Elbrus to Kentucky

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Elbrus to Kentucky Last post from Elbrus15

Gorgeous sunrise coming up over one shoulder and disgusting outhouse over the other.

I had three contingency days for weather or illness that I didn’t use, so the last few days in Russia were spent looking around. I had a day in Moscow, Mineralnye Vody, and the town at the base of the mountain. I finally got real food. I was with my friends, Eugene from Portugal and Monique from India, that followed me down the mountain. Both were very sick from the altitude. They were able to make it through Kilimanjaro sick and had a lot of help. Not the case here. We had two guides for eight people and they couldn’t keep up with the group when they became scattered. It is also very dangerous. We saw the weather go from clear and comfortable to blizzard conditions and poor visibility in hours. If you go straight down and end up off the normal route, you will die. The other faces were full of deep crevasses hidden by deep snow. I was glad for their company. We were supposed to stay on the mountain another night. I hated leaving the group, but I had done everything I had come here to do, and the kabobs and beer, hot shower, bed and a full night sleep were worth the extra pain to continue walking with my full pack to catch the last lift. My legs were shot. Eugene helped with my heavy bag, loading the three lifts to get to the bottom, then a short walk to the hotel that was empty with no elevator. They give us rooms on the fifth floor again, so I climbed the five flights with my 56-pound bag and pack. Five people stayed in the barrel an extra night; the three that summited with me, and Fred and Tony. On the next day, they reached the summit with the SnowCat. Eugene and Monique were relieved to be down and a little disappointed it was over and no summit. I told them the stories about Aconcagua where groups of friends were pushed by their peers to their death. They both had families, and I told them my definition of a successful climb is to go as high and hard as you can, and then getting back to your family. That is exactly what they did.

I say goodbye to the cook, who besides Sultan, was the only person that got a tip. I thought about the day and what I would do different. I am getting better each mountain I climb. This trip, I used everything in my pack and nothing was wasted. I didn’t bring enough snacks, but we had a good kitchen on the mountain and were able to get my favorite mountain food, cookies, and lemon tea. I had a frostbite on my uvula caused by breathing hard without my mask. My throat started swelling. It wasn’t painful, but made me sound like my pug after it runs a hundred yards.

I started my Z-pack and steroids, and was fine in a few days. I am in much better shape than the other two post summit days, with only a slight high altitude hack and small spots of windburn on my face.

Elbrus fell in the middle of Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua on difficulty level. Crampons and ice ax were easy to get use to using. Training in Colorado before the trip paid dividends, thanks to my training partners Lisa, Jurgen, and Andee. Only thing I forgot about was a flag or something to leave on top. I saw others pulling flags and signs from their packs, and I felt bad I had not dedicated this to anyone or anything but me. I thought about it a few minutes and thanked God he got me here, and thought about the last summit day in South America and about Maddie S, so I carved her initials into the ice with my ax and that was the only thing I left up there.

I leave the next morning at 8 a.m., and have an 8 p.m., flight to Moscow, so I download Tripadvisor’s Top 10 things to see in each town. I was looking forward to the drive, but it was dark when I arrived and saw nothing.

I went to a Russian Orthodox cathedral that had the remains of St. Theodosius the Greater, a Caucasus miracle worker that was canonized in 1995. Unlike most of the people I met on this trip, the people at the churches were very nice and helpful. Thanks for Google translate. I ran across a fur market and bought some gifts, which luckily made it through customs. I arrived in Moscow at 10 p.m., with my next flight departing twelve hours later. My plans were to use Uber to visit the Kremlin and see the city. I get access to a clubroom and choose to make a bed in a dark corner and get some sleep on a pile of my dirty clothes. My sleeping bag and pad were in my big bag that I checked and may never see again. I also had a visa expert that played games with my visa; listing Moscow as my destination. Due to a travel warning, this is the reason for the overnight. I didn’t want close inspection of my paperwork, so I stayed inside the international terminal in the club room where I made a nest, found potato chips, red wine, and got some sleep. This climb unlike other climbs – I had very little down time so I used the time to write my notes and consolidate my pictures. Plus, everything will be closed but the bars, and so far the people I met were not very welcoming. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and to my surprise my bags made it to Evansville, Indiana on my flight.

Life cycle reset.

I was at a conference with a group of programmers, and heard someone ask a panelist if it was time for a “life cycle reset” . This is a term used when you evaluate the effectiveness of your systems, and make a decision of changing or leaving things as they are. I am sure it is part of the reason I have been successful in the technology driven business. It is constant change and reevaluation. Sometimes, I wish for a simpler life and calm, but that wish only lasts a few days. I hit 58 this year, and maybe it’s made me more impatient.

I am still intrigued by my why now that I have thought of every reason possible. I have asked other climbers. They all have a quick answer to “Why?”.

  • Heidi turned 50, her husband left her for a younger woman, and she did it to restore her self-esteem.
  • Monique said his why is the example he leaves for his kids, and how he wants them to remember him.
  • Tony preparing to get married and looking for time to think.
  • Illian was 3 weeks from having his first child and wanted do one last adventure.
  • Christian was a downhill ski racer that had a bad accident and could no longer compete.
  • I understand their reasons completely, and at the end of the day I leave Russia with eight new friends that I will most likely never see again, but will be remembered forever.

What’s next?

Aconcagua 2016

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