Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Finally on their way to Mt. Elbrus - Long Travel Day Ahead

Hi from Judy, updating you all on the boys' latest escapades.

This morning they did a couple more hours of sightseeing in St. Petersburg.  Today's highlight was The Hermitage, one of the oldest and most venerated museums in the world.  It was founded by Catherine the Great in the 1700's to house her expansive collection, and Randy said it was beautiful and interesting.  But let's face it.  The guys really went on this trip to climb Mt. Elbrus, Europe's tallest mountain at 18,841'. Experiencing some of Russia's culture was certainly appealing, especially in one of it's most impressive and beautiful cities, but after a long day on their feet yesterday and a couple hours in a museum today, they are raring to get out there and climb.  So to the mountains they go!

After the Hermitage, the team flew to Mineralnye Vody (mineral waters in Russian), a town located along the Kuma River.  From there they  travel by bus, about 3 hours, to the Caucasus Mountains, their destination.

As I wrote this, Randy sent me a picture from his "tiny bus on the way to Terskol".

This expedition is a little different from their prior ones in that they will be staying in a ski village (Tersko) and spending several days making some practice climbs in the Caucasus mountains to acclimatize, train, and practice snow mountaineering techniques.  This also gives the guides a chance to get to know the team and assess the abilities of the members so they can give appropriate guidance.

The ski town of Tersko. In the winter, Tersko is a ski town.  In the summer, the cable car takes hikers up into the mountains to hike and climb.
The lodge at the base of the Caucasus Mountains.  These are some of the slopes where they will be making their acclimatization climbs. 
Speaking of the team, and since when I take over the blog I enjoy the "human interest" part of the journey, here's what I know so far.  I might be correcting a bit of this as Randy and Anders get to know their teammates better, but here's the rundown.

There are 8 climbers and 3 guides, which is a healthy ratio, since some of the group are not that experienced, and if a guide has to descend with one of the guests, the remaining group will still have two guides for a summit attempt.  Besides the guides, Mike, Igor and Sasha whom I'll describe later, there are 4 women and 4 male team members.  

Aaron: A male nurse from Seattle, in his 30's.  He's climbed Mt. Rainer in Seattle, but hasn't had a lot of mountaineering experience.  He said one of his goals on this trip is to see if this is something he wants to continue to do.

Varun:  In his early 30's, a software engineer from India.  Apparently, he's into science fiction and Porsches.  I hope he's also into mountain climbing.

Danijela:  A flight attendant from Croatia.  She's had the most experience of the women, having climbed Aconcagua and some mountains in the Himalayas.  She tried to climb Elbrus last year and wasn't able to summit, so is back for Round 2.

Joanne: A mother of two from New Zealand.  She has had a little mountaineering experience, but Randy said she's really fit and great attitude so let's hope she makes it to the top.

Gina: A 30-something from New York.  Climbed Kilimanjaro and Mt. Rainer about 6 or 7 years ago, but not much recent mountaineering experience.

Kristin:  Another 30-something from Houston.  She's relatively quiet so far, so the guys don't know much about her background.  I'm sure they'll all get to know each other better as they move ahead.

Beside that there's Anders and Randy.  Here's my observations:

1. Go women!!  These four ladies each came solo on this trip; that takes guts and I admire that. There are two Mom's, and I will be cheering for them all to summit safely. 
2. The overall mountaineering experience of the team is a bit low compared with all the other expeditions Randy and Anders have been on.  I hope this isn't an impediment to the team's progress, but the climbers seem fit. Elbrus is challenging, but not overly technical, so hopefully they will all step up and work together and have a successful and, most importantly, safe climb. 
3.  Randy is by far the oldest, as usual!  But as we know he is fit, experienced, and God knows, determined.
4.  Anders is the most experienced climber. That being said, nothing is a given on a mountain, so he'll be challenged by the steep terrain, the altitude and the cold just like everyone else.

That's it for now...more when I hear from the guys. 

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