Mt. Elbrus Climb (Russia), July 2010

Day One – Flying & More Flying
Flight to Moscow (SVO) via Amsterdam went well and my friend Zhenya and his friend Vasya picked me up.  We got in Vasya’s car, he drives a Ford; there are actually quite a few Fords on the road in Moscow, there is a Ford assembly plant in Russia.  Moscow has the typical traffic like any other major city and we got into some typical rush hour traffic…so it was slow going from the airport.  We listened to local Russian radio stations playing all sorts of music….also listen to a couple of stations that only played English rock n’roll songs.

Zhenya insisted I stay with him and his wife Oksana the first night….which was alright with me, I didn’t have to spend $400 plus on my Hilton room that night.  Zhenya and Oksana live in apartment/condo on the fourth floor fifteen miles from Moscow downtown or the Kremlin area.  Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  Olesya was waiting for us at the apartment/condo and provided a warm greeting when I walked in.  Zhenya took off to buy some vodka and Olesya took off for the local market to buy groceries for dinner.  I was able to get in a little nap while they were out.  Olesya got back and started to prepare for dinner right away; it was a wonderful dinner shared with new friends.  During dinner we poured shots and shared stories and myths about each other country.  We also pulled out the computers to share pictures of each other’s life and culture. 

Day Two – Checking Out the Sites
Slept quite well….not sure if it was the jet lag or the local vodka we had with dinner last night.  I started my day off with a shower and two cups of instant Starbuck’s that I brought with me.  Breakfast consisted of a Danish and leftover food from last night….delish.  About 9:00 a.m. Zenya brought out a local beer, since I was on vacation I thought it couldn’t hurt.  We started watching some ESPN Sportscenter on the television as we waited for Zenya’s friend Vasya to come around.  After a couple of beers, Vasya showed up and we took off for some site seeing.  We heading toward the Kremlin area and of course parking was tough to find; we walked about 4 blocks to get on the Red Square.  The Kremlin was much bigger than I thought; almost reminded me of the Forbidden City in Beijing for the size of it.  I provided a few poses in front of the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral.  We walked over to Old Arbat Street for some people watching.  I came close to purchasing an oil painting; I try to buy a painting of some sort from each new country I visit.  Zheny’s wife met up with us and we headed toward my hotel so I could check in.  This Hilton was established in a landmark building in 1954 and belonged to the legendary Stalin Tower.  After check in we headed out for dinner, we decided to walk….we didn’t realize how far the restaurant was, because we walked nearly 45 minutes.  After dinner…we took the subway back to the hotel where I said farewell to my new friends.

Day Three – Chilling & Relaxing
Today I was on my own, so I slept in some and by the time I got around it was brunch time.  I headed out for some local shopping and finally made it over to Gorky’s Park.  I made it back to the hotel to finish up on some work emails and after a hotel dinner and wine I made it to bed early.  I had an early fight out the next day to Mineralnye Vody to start my Mt. Elbrus excursion.

Day Four – Heading to Mt. Elbrus
Upon check out, I found out that Hilton charged me for the first night anyway; hopefully….as I am writing this my friend will be able to get my money back.  After checking in and paying extra for overweight luggage at the airport I waited in the gate area for my flight.  I thought maybe I would see a person from my group; I was looking for hiking boots or a person that might look like a hiker.  Actually, there was quite a few people with hiking boots, they were all heading to Mineralnye Vody as I was and this is mainly a mountain area.  When we landed in Mineralnye Vody, our guide was waiting for us.  There were a total of four flights that all carried our group; consisted of 3 from Sweden’s, 2 from Belgium, 1 from Austria, 1 from the Netherlands and myself.  I was pretty excited to meet everyone and it seemed to be a great bunch of people. The mini-bus ride was little over 3 hours….beautiful scenery the whole way; we were dodging cows for most of trip that were slowly walking on the road.  The lodging was actually quite nice; I had a single room (highly recommend) that overlooked the ski-lift/cable car with two single beds. 

Day Five – Warm Up Hike
We all met for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and met up outside for our first altitude warm-up.  We hiked a mile or so over to a single chair-lift that took us up to 3,000 meters and from there we hiked up through snow and rock up to 3,400 meters/11,400 feet.  We had a 360 degree of some fantastic views at the top; the east/west peaks of Mt. Elbrus were sticking out like a sore thumb.  My heart rate peak hit 171 and I burned nearly 3,000 calories.  After coming back down, we had a great local lunch down at the village where we started at the chairlifts.  A little nap was in order in the afternoon as soon as I got back to the room.  We met up for beers before dinner around the lobby television to watch some world soccer.

Day 6 – Heading to Basecamp
Woke up to rain….which totally sucks.  Today we start our accent to Mt. Elbrus by taking chairlifts up to the first set of barrels.  First we will have breakfast and take off at 8:00 a.m.