on the mountains of Caucasus.
After some time we decided to depart for the ice camp as the rain was very light and we were bored. At around 18:30 we reached another hut at 3630m that in the beginning we thought that is was the ice camp although the map and the altitude meter didn’t agree. In the hut there was a Russian family of climbers that were also stranded because of the rain and informed us that ice camp was a bit higher (30m). We left our things in the hut and go to the ice camp where we got our first glimpse of the Elbrus summit and our spirits got higher. They seemed to be so close but we knew that they were very far.
Back at the hut we cooked our dinner and talked with our Russian friends. The younger of them is Antrey, 19 years old and had many difficult summits in his biography. His mother and him were talking very good English and we had no problem of discussing many things. Antrey gave us also some directions for the next morning in order to avoid the crevasses on the glacier. We ate and photographed the difficult peaks that surrounded us, like Usba, while one by one the peaks had their lights off like candles. We slept inside the hut.
Wednesday 6/8/08 – Ice Camp towards Pruit (4100m)
We woke up at 7:30 and had breakfast with our Russian friends. They told us that we could cross together the glacier which of course wasn’t a problem for us. We made our things ready and at 9:30 we were at the start of the glacier where there was another hut in terrible condition (ice camp). Most of the huts that we met on the road were not mentioned on our Russian climbing map. We wore our crampons and let Antrey lead since he had done it a lot of times. Most of the crevasses were closed because of the snowfall and the ones that we met didn’t seem so big as the ones in the Alps. While we were crossing the glacier we also saw a military helicopter loaded with rockets flying over our heads and we thought that it was some kind of exercise (we didn’t know that the Russia-Georgia war had started)
At 12:30 we arrived at Priut at 4100m and we pitched our tents 50m higher. I was feeling very tired and doing anything seemed a very tedious task. Because it was very windy we decided to cook inside our tents. We prepared our usual pasta with Antonis who at that time told me that he was feeling sick. He thought that he had fever but after sampling his temperature we saw that it was altitude sickness since he had no fever. We didn’t eat much because of the acute mountain sickness (AMS).
Before going to sleep we decided to leave at 2:00 at night for Pastuckhov Rocks which are located at 4650-4800m for acclimatization. We laid in our sleeping bags at 19:30 and tried to sleep. I couldn’t sleep at all because the altitude made me feel sick in my stomach. The sleep was so heavy that even though I was sleeping for periods of 15 minutes I was feeling like I had slept for hours