I woke up for what seemed to be about the fortieth time in base camp for my first full day on Elbrus. I’d had a rubbish night’s sleep, unusual for me. I don’t know whether it was the altitude (although only 2,500m) or the heat (it was still probably 20+ degrees), but in any case I tossed and turned all night. There was also a mighty storm in the middle of the night where we thought the hut was going to blow away, which all added to the drama a bit. I was glad that we weren’t in tents, and was surprised in fact to see other tents in the camp still standing in the morning.
After a very passable breakfast it was off for our caching trip. We set off just after 9, and it was a fairly easy walk for the most part. We set off on the edge of a gorge, and then past a big area known as the airfield, which was used as a German runway during WW2. From there we climbed quite steeply up towards (and for our first proper sight of) Elbrus’ glacier before heading off towards the rocks where we would hide our stuff to collect in two days time. It rained a fair bit at the start of the day, but then cleared up to be fine and warm for the most part.
The walk served two purposes, since as well as allowing us to cache our glacier equipment (ice-axes, double-plastic boots, crampons, etc.), we would be ascending to around 3,500m and then coming back down again, so being good for acclimatisation purposes.
The trek up took about 3 and a half hours in total, and once the equipment was all well hidden, we set off back down the mountain via a different route, this time going via ‘mushroom rocks’. The rocks are so-called as they have eroded at the base quite significantly, and flat tops remain. They became a good stopping place for a rest and some photographs.
From the rocks we all descended back to base camp for some rest and food, and then a debrief for what the next few days had in store. Tomorrow we would head out of Base Camp and move up to High Camp at 3,700m, which would be our new base for as long we stayed to attempt the summit. This would of course enable to us to acclimatise better than at Base Camp, which at 2,500m wasn’t exactly ‘at altitude’.
We then packed for the coming days, leaving anything we didn’t need for the summit in our bags at Base Camp, and carrying everything else in our rucksacks. There was still a lot of equipment to pack, and we were glad that we had cached so much earlier, and even with 75 litre rucksacks it was all still a squeeze.
Before retiring we bought access to wifi at the Camp, and looked at the weather forecast for the coming week while we would be up in High Camp. The forecast looked pretty bad, with strong winds and snow, but there was a potential weather window on Sunday, our intended summit day anyway. Mountain weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable more than a few days out, and so no-one worried unduly. Having however seen at least some of the mountain so far, and knowing that we would be faced with a 2,000m summit day, we knew that without some fair weather this mountain was not going to yield very easily.
Sleep came about much easier having had a climb to 3,500m today, and we looked forward to the days ahead with a mixture of excitement and trepidation…….