MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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July 28, 2015

A Bit of Luck for Elbrus Group 2

MM Guide Mark Pugliese reports on the second of three Elbrus trip of the season that was met with some good luck and a successful summit! 

After a day touring the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, our group boarded the domestic flight to Mineralnye Vody and drove south to the Caucasus mountain range.

Moscow. Mark Pugliese photo

Our group of twelve stayed in a small family-run hotel in Terskol, a little mountain town at the foot of Elbrus. Here from our "luxury base camp" (6,800 feet) we took a couple day hikes up to Cheget peak (11,500 feet) and the Terskol observatory (10,000 feet). These hikes are especially beautiful and an incredible way to see the Baksan Valley, with each passing hike we did, Kyle K. kept saying "Now this is the new coolest thing I have ever done!".

Acclimatization hike. Mark Pugliese photo

After spending a couple days acclimatizing both to Moscow time and to the altitude. We made our way onto the tram lines and rode up to our new home, the barrel huts (12,000 feet).

We faced bad weather here with electrical storms, hail, and winds so strong the barrels swayed. The hazardous weather made it difficult to fit in our planned acclimatization hike to 15,000 feet.  But we did what we could.

The beautiful Baksan Valley. Mark Pugliese photo

Our first two summit day options, the team faced horrible weather and we decided to wait until the third and final day to try and climb. On July 1, we woke up to a broken sky, this was the first time we could see patches of blue at least.  After a very cold cat ride to 5000 meters. We got out and started walking. As we moved up, the clouds broke further and the weather improved steadily.

A clear day for the summit attempt. Mark Pugliese photo

Everyone was in disbelief at how nice the weather turned out. I remember Deana H. remarking to us "How could we have lucked out any more than getting this perfect day?" The answer was we couldn't have lucked out any more, it was a day made for us. By the end of it, 9 out of 10 of our guests summited and I skied with three of them from 18,000 feet, making for a pretty sweet 6,000 feet descent.

That night we caught the last chair down and made it back to Hotel Povorot for a much needed shower followed by dinner and drinks.  One person in our group asked a staff member of the hotel where a dance club was. She replied right here. Next thing we knew they moved all the tables and chairs out of the dining room and we had dance music bumping and flashing lights. A fairly surreal change from "barrel life". It was incredible to see a group that was so tired on the mountain dance so much a few hours later! These are the kinds of experiences that make the unique culture of Russia something special, the hospitality of our hosts was second to none.

Congrats to Group 1! Mark Pugliese photo

Thanks for a good time, Elbrus Group 1. All you out there reading, be sure to join us next summer to keep the good times rolling in Mother Russia.