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  Marty Schmidt Int Guiding, MSIG Elbrus Trip Report


Elbrus, Russia, 2008: Dates of our climb, 13_ 27th of July, 2008.

Hello to everyone who was following our climb on Mt Elbrus, Russia this year. Our team consisted of Jason and Sue House, Bob Street and Clif Maloney. My wife Giannina was meant to come with us but unfortunately her father is very ill and she needed to be with him.

I am now sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa, waiting for my other clients to arrive this evening for us to head off to Kilimanjaro. For the Kilimanjaro climb we will be sending in daily dispatches to keep everyone informed about our climb.

While sitting here I want to let you know how our climb went. First off, congratulations to Bob, Clif, Jason and Sue for doing a great job with this climb.

Everyone met on the 12th July in Moscow, except for me who arrived the next day.  The four of them had time to check out the city and feel how different Moscow is to the rest of the world. When I arrived the next day we greeted each other with open arms. I have taken care of Bob and Clif on Mt Vinson last year and for Clif we have been together for over 17 years. This Elbrus summit was his 5th of the Seven Summits; I was able to help him up Denali, Aconcagua, Vinson and now Elbrus.  Sue and Jason was the first time with me, since Clif had a common climbing friend from the past our get together has already happened many months before.  Meeting Sue and Jason for the first time was a treat. Their enthusiasm and positive energy towards life mixed in well with us old timers.  I felt we would have no worries with our team for Elbrus, since Mr Bob Street is always a delight to be with in the mountains.

After a tour of the city on the 14th July, we did our final packing and gear check to be ready for our flight on the 15th. We gave ourselves plenty of western time to arrive at the airport on time but Russian time was different. The traffic was intense and we made our flight by 2 minutes. We boarded the old 737 type bird and flew to Mineral Vody, about a 2.5 hour flight.

Taking the 3 hour van ride to Baksan Valley went smoothly. The river was at flood stage in some parts but this didn’t bother our driver.  He just drove like a mad man to save time but not petrol.

With our accommodations being top notch, we went out and trained for the 16th and 17th. The days were filled with perfect weather and our team bonded more with each day.  A few hot spots touched some of our feet, which we cured with second skin patches. We wore our high altitude boots for this training, and it helped in the long term. We ate well, slept even better and we were happy to make the move for our higher camps by the 18th.

Taking the ancient tram from the Valley floor, we quickly ascended to the start of our climb. This day was filled with bad weather. Slipping into our wet gear we climbed to our camp 1 at 3700 meters. The whole team did well getting this camp established in the worse of storms. Why did we leave in the storm one might ask? The weather forecast was good for 2 days and then another front was coming in. Sometimes we have to move in not so nice conditions. Putting the 2 tents together so that the vestibules were connected to pass the meals through works so well. I like to always try to have all my clients in one tent to have good talks, good communication, seeing how they are doing at all times, but when there are more than 4 people on a team I need to bring 2 tents.  Everyone ate well and was asleep in no time.

The 19th dawned beautifully.  We were rested and prepared to ascend to our high camp at 4200 meters. This didn’t take us long since we were all feeling great. Sue and Jason have done Kilimanjaro before and this altitude was not new to them but Sue needed some help with her headache. After climbing it went away. Our camp was this time on a steeper terrain. We dug out platforms for both tents taking several hours to do so. Building walls first to support the platforms is the key. Good anchorage to the tents gave us the peace of minds that our homes will still be around when we come off the summit. This was all up and done with by 1500 hours. We had time to adjust our gear, eat dinner and get ready to sleep before the sun went down.

Wake up call at 0300 hours brought smiles to our faces. We were out on the climb by 0545. The climb is straight forward, we ascend 1400 meters to the summit by way of a packed climbing track first being straight upwards and then traversing towards the Col between the east and the west summits. The last leg of the climb is up a steeper head wall where I put on the rope for us 5. We witnessed the summit from the distance between clouds and blue skies. We arrived in good shape on the summit at 1415. Giving and receiving big hugs from our team mates, taking wonderful photos of Europe’s highest summit and not worrying about the bad weather approaching us we headed downward, having spent 30 minutes on top.

Our descent went well, people tired but there is something that gives energy to the soul when a summit is reached. Goals being accomplished and goals being set for the future are one at this time. This is the true joy of climbing the highest summits that are on this earth that we live.

All went well with our down climb back to the Baksan Valley and then a few days of resting before our journey back to Moscow for the night train to St. Petersburg where we stayed for a few more days seeing the sights and taking in the Ballet Swan Lake.

Great trip for us 5, more to come with each year............

Cheers, Marty Schmidt, MSIG.  

After a tour of the city on the 14th July, we did our final packing and gear check to be ready for our flight on the 15th. We gave ourselves plenty of western time to arrive at the airport on time but Russian time was different. The traffic was intense and we made our flight by 2 minutes. We boarded the old 737 type bird and flew to Mineral Vody, about a 2.5 hour flight.

All was clicking so far. We found our driver, a Russian that didn’t speak a word, and drove to the Baksan Valley arriving in 3 hours time, with plenty of hair pin turns, wild, flooding rivers and near misses with on- coming traffic, all done well in Russian style. 

A few days of acclimatizing with days hikes from the hotel brought us in shape and ready to head for the mountain. This valley is at 2000 meters; we took a tram way up to 3500 and hiked to our camp at 4000 meters. This day, our first and only bad weather day was not the best to move in but being well clothed and ready to climb meant that our camp 1 came to us quickly. Pitched the 2 tents by each other and started to cook our dinner for 5 people. 

We dried our selves during the night and woke up to fine weather allowing us to move from camp 1 to camp 2, at 4400 meters. Here we had to cut ledges out of the snow pack, building comfortable platforms for our 2 tents.  We did all this before 3 pm and had time to rest and watch the upper mountain as people were climbing down from the summit.  Our thoughts and actions went into the preparing for the next day’s climb.

20th July, up at 3 am and out by 5:45 am. Why does it take so long to get out of camp you might ask? Melting water and cooking breakfast feels like you are busy all the time and should tick right along. It does happen like this and combine it with getting everyone ready for a departure time, makes the quick time turn into more time. This is normal for mountain summit starts, 2.5 hours is doing well.  We had headlamps on in the early morning and now by 5:45 the sun was up for us to put away our lights and start climbing upwards. 



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