So it's been an adventurous few days getting ourselves to Basecamp (2,500m). Starting off in Tbilisi where it was 40 degrees and having to take 5 different vehicles to get us to, through and past territories such as South and North Ossetia and eventually to the Hotel Orient in Pyatagorsk. Getting through the anti republican states of Ossetia was high on the uncomfortable scale. AK47 wielding soldiers and pop up border controls complete with coach and lorry scanners and a look of complete bewilderment welcomed us as we past through. But that we did. Somehow.
Since reaching base camp it's been cold and wet. The landscape very much resembling Welsh countryside on steroids. Yesterday we made our first acclimatisation trek moving our food and some kit up to camp 2. We battled constant driving rain, lunched under an emergency bivvy and finally returned to camp 7 hours later after ascending and descending a cool 1,200m. The landscape is bold and not overly inviting. Plenty of steep rock scrambles and loose scree descents helped cause a few altitude induced headaches. As soon as we reached base camp the stove was on and the miracle worker of salty Russian dried soup and tea without milk...did its job and we were back fighting fit. Dinner consisted of a selection of Goulash, bread filled with potatoes and Russian pie after which we were spent. A big nights sleep was needed as we would face the same trek, tomorrow this time with full packs weighing 30kg each. This is where the men get sorted from the boys. It's going to be a very tough climb. As if our wishes came true the sun has decided to veer its head out today and we have a day (for now) of clear skies and an imposing view of the dual peaks of Mount Elbrus towering high above everything else at 5,642m.
We will be camping high tonight at 3,700m. Sleep will be broken and breathing beginning to get short and sharp. We need to acclimatise at that height so will spend a couple of days there practising cravase rescue and some glacier climbing before setting off to Lenz Rocks another 900m or so up. After which weather and health permitting we hope to summit. The summit is usually a 9-12hr climb so it's going to push us all to the limit. Signal will go after this point so hopefully the next time I check in we will all have successfully summited Elbrus and are celebrating with a well earned beer in hand.