Mt Elbrus and some Swiss Alps

1-13 Aug 2002 - by Tom Masterson

Tom Masterson, Antje Sachs, Ivan Koropevets, Dave Blanchard, Susan Blanchard, Jan Raymond

1 Aug. Rendezvous in Zurich, Switzerland with Susan, Jan & David for some fun climbing in the Swiss Alps Travel to Zermatt (on "Swiss Transfer pass" - from airport to any point in Switzerland, and return (24 hours travel allotted in each direction) for $76). Bahnhof Hotel in Zermatt (30 SF/person; 1$ = ~1.5SF)

2 Aug. Pack into Monte Rosa Hut from Rotenboden station of cog RR (cost of RR: 31 SF with Swiss pass, 20% discount possible with some Swiss passes). Pack time in ~2< hrs Cost of staying at hut ~60 SF/person, only slightly cheaper with UIAA mountain club membership card

3 Aug. Ascent of Monte Rosa - last part in blizzard, + night at Marguerita hut (highest hut in the Alps at ~4500 m. Cost of staying at hut ~50 euros/person incl. breakfast + evening meal; slightly more expensive with no mountain club card. (1euro = ~1$)

4 Aug. Descent to Zermatt in 20 cm new snow which covered all the crevasses making life more interesting. Found ~100 hidden crevasses without managing to fall in. Chap from Germany joined us on rope & was most grateful that (TM) was finding crevasses. (TM does not promise this efficiency on all trips.)

5 Aug. Hike up to Zmutt, new power station (tunnel that goes 1900 m vertically down to Rhone!), & waterfall.

6 Aug Climb of Oberrothorn starting from Zermatt (2000 m vertical)

7 Aug Sightseeing on Glacier Express train through spectacular scenery in south-eastern Switzerland then back to Zurich (all included in Swiss Transfer pass). Farewell to Jan, Susan & Dave.

8 Aug Flight from Zurich to Moscow (Domodedovo), transfer to Vnukovo airport (~1 hr by auto or taxi), evening flight from Vnukovo to Mineralnje Voda, arriving at ~ 9:30 p.m. Typical Russian with all lights (including airport's) out at night to conserve power. Met Antje & Ivan. Stayed at "hotel" right beside airport. Cost $2-$3/person.

9 Aug Bus to Nalchik. (~2hrs, ~100 roubles ($3)/person) "Propusk" (permission) from local police to go into the Elbrus border area. (This is not officially required for Elbrus. But, whether you are Russian or not, you do not argue with the militia, you go and get the paperwork they want. Russian Xerox machine - They had the form written out and posted on the wall. You copied it longhand three times on 3 different pieces of paper. Officially the permission is free, but if you "pay" them ~100 roubles/person, it comes back several hours sooner than if you do not.)

Taxi to end of the road just beyond Terskol (bus also available for half the price - but we piled 5 people into a small sedan taxi for 200 roubles (~$7) per person) (~150 km or 100 miles !)

The Baksan Valley is spectacularly beautiful, very steep side walls with glaciers nudging over the tops, beautiful waterfalls, etc. We saw nothing of this on the way in as it was raining hard and many bridges had been washed out in recent flooding. We did see it on the way out.

Should also register passports with local police. Failure to do this can cause grief with police, who will expect you to "compensate" them for not having registered.

Cable car up to start of snow on Elbrus. First 2 stages cost 80 roubles (1 way). Last stage is a single chair lift, and it was not in operation. All looked like they had been thoroughly inspected some time during the Soviet regime., but all held together. Backpacked in another ~500m vertical elevation gain to remains of "Hut of the 11" at ~4000m. Nothing but a 1.5 m high outer cement wall remains from the hut, but it is a shelter from the wind, and we pitched our tents inside. The wind raged. There is also a somewhat primitive aluminum roofed hut 30 m away, and you can stay there for ~150 roubles/person if there is room (seldom).

10 Aug Acclimatization climb to 5100 m. Could have gone on to the summit if the weather had been reasonable (it was not- white-out conditions, 60 mph 'breezes')

11 Aug Lazy (6 a.m.) start. Up to summit in rather blustery weather, but with reasonable visibility. Recommended time up is 8 hrs, we made it up and back in 7.5 hrs. There are no crevasses on Elbrus. You do not need a rope. Crampons may or may not be needed depending on conditions. We used them. Packed out and back down to cable cars and into Terskol. Night in Terskol for 50 roubles/person.

12 Aug Mini-bus (150 roubles, ~$5) to Nalchik and a chance to see the spectacularly beautiful Baksan Valley. Bus to Min Voda (100 roubles). Flight to Moscow. (Round trip Moscow - Min Voda costs about $130 and is available on Siberia Air, KMV Air, or Aeroflot (most expensive))

13 Aug Return to USA

"Mountain Woman" (who omits her real name) adds:

There are no crevasses on Elbrus. You do not need a rope.

Just a note to anyone who is interested in climbing Elbrus, there ARE crevasses on the mountain but the route is relatively safe if you stay on the wanded standard route. Outside of that area, there are lots of crevasses, as at least one climber that I know can attest.

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