Today was a pretty simple day. After a good sleep in the clean cool mountain air we had breakfast at 8:00am. Breakfast was a selection of cereal, bread, cheese, salami, hard boiled eggs and crape pancakes (just like the ones I make). There was no good old Canadian maple syrup, but they had sweetened condensed milk and jam which was pretty good.
At 9:00am we went for an acclimatization hike. The plan was to gain about 1000m (3000ft) and top out around 3000m. The trail ascends a ski slope and many tourists (mostly Russian, but a few foreigners) took the single person chair lift while we walked. It was a beautiful and relaxing walk. We walked through a Pine and Birch forest and could see large mountains covered with snow and glaciers all round us.
Besides acclimatization it was also a good team building hike to further get to know one another. About 2/3 of the way up the skies opened up and it started to rain. At first it was just a light drizzle, but it soon picked up to a real down pour. Fortunately I had brought my gore-tex jacket so my upper body was dry, but my pants and hiking shoes quickly became soaked right through.
Just before noon we hit our high point which was the top of the chair lift. The hill continued above us for a while, but the rain was so hard we decided to stop because there was a small restaurant where we could have lunch.
The small building was packed with tourists trying to get out of the rain. As we wedged our way in I heard a familiar voice. I turned to look and there was Sylvie who had shared our base camp on Everest. Sylvie is the 5th or 6th Canadian women to summit Everest. I had not seen her since the end of our climb. What a small world. She is here to climb Elbrus as well and we are on a similar schedule so I expect to see her as we go for the summit.
After lunch we got back into our rain jackets and ventured out once more into the storm. I pulled on and extra layer of my Sherpa Adventure Gear fleece to help me stay warm through the descent. Huge claps of thunder shook the sky, but I saw no lightning. We could just see the lower flanks of Elbrus as the rest of the mountain was shrouded in cloud.
The walk down went well and the rain stopped as we were nearing the bottom. All in all it was a good hike even with the rain. I felt strong and moved well. The altitude seemed to have little to no impact on me. We did not climb too high, but I hope this is an indication of what is to come. I think my time training with the Altitude Tech gear has helped.
Once back to the hotel the main focus was on drying out gear. Everything was soaked and we need it to be dry for tomorrow when we head up onto the mountain proper. Once we get up there we will not come down for 4-5 days, hopefully after a successful summit. I will not be able to send blog entries while I am up there. I will take my little netbook with me and keep my blog going and will update the web site when I get back to the valley floor.
Paul and Todd had the idea to ask the hotel to put their gore-tex jackets in the dryer. The conversation went a little rough with not a lot of understanding taking place. I think it seemed a strange request to the staff. They said it would cost 40 Rubles per jacket (about $1.50). Todd went to check a while later and saw Paul’s jacket line drying and when he asked where his jacket was they pointed to the washing machine. Both jackets were machine washed then hand washed, air dried and ironed. Both jackets look as good as new. It was quite funny, but I think the guys are pleased with the result.
Dinner was an appetizer of egg plant with some kind of soft cheese and tomato, bread, a potato type soup and choice of lamb with vegetables and potatoes or steamed dumplings. It was quite good. We asked our server if we could get some olive oil to dip the bread and she looked at us like we had three heads. They did not have any olive oil so she brought us a small cup of sunflower oil setting it on the table with a confused look on her face. It was not the same as olive oil, but once we added salt and pepper it was still good.
After dinner I went into town for a walk and to get a chocolate bar (about 75 cents). While in town I checked out a couple of the other hotels. Hotel Ozon is of a Swiss style and looks quite comfortable. There is another huge hotel that I do not know the name of. There is a group of high school kids there on a school trip. I went into the lobby and it is cavernously huge. It is all concrete and seems a little cold, but is not too bad. They have an ATM machine outside and a money exchange inside with a better exchange rate than I got in Moscow. The kids were having skit night and I watched for a few moments. Just like back home but in a different language.
Here is the plan for the next few days. Thursday we ride a small gondola up to the lower huts where we will stay for one or two nights to acclimatize at around 11,000 feet. We will then move to the Pruit hut at around 12,000 feet. We will take an acclimatization hike to the Pastukov at 15,416 feet. By this point we will be fully acclimatized for our summit attempt.
I’ll be back in a few days.