Gora Elbrus

Gora Elbrus Attempt

Sleeping Elevation
Elevation Gain
Hike to Mir
7 miles
Hike to 14,800'
4 miles
Hike to 14,900'
3 miles
Pastukhova Rocks
2.5 miles
6.6 miles
Azau, Russia
0.6 miles

Total Distance: 
23.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 13,000’

Day 1
Americans: Colin Fain, Jim Steele, Josh Carnes and Russians: Alexander, Lora, Sasha, Tanya, Vladamir, Yevgeniy, Yuginavich & I hiked up to Mir Station, which is the highest point the cable car reaches and is at the base of the single passenger chairlift.  This section of the mountain was completely dry and we simply followed the road.  The purpose of the hike was for acclimatization.  We stayed in the hotel at the base of the cable car.
Day 2
We took the two cable cars and the chairlift to Garabashi and walked to the Barrels.  The Barrels are huts made out of old fuel barrels.  Next, we climbed up to 4500 m above the Diesel Hut, but below Pastukhova Rocks.  Colin and I skied down while everyone else walked down.  The snow was surprisingly good for August.  That night we stayed in the Barrels.

Tanya, Yevgeniy, Jim, Josh & Brian, from left to right, at the Diesel Hut. Mount Elbrus is in the center of the photo.  Photo: Colin Fain
Day 3
We moved camp up to the Diesel Huts.  They are caused the Diesel Huts because the lights in the huts are only functional for two hours daily and are powered by a diesel generator.  We climbed up to 4540 m.  We were planning to go to the Pastukhova Rocks, but turned around because of poor weather.  The snow was firmer than the previous day and Colin fell, scratching his knee on a rock.

Colin's injured knee
Day 4
We climbed up to Patukhova Rocks and descended.  The fresh snow made for favorable conditions.  Colin stayed back at the hut to rest from his previous injury.
Day 5
We woke at 2 am and took a snow cat up to Pastukhova Rocks.  We climbed towards the saddle.  Lora and Vladimir descended because of the obnoxious wind; a -40 degree wind chill was forecasted.  Later, Yevgeniy descended because of a broken crampon.  As the sun rose, Colin began to slow down.  He was instructed to descend by Alexander, who has climbed the mountain 15 times with 16 attempts and was considered to be the trip leader.  Colin ignored the instruction and continued to climb slowly.  Finally, Alexander found a group descending that agreed to take Colin down.  We could now make progress towards the summit, but by the time we reached the saddle, we saw storm clouds approaching from the south and decided to descend to avoid being caught in a whiteout, which is the number one cause of death on the mountain.  The slope above Patukhova Rocks had fresh, windloaded snow, but was difficult to see with all the blowing snow.  Just below the Patukhova Rocks, I found Colin sitting inside a snow cat.  He stated that he was too tired to descend and that he would take the snow cat down.  He was later hospitalized for four days for high altitude pulmonary edema.  After returning to the hut, we obtained the weather forecasts for the next two days and found them to be worse than the -40 degree wind chill forecast that we subjected ourselves to.  We had three summit days built into our itinerary, so decided that we would have to return to the mountain to make another attempt.  The group wanted beer, so since I was fastest on skis, was nominated to descend to the Barrels to purchase beer and skin back up to imbibe.

Sunrise. Photo: Colin Fain

The Caucuses with Ushba, supposedly Europe's most difficult peak to climb, to the right. Photo: Colin Fain

Colin at his lifetime highpoint of about 17,000'

Day 6
We descended back to the Barrels.  This was the first time I descended with a full pack on this trip and forgot how difficult it was.  After tightening my boots and pack, I made the remainder of the descent easily.