I spoke to Randy and Anders as they were hanging out in their room last night, getting their gear and bigger packs ready to do some real mountaineering today.
The plan was to get up early today and drive about 2 kilometers over to Azau, where a cable car service would take them to the upper mountain so for another training/acclimatization climb. Unlike yesterday's trek, the higher altitudes will allow them to get out on the snow and ice with their crampons, ropes, and ice axes. This is a great opportunity for the climbers to get used to higher altitudes and colder temps. Also, it's a chance for guides to see how comfortable the team members are with the more technical components of the climb. They will be roped together later in the week when they are making their summit attempt, so everyone needs to be very comfortable with mountaineering techniques, particularly using their ice-axe to self-arrest if they happen to slip. That's not something I love to think about, and actually not something that happens frequently, but they absolutely need to know how to do it.
They had massive thunderstorms last night, so were a bit delayed this morning waiting for the skies to clear but they did leave around 9:30.
Randy just texted with an update from their day today. In his words: "we spent the day in snow school between 12.5 and 13K. Pretty nasty conditions with limited visibility and large, wind-driven sleet at times. We both feel great. Anders was a rock star and I (Randy) received a passing grade. Moving up to the hut tomorrow."
Hopefully Randy will have time to blog and fill in some of the details, but sounds like they are doing well and heading to Elbrus tomorrow for the real fun to begin! More later when I hear from the guys, or Randy has a chance to write.