Expedition Elbrus 2001


            Step by step, we are slowly climbing up. Somewhere in the front, a single beam of a headlight cuts into the darkness. I can hear the crunching of dry ice under my crampons. A look to the left reveals a panorama of awesome mountains, sharp edges with white stripes of snow. Not far above them there is a full moon hanging in the black sky like a lantern. The silhouettes of my friends appear in its glow. We are approaching the height of 5000 meters and most of the summits lie below us. The sun is preparing for the rising at dawn. But we have started this day several hours before – in the middle of night, having eaten lukewarm porridge, we crawled out of our sleeping bags and tents into the wind and frost…

            From the 18th of July until the 12th of August 2001, four of my friends and I organized an expedition to the Cabardino-Balkarian Republic in Russia. Our main aim was to climb Elbrus, the highest mountain in Caucasus – 5642 m. The Caucasus lie at the border of Europe and Asia and therefore there are never-ending disputes about whether Elbrus or Mt Blanc with its 4807 m should be considered as the highest summit in Europe. Having overcome the logistic problems of getting the equipment and planning our route, we set off to the unknown of Russia. During the nearly four weeks of expedition we covered over 3000 kilometers by train (55 hours one way), visited two valleys, climbed many peaks and passes to get an acclimatization, slept in alpinist camps, walked on glaciers and washed in ice-cold rivers. We met many people, mostly from Russia, but also from all over the world, not omitting the USA. Finally on the 4th of August we climbed to the highest possible altitude there, with hard breath but with happiness of doing something extraordinary. The clouds stayed far below us.


Written by Zbyszek