Day 5 of the trip began with the sound of torrential rain on top of the hut in base camp. This would be our second and last morning at base camp, as we would be ascending to Camp 2 (or High Camp, at 3,730m) today.
The rain had carried on all night and it seemed like it would never end. We woke up at 7, and just didn’t even want to get out of the sleeping bags. It was one of those mornings when you just don’t even want to go to the toilet. But get up we had to, as we would have to pack up all of our remaining kit that we would need for the summit, as the last time we would see base camp would be after summit day.
By the time we had got wet walking the 10 yards to the dining hut we were all fired up again, and the rain actually started to ease off a bit. We waited until about 9.30 before setting out, and everyone’s rucksacks were practically bursting, and we realised the merits of having cached so much stuff the day before, to the point that we couldn’t have got much more in this day. Jagged Globe had originally advised 45 litre rucksacks, but even with a 75 litre one I was still pushed to fit everything in.
The walk would be the same one as we did for yesterday’s cache trip, and then it was about another hour and a half from there to our hut.
Thankfully the rain held off for the vast majority of the trip, but there was the odd downpour which meant that the waterproofs stayed on for most of the way.
Once past our cache the path steepened significantly, and with very heavy packs on it made it quite tiring. Once we had climbed for about three quarters of an hour we finally got a view of the top third of the mountain (minus the summit, which was still in cloud), which was great and really lifted my tiredness. From there the last half hour or so was an easy walk, and we reached the three huts which made up our new home for the next six days.
Once in camp we sorted ourselves into two different huts, nine of us in one, and four in the other. The hut with the four was shared initially with a number of Russian guys who looked like they were going for the summit the next day, and this would probably be the pattern for the week as to people coming and going. The rest of us tried to spread out a bit in our hut (not very difficult I can assure you), and the main challenge in there (as the rest of the week was to prove) was the nylon roof – it was very evident that if the wind blew much then it would not be very comfortable or quiet in there.
We stayed around camp for the afternoon and took some pictures of what we could see of the mountain, and just generally hung around and rested. It was important just to get used to being at over 3,700m, and it was clear that just trying to move quickly could easily overexert yourself.
The views up towards the top of the mountain showed just how far we still had to go. It was upwards of 2 vertical kilometres to the top, and that would be our summit day. I recalled that I had never gone close to 2,000m of ascent in a day ever, let alone at close to 6km high. It was going to be the tallest of orders, but no-one was focussing on that for the time being.
Following a dinner of borsht (we got used to it, and actually it wasn’t bad at all) it was a reasonably early night for all and hopefully some sleep. Everyone was tired, but sleeping at close to 3,800m when not yet acclimatised would no doubt prove difficult.
At our briefing this evening we were told that the next day we would go an collect our mountaineering equipment from the cache down the mountain, and then get some glacier travel practice in the afternoon. It seemed all of a sudden that the really exciting part of the trip, that of getting onto Elbrus’ glacier, and upper reaches, was finally about to start. This had been months in the coming for most of us, and was at last here. The summit seemed so close now, and yet still so far……