Elbrus South 4th July

Summit day JKW Elbrus 13th June 2019

Elbrus South 4th July

Leaders: Nathan Hughes & Phil Kirk

8th July

Another beautiful day dawned As we dismantled our tents and packed our bags a herd of wild goats came over to inspect us, though perhaps they were more curious about any crumbs we may have inadvertently dropped than watching us brush our teeth. With bellies full of breakfast we started walking down the hillside, eager for a shower and a beer once back in the valley. Once the 4x4s had returned us to the hotel we had some time to relax before making preperations to head to the Garbashi Barrels on the slopes on Elbrus itself, which we would do the following day.

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7th July

After a rainy night, we awoke to a patchy sky as the sun struggled to burn off the previous night’s clouds. With a brakfast of muesli and hot milk inside us we started up towards our goal for the day: Mount Mukal. At 3899m the journey to the summit would give us vital acclimitisation, as well as being a good challenge and providing stunning views.
By the time we set off the clouds were gone and the sun beat down. Grassy slopes quickly gave  way to boulder fields and rocky moraine – loose piles of rocks carried away from the higher cliffs by the passage of glaciers. The shifting rubble made for tough going. Occasionally we crossed large snow patches which made our going easier, but also reflected the intense mountain sun, baking us from both sides. After a few hours we gained Mukal’s wide south ridge which we followed to the top. At the summit we were greeted by beautiful views; to the south lay the chain of snow capped mountains that form Russia’s order with Georgia, to the north and west pristine alpine valleys converging to form the smooth white cone of Elbrus’s eastern summit.
After a well earned packed lunch and a (potentially excessive) number of photos, we started back down, skipping and sliding down the piles of scree. Stopping only to practice some ice axe arresting on a suitable snow slope we hurried back to camp, making it back in good time for a snack and a rest before dinner.
As night fell we chatted beneath a clear sky until the chilly night drove us into our tents. As the light died the stars came out and the Milky Way rose above the quiet camp.
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6th July

After a very plentiful breakfast, we loaded our bags into a couple of Soviet era 4x4s and set out for our acclimatisation trip. After 30 or so minutes we turned off the main road. The driver got out and switched the van into four wheel drive, enabling us to bounce up the track to a height of 2200m. From there we began our hike, following a stream up a green and vibrant alpine valley. The wild flours were all in bloom, and when we stopped to rest from the baking sun we were greeted by a gorgeous vista of snow mountains behind us. After four hours in blazing sunshine we arrived at Syltrankel lake – a beautiful milky green lake surrounded by rocky peaks. After setting up camp we refreshed some snow skills on a nearby snow patch as rolled up the valley. Just as we started eating dinner the heavens opened and we all ran to our tents to enjoy our bulger wheat dinner from the warmth of our sleeping bags.

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5th July

The view from the window gave us no indication that we were heading for the highest point in Europe; for more than two hours on the flight from Moscow we passed above nothing but table flat fields. As the aeroplane descended into Mineralne Vody the first ripples of the caucuses rose from the ground, though still nothing could be seen of the snowy mountains we know lay ahead.

baskan valley

Once on the ground we quickly loaded the bags on to the bus and set off for the four hour trip to the base of Elbrus. Some time into the journey we pulled off the highway and followed the river up the Baskan valley. Soon the terrain began to change. As the valley sides steepened, huge limestone cliffs rose either side of us, their tan walls carved into elaborate shapes by the flow of thousands of years rainfall.
Along the road we passes the huge abandoned apartment buildings, relics of the valley’s Soviet past, when mining for wolfram provided jobs for hundreds of people. Finally we pulled into the beatiful village of Cheget. At first glance the snowy mountains and the wooden clad buildings could almost convince you tat you were in the Alps! In the hotel we relaxed from our journey and made plans for the days ahead.

phil elbrus dinner

The team depart the UK on the 4th of July

Carrie Gibson

About Carrie Gibson

Carrie Gibson has traveled on many of our expeditions including Everest North Ridge, Denali, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Island Peak & Ama Dablam. Carrie is also the first British woman to summit Himlung Himal.

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