All evening we were worried that the weather would not allow us to climb Elbrus. But it seems like a blizzard subsided a bit and we started to prepare ourselves for the ascending at three in the morning. We had a little breakfast, put on our crampons and safety belts, took our backpacks and started to ascend.
The wind was incredible strong. We could hardly move, because we often had to go against the gusts of wind, stop, and even bent over and sit down so the wind does not blow us out. At that moment it seemed that there would be no end to this “kosaya polka”, a long ascending path which led to the hollow between the two peaks of Elbrus: the eastern and the western. It was very dark and we walked almost blindly.
Despite the wind, we moved rather quickly and overtook one group after another. The sunrise began after awhile. It became even easier to go when the wind stopped and we could see the path in front of us. The views from here were spectacular. The horizon gradually changed its colours from dark blue to purple and then to pink.
After reaching the hollow, we took a short break, drank tea and continued walking. There was only one group of mountaineers left before us. All the rest we have already overtaken. This group was already on the sunny slope and I was impatient to get there: it was terribly cold, my toes were freezing despite the fact that I had good mountain boots for high-altitudes and snow.
The second slope was pretty steep. We had to move secured with the rope, slowly hiking upwards. I felt great: I was full of energy, my head did not hurt at all, and indeed, surprisingly, I walked fast.
During the second break, while I was taking photos of the landscape and enjoying some tea, I lost my feather glove: it just flew away without saying goodbye. I had to go in ordinary ski gloves :/.
Behind the second slope the path was already not that steep and we quickly reached the summit. It was an indescribable feeling: we had just conquered our first pink summit! I was overwhelmed with joy, and one of us even began to cry, either from happiness or from a sense of pride.
Here, on top, we unfolded two important flags for me: the bright red flag of Kyrgyzstan, where I originally come from, and a rainbow LGBT flag. We were, of course, a little scared: we did not know how other people around us would react, including our guide. Moreover, we were in the Caucasus, where you can find the most conservative people in Russia, and in Chechnya nearby they even kill gays. However, we were very lucky: no one said anything to us, they even took a picture of us waving the rainbow flag.
At the top of the mountain we could stay literally just for a few minutes: a terrible wind was blowing and our hands immediately froze when we took off our gloves. We decided to go down as quickly as possible. Moreover, I had to catch my Skype call (yes, I had officially worked all this time. It’s cool to be a programmer: you can travel and have flexible working hours).
It was, however, difficult to get down for Steffen. It took twice as long to go down as we went up 🙂 During the descent, Steffen almost fell down due to fatigue, but we all walked with the rope and had time to block ourselves from falling down using our ice axes. However, on the same dangerous slope directly in front of us, one local guide fell down and crashed against the stones: he apparently incorrectly locked himself or forgot to lock to the rope. This poor dude could not go on his own, but fortunately he was still alive. His fellow tour guides helped him to go down.
Everyone was shocked as this guide fell down helplessly trying to stop himself with the ice axe. Those seconds lasted forever, and I could almost watch his every helpless movement. This all shocked me because we were standing on the same slope. I hope this guy is doing well now.
Nevertheless, we carefully descended down to our camp. We gathered all our stuff and went down to the hotel by the cable car. In the hotel, I felt suddenly a strong headache either because of the strong air pressure drop or because of mere exhaustion.
Now I could calmly take a shower, recover myself and gradually return to my normal life: I was soon on Skype with my colleagues discussing our working progress and the next steps. On the tenth day, we paid money to the guide, thanked him, said goodbye and flew to Moscow via Mineralnye Vody.
I was very happy that on the last days the weather improved and we were able to climb up. I was proud that despite challenges I could do it. These were ten days full of emotions and adventures. We firmly decided that we would definitely return to explore the northern route to Elbrus or just go skiing here.