The first day on Elbrus' base camp had arrived and well.. It was very uncomfortable. The building or more appropriately the wooden hut we were staying in accommodated around 20 people and all 20 of those possible people were there. Our room was on the second floor of the building but the biggest challenge was climbing the ladder to get there. As we had travelled to around 4000m in less than 30 minutes we had no time to acclimatise and every small task meant I was almost left breathless, the ladder meant I was almost having a heart attack... Well not that extreme but you get my point.
The first night was not nice. The toilet (voted worlds worst outhouse btw) was a whole different experience and was not one I got used to during the trip, in fact as the days went on the toilets got considerably worse and so did my stomach from resisting the need to endure this disgusting "task".
Well, here it was, the last night before our 2am ascent to the summit of Mt Elbrus. I was excited, tired, ill, and I needed to remove the extra 3kg in my stomach - to the hole I went. I got wrapped up with 3 layers on trousers, 4 layers on top, a balaclava and high altitude mitts - later realising I couldn't put on my crampons as I couldn't move...
The group decided in a not so joint decision to take the snow-cat which would take us up to 4500m, which we had climbed the previous day anyway. This eerie 10 minutes in the pitch black travelling to this point soon ended and we were now alone, a group of 9, about to climb Elbrus.
The climb itself was slow yet steady. The first 500m was a long sludge up a small slope which led to the abandoned snow vehicle which unsuccessfully attempted to drive to the summit. This was then followed by the Pastukhova Rocks, which led to the saddle at 5416m. The saddle was the flat area between the two summits which made up Mt Elbrus. In order to reach the higher summit we had to pass through the saddle which was also renowned for its covered crevasses. Here we had a short break which I managed to use unproductively by walking far enough from the group so I could go to the toilet and waste 10 minutes. The next part of the climb was the hardest and most dangerous and involved a very steep slope with fixed ropes that would get us very high very quickly. This was not fun.
Once we reached the top, the summit was only a few metres higher and before we knew it we were standing on the summit, with an overriding joy... waiting for one of our group members to take a bloody selfie!... this was not okay. The ascent took us around 9 hours in total meaning it was a race against the clock to go down the mountain and pack our stuff so we could make the last ski lift down to our hotel back in Terskol.
The way down seemed almost a blur, but I do remember crying with what I guess was joy and pride in what I had just achieved. I also wanted to get these boots off my feet. We flew down the mountain in about 4 hours and I had never been so happy to see a shelter. But there was no time to waste! I had never in my life seen people pack up their bags so quickly to get off Mt Elbrus...