Elbrus made me feel at home.

Sing a song, merry wind

Perhaps, not everyone would agree but I would mention Elbrus among the symbols of Russia. Aren’t there enough reasons for that? It’s the highest mountain of Europe, one of the seven summits, the place of the battle for Caucasus during the Second World War and the symbol of the European south of Russia. The routes of Elbrus are not of difficulty – from 2A to 3A. Despite that, it has fame of a demanding climb. The climate on the 43th degree is capricious.

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We decided to ascend from the north, by the historic route of the first explorers. The main reason for this choice was to avoid the crowds of skiers and pseudo mountaineeres that “ascend” the mountain with the help of the funicular on the south face. Tho the amount of expeditions we met amused me, and the majority was from abroad: not just Europe but also groups from South Africa, India, Venezuela and Jordan!

For 1500 rub we joined a touristic group from Kislovodsk to the thermals of Djyly-Su. Took longer but much cheaper than a private transfer. Then we walked up to the Emanuel glade (2500m) – it is  from here the general Emanuel was tracking through binoculars the advance of his team towards the Eastern summit of Elbrus in 1829. The name of Emanuel is not forgotten and, I notice, is remembered much better than that of the kabardinetz Killar Khashirov, who was the first (and the only one in that day) to reach the summit. The rest of the group – scientists from the Saint-Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Cossacks from plains turned back. Well, acclimatization on Elbrus is particularly important. Taking into account that the attack is 1800 m in vertical we’ll have to gain. And the weather that might happen dud.

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Even with a heavy backpack it’s an hour-long hike from Djily-Su to the base camp. Some adrenaline into blood I received crossing the Malka river. The bridge is a heap of barely nailed planks supported by the only tube 10-cm in diameter. The angle of this shabby construction above the mountain stream made me crawl and hold my breath.

A quick dive into Malka river – cool glacial water – express  way to get the fighting spirit back.

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The next day we’re leaving for the high camp to drop some supplies and equipment. The high camp “Northern Refuge” is on the altitude of 3750m, right at the foot of the glacier. We can clearly see the Lentz rocks from there – that very spot where the physic Emily Lenz returned back. From these rocks to the summit – a gradual inclined ascent. Another 800m – very long as it’ll seem to me on the attack day.

On way up to the high camp we follow the river, the beautiful canyon, for thousands of years water was working on these curves. Actually there’s a sign from the side of the Emanuel glade: Prohibited to pass. In bad weather the trail turns into a muddy slide. There’s a way around through the hills.

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The trail takes us to the Aerodrom – a huge glade at 2867m. Here during the Great Patriotic War the Nazi planes landed. In these mountains the fights for Caucasus took place and both Nazi and Soviet divisions were counting mountain climbers.

The landscape is pastoral: grass is green, flowers flourish. A bit higher the panorama changes – we enter the moraine of Mingi Tau – another name of Elbrus which means “One of thousand of mountains” in balkarsky language.

We set our tent next to the tiny blue lagoon, in the middle of the moraine, away from commercial camps. I fell in love with this beautiful spot and a view on the double-headed mountain and was really sad to leave it after the mountain let us summit it. From here it’s obvious how fast the climate above Elbrus change.

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Under the glacier the streams sing, ice the clearest water is seen through the spoungy ice. We had  impression that a river runs under our feet. Splits start a bit higher. Early morning they are covered by snow, later at descend, melt under the sun, they impress me with ice stalactites.

Acclimatization hike – “acclimukha” –  we do till the mid-Lenz rocks – 4600m. Honestly speaking, after two days of hikes between the base and the high camps I had no desire to go further. But that was enough for the day – a half of what we’ll have to make on the attack night. The Eastern summit – 5621m.

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In the rest day I fully recover.When I woke up at night, the sky was starry and clear. Elbrus was here, solemn and calm, so near and so dear.

Beautiful! – I could only wisper.

Despite the blizzard and 1800m we had to hike up on the attack, there was no mountain in my life where I would feel so energetic and inspired as on Elbrus. At our attack day Elbrus greeted us with сalm, then frosty sunrise, strong wind, feasted us with blizzard and the sun.

«Sing a song to us, merry wind». My mother used to sing me this Soviet pioneer song when I was a kid and was tired to walk. She, probably, couldn’t imagine I would murmur it in a gruffish voice walking up Elbrus 25 years later.

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Honestly… I’ve never seen such a beautiful view in my life as from the summit of Elbrus. After many hours walking up that amazing harsh world of the steep show peaks of the Greater Caucasus lays at my feet…

On the summit I dropped a tear of happiness. So many foreign trails, countries and summits in 7 years – and finally I’m here, on dear Elbrus, the roof of my Motherland…

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