A brief memoir from Russia
The mountain came
and went... and so did another week in the life.
We are back in Moscow. for most of my life, I never
thought I'd come here for any reason.
is very different from St Petersburg: modernized,
cleaner, fresher. But, also, not a place for me.
We spent a day here after leaving Leningrad last
week, and prior to our jaunt to the Caucasus range.
And now we are back with five days left and naught
to do. After those five days we'll see how I feel
about this town. But now about El'brus:
This mountain adventure,
like most of them, was quite exciting. We cooked
dinner alongside country roads that flowed between
rolling green hills covered with grazing livestock
and occasional russian cowboys. We meditated over
grandiose panoramic views of the snowcapped Caucasus,
one of the most spectacular ranges in the world.
And we strove with indefatigable will against the
daily storms and all the elements that tried to
stop us from climbing the tallest peak in Europe.
Our many camps were the highlights of our journey.
There was the five thousand meter high shoveled
out snow shelter that we built hurriedly in blinding
hail and wind. And there was the old faltering hut
standing on insecure rocks whose walls began to
melt when we lit a fire inside. But the most exciting,
was the campsite that was struck three times by
lightning. The last of these strikes making us seek
refuge elsewhere for a few hours before returning
to our things.
On the fourth evening we
awoke at 23:30 and began preparing for our summit
attempt. Four hours later we had melted enough snow
to drink for the coming day, packed our things,
tied the tent down so it would not blow away in
our absence, marked it with red flags in case it
got buried in falling snow, and prepared a meal
to energize ourselves.
We began hiking in the frigid
winds under a new moon, headlamps lighting our way,
taking turns leading - the leader had the fatiguing
job of kicking and chopping through the eighteen
inches of new fallen snow to blaze a path for the
others to climb as well as of finding the safest
route available for the team. Eight hours later;
our bodies sore, tired, and sunburned; our water
bottles refrozen and undrinkable; and our minds
drunken due to the lack of oxygen, we stepped onto
the summit together, congratulated ourselves, and
headed back down to break camp and return to the
bottom of the mountain. Within seven hours of summitting
we were at a hotel in the valley, showering and
preparing for a celebratory dinner of actual foods,
(instead of freeze dried carbohydrates.)
It is always sad to realize
that something you have worked so hard for is so
fleeting, and so insubstantial - a moments view
across the earth. All this for the chance to have
a tiny glimpse from a new vantage point. All we
want is to try to see things from the heavens' eye.
And it is there for a moment, and then it is gone.
Goodbye El'brus. Whatever
comes next, comes next...
: billet-doux entries