We hit a nice dry spell; a break in the typical "several days of good weather followed by several of bad" weather pattern. Summit day was mostly sunny but with a fairly consistent 20-25 mile per hour wind which made it "darn cold" before the sun came up. On July 12, we walked up to the Postukov Rocks from the area around the old Priut 11, as a means of gaining acclimatization. Earlier, we had a couple days of hiking down in the Elbrus Valley, with the first day being very, very soggy (last day of the rainy period).
Travel conditions on the mountain were good. There was always several inches of snow on top of the crunchy ice, which made the footing easier, especially on the 35-40 degree slope going up from the 17,700' saddle between the summits. Downside is that the snow turned into "mashed potato" consistency down low in the afternoon. The "path" from the Rocks to Saddle to Summit was easy to follow.
Our group of 12 stayed in the new Diesel Hut which is just below the Priut ruin and next to the "picturesque" outhouse. For those who were there in Priut days, the Diesel was the ruin that housed some generators at one time. It sleeps about 30 maximum in some private rooms on the first floor, and bunk space on the second. The Hut isn't fully built out. There is some low standing water on the first floor, and some minor roof & window leaks on both floors. There is a gas fired stove (propane? provided) and water was obtained by melting snow. Fee for staying at the Diesel is $5 per person per night. There is plenty of flat space for tents above the Diesel, all on snow. For a look at the Diesel, refer to: www.elbrus.org .
All systems to get up the mountain are currently running in good order, including the cable cars, ski lift and snowcats. Cost for getting a night ride by "cat" up to the Postukov Rocks has doubled from $100 to $200.
Other logistics stuff in no particular order. In 1999, airline names on the planes going to MinVody were painted out. Now, Aeroflot is definitely on the run and shows it on the route map in their in-flight magazine. The junky jumbo TU-154s are gone, and replaced by a 68 seat twin jet TU-134. Evidently traffic to & from MinVody is way down. Also, the Aeroflot flights originate at the domestic terminal at Sheremetyevo, the international airport. Security at the MinVody terminal is very tight, with parking no longer allowed in front, and foreigners have to show passports to even get in the building. We passed a number of police checkpoints on the way to the Valley. Things were quiet in the Valley itself. We were there early in the climbing season, but things seemed pretty slow in general. As usual, we stayed at the Prielbrusye boarding house ("The Dacha") near the town of Elbrus.
Highlight of the trip, other than the climb itself, came at the Dacha just before we left. We got our picture taken with the State Presidents of three of the local autonomous republics who were there for a conference: Kabardino-Balkaria (Elbrus itself); North Ossetia to the west; and North Ingushetia to the east. North I. is between K-B and Chechnya and has a number of refugee camps to contend with.
Pending approvals, CMC will run a 5th trip to Elbrus in July, 2003.