Tag Archives: mountains

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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The skies of my Motherland

It’s been a while I didn’t write to my blog but kept wandering the world. My life has changed when I learnt the art to fly – PARAGLIDING. Since then, me and my Independence Dragon have been to many amazing corners and would love to tell about them to everyone! 🙂

Recently back from Caucasus, in my electronic box I’ve found an e-mail from National Geographyc – an invitation for another photo-contest named «From Above». I’m quite skeptical about my own chances to attract attention in the community, where there’re so many professional photographers, but still – I sent a couple of my photos. Couldn’t but send when I look from above on the land of such an incredible beauty!

“From Above”

This is Kabardino-Balkaria, the republic on the south of my Motherland and the most beautiful spot I’ve ever flown!

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Honestly speaking, my breath stopped when I saw the Chegem gorge from above!
Already from Saint-Petersburg I called to Nazir Bashtakov, “chief” of the Paradrom Chegem. He and Marat – the chief of the second younger base – generous hosts, who receive pilots and people who come there to fly tandem.

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Nazir, thank you so much for your hospitality! These were fantastic, beautiful, generous and inspiring days! Nazir offer a couple of containers-hostels with beds and warm blankets – like at home. If you wish it’s possible to camp, there’s lots of place for that. “The base” has a shower, a kitchen and a dining room under the roof. And a place for barbeque.

A place in the container is 300 rub. per night. The menu is combined of all the traditional Caucasian dishes – home-made and very reasonable priced. Sofyad, Nazir’s wife, cooks them right there, on the little kitchen of the camping ground.

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I was in Chegem at the beginning of August, and the morning we spent waiting – for valley breeze to set. As soon as the flags were waving actively enough, we were leaving for the start. It’s not far on foot, if lucky – a car with tandem passengers might give a lift.

The plateau behind
The plateau behind “The Triangle”

Flights: thermodynamic. Two take-offs – the lower «cucamber» and the upper one. Altitude of the take-off – about 1600m, 170m about the landing. Coordinates of the take-off: N 43° 17′ 27” E 43° 10′ 12”

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The first step – to gain altitude in the dynamics of the valley breeze along the “shovels” of the mountain Zinki. Then more variants emerge. For example,

  • head to the “Triangule”, where normally it’s not hard to find a “duty termal”. After reaching the summit – to the neighbor watershed, where it’s already much easier to gain altitude. From there – feel free to try a cross along the spurs of the Greater Caucasus.
  • head to “the red rocks”. They face west, so they need time to warm up in the morning. If to grab luck to gain altitude, it’s possible to aim at His Majesty Elbrus – the highest summit of Russia and Europe (5642m) – according to some versions. Nevertheless, attention – the currents of air on “the red rocks” are capricious.

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The cloud ceiling in a clear day is more than 4000m.

After midday clouds arrive. Rain doesn’t happen every day though. Even if comes, the pilots fly almost till the first drops.
What a view from above – words can’t express! Snowy shiny slopes of the Greater Caucasus, enormous rocky plateau, villages in the depth of the valley stretching to Georgia. By the way, the border is not far.

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How to get there: the closest big city – Nalchik, it’s easy to get there from any Caucasian city. From Nalchik at 17.00 every day public bus to Bulungu leaves. We’re going 75 km from Nalchik, 16 km on a dirt road after the touristic Chegem waterfalls. Hop off on the stop Paradrom – have to ask the driver in advance, and from there to the Paradrom the dirt road goes. The base of Nazir is in the depth of the gorge, the last one.

TO BE CONTINUED… (In the next post  I’ll tell a bit more about this piece of land – about hot-blooded tribes, ancient graves, wonders of nature and local legends)

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Vale do Pati: inside a fairy tale

Chapada Diamantina is like “a kingdom behind thirty-nine lands” in Russian fairy tales. You need to cross mountain ranges, walk turbulent rivers, overcome tiredness of rocky ascends and leave behind many kilometers of plateau, burnt by ruthless sun.

The plateau ends up in a precipice. Beneath - the Valleu of Pati, which rocks we can see from far away.

The reward for that will be an oasis deep into shadowy valley that lays among centuries old giants, unreachable and severe like ancient wise men. Life streams there in tranquility and no hurry, filled with simple and natural joys: singing of birds, gentle chatter of creeks and whispering of wind in high tree tops of wise forest.

There we went one summer day, to Vale do Pati.

The dusty road brings us from a tiny town Guine (that is on the south-west border of Chapada) to the base of a mountain range. There we leave the car and start ascent.

Little wonders of the plateau

It’s morning, and the first climb is easy. Soon we observe a huge plateau in front of us. Behind this vast space – the valley of incredible beauty. But we can only guess about it now, keeping in sight whimsical rocks far away.

Here we go for the next 1.5 hours – across shallow rivers, among low bushes and sea of grass, trying to keep our feet away from mud pools that have appeared after the rain. The water in streams doesn’t reach higher than our ancles, and it pleasantly chills our hot feet.

Finally, we reach the edge. Last steps towards the abyss – and Vale do Pati lays right under our tired feet. From the top like on a map we can see all trails that cross the valley. On the left of it there’s a church (Igrejinha) with camping nearby.

But we plan to go further – deeper to the valley, where in solemnity of wild nature lives Dona Rachel, Wilson, Dona Le and some other very few locals.

Road to Dona Rachel.

Before we get there we need to go down. Straight from a place we stand there’s a path down the grand rock. Or better say – a steep. It’s not hiking anymore, but rock climbing. We descend from stone to stone, trying to keep safe our knees. And entertain ourselves with idea that on way back we need to climb this mountain up.

Wild orchids of Pati

The next hour we walk by a dusty road (the next day, when we’ll go back this dust will turn into thick layer of mud) into the depth of the forest that is crossed by a river. There’s plenty of waterfalls around, and, probably, this stream gives birth to some of them.

This photo we think of selling to Coca-Cola : )

Finally, there’s a white house among trees – Casa de Dona Le. In a backyard a guy is cutting wood. A cock hisses on us, staying in fronts of his hens. Kittens stare at strangers from behind of a huge pot.

We pass Dona Le and go further, passing lazy burros – a mix of a horse with a donkeys.

These animals are slow but resistant and strong and used by locals to bring supplies from Guine. They choose long way, around the range. It takes them 3 hours to pass the route that would take a pedestrian 2 days.

There’s many people in hospitable house of Dona Rachel (almost all locals recieve guests): mostly Brazilians who have escaped frenzy of Carnaval but also Spanish travelers. Photos on walls are from gratefull guests. Some of them return here to the magnificent valley again and again. Hope, I will too – one day.

At the entrance to the plateau from a side of Guine