Category: Logistics

Planning for your Seven Summits Quest

How Much Money to do the Seven Summits?

This is a continuation of an idea presented in my previous article on How Long to Do the Seven Summits HERE

First of all, let’s look at some average prices for each of the Seven Summits. These are generally taken from major, well-established guide companies. Some could be more or less depending on your own abilities to take care of yourself within limits established by local governments, as well as finding your way around in a foreign country and reading between the lines to hook up with local small guide and logistics companies.

Kilimanjaro Summit - 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 - I"m in orange
Kilimanjaro Summit – 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 – I”m in orange

That was a mouthful for sure, but basically, most normal people will be with a major guide company.

  • Everest: $70,000
  • Vinson: $50,000
  • Carstensz: $15,000
  • Denali: $10,000
  • Aconcagua: $6,000
  • Kilimanjaro: $5,000
  • Elbrus: $4,000
  • Kosciusko: $1,000

Note that none of these include airfare, and are otherwise about mid range for that mountain. You could go cheaper or more expensive, but this is a decent average.

If you go for all 8 of the 7 Summits, you’re looking at $161,000. Add in some airfare and other miscellaneous fees, and it’s going to be another $25,000 or so bringing the total to $186,000.

Myself, Kilian Jornet, and Todd Gilles at the opening ceremony for Elbrus Race 2013
Myself, Kilian Jornet, and Todd Gilles at the opening ceremony for Elbrus Race 2013

I don’t know much about your life, but let’s assume for a second that you are able to put away $1,000 each and every month. You could do it then with about 182 months of savings. A little over 15 years. Not bad. Add in the year or two that you’re actually off to the mountains, so about 17 years.

How in the world do people do it if they’re not on the 17 year plan?

  1. Have a really really good job
  2. Trust fund “kids”
  3. Live off charity
  4. Become a guide
  5. Mortgage your, or your parents’ house

I know people in each of those groups. The most successful, oddly enough, seem to be group 3, though they are really quiet about that, since it would turn off the flow of donations. Since the mortgage “bust” 5 is a lot less lucrative than it used to be, since back in the “boom” banks would go out 140% of the value of your house with a 5 year balloon, even without equity and a current loan, no matter how silly the use of the money would be. Hence the “bust” that resulted.

Seven Summits Quest - Volume 5 - South America - from Aconcagua Base Camp
Seven Summits Quest – Volume 5 – South America – from Aconcagua Base Camp

Now for reality

Yeah, you need to get that really really good job. Or hook up with someone who has an inside track on discounted, yet reputable guides and logistics operators in the area of your summit.

While I usually try not to toot my own horn, I do have a Full Service trip to Aconcagua for about 30% off the usual price of such a trip HERE and I have an Aconcagua Light Package for about half what others charge HERE.

Fill out the form (upper right side) and I’ll send you more info about my trips as I put them together. Kili and Everest Base Camp coming soon.

It’s well worth taking a quick look at to see if you can pull it off in 2015. To be honest, it’s an experiment, and if no one takes me up on the offer I might not be able to do it in 2016. So if you can adjust your schedule at all, let’s go to Aconcagua this February.

Seven Summits Quest Volume 5 – South America

If we do go, I’ll be working on that continuation of my successful book series, and you could be taking a part in it, with or without a pseudonym. Up to you …

Here’s a video I made to introduce it to my Kickstarter Project HERE 

[weaver_vimeo id=114147041]

NOTE: Wasn’t trendy enough to be funded 🙁

 

 

 

How Long to do the Seven Summits?

What is the average time to do the Seven Summits?

I was asked that question by a Facebook Fan HERE. My quick and simple answer is “About Ten Years” but that’s not really doing the question justice.

 

Aconcagua in storm
Aconcagua in storm

If we remove all other factors, here is a list of the Seven Summits and the standard number of days that a professional guide service lists for the itineraries.

  • Kosciuszko- 3 days
  • Kilimanjaro – 7 days
  • Elbrus – 8 days
  • Carstensz – 9 days
  • Vinson 21 days
  • Denali – 21 days
  • Aconcagua – 21 days
  • Everest – 65 days

If you allow about 4 days of back to back flying for each expedition that adds up to 155 days of expedition and 32 days of traveling for all 8 of the 7 Summits. That’s 187 days. Yep, only 6+ months.

 

Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013
Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013

How fast can the Seven Summits be done?

Sadly, each of these has seasons that are good and bad, work and don’t work, and weather can be an issue or not. Here’s a potential itinerary that gets them all done in a very compressed amount of time.

  • January: Vinson
  • February: Aconcagua
  • March: Kilimanjaro, Carstensz, and Kosciuszko
  • April & May: Everest
  • June: Denali
  • July Elbrus

So that’s a Seven Summits in Seven Months Itinerary. If you attempt this, please let me know. I totally want to follow your progress. With a bit more risk and cleverness you could knock off a month, but it greatly decreases the odds of success.

Kilimanjaro Summit - 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 - I"m in orange
Kilimanjaro Summit – 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 – I”m in orange

Is this speed itinerary realistic?

Unfortunately, with an itinerary this tight, you’d need to be a semi-robotic automaton and have everything handed to you at each and every step of the way. All your visa’s, all your travel, all your baggage, everything, would have to be handled by someone else. Believe me, you probably can’t do it 100% alone on this tight of an itinerary.

Carstensz Pyramid Summit Shot
Carstensz Pyramid Summit Shot

It would also require that you have a boatload of cash and a bottomless credit card. Doing it this quickly requires that you pay a lot of people a lot of money to make sure that everything happens as planned without error.

You also have to be in top physical condition and able to recover very quickly from all the stress of travel and mountaineering and trekking. You cannot get sick or weak or injured on an itinerary this tight.

Myself and Todd Gilles Orizaba Summit Thumbs Up
Myself and Todd Gilles Orizaba Summit Thumbs Up

Stay tuned for another article about this

I’ll be writing another article soon taking a more realistic approach to an itinerary that allows time to solve all those problems. Stay tuned. Subscribe (to the right) if you want to make sure you’re notified when I write it.

TP-101 – Toilet Paper for Hiking etc.

Toilet Paper

It’s a necessity. Sure, I’ve used snow and leaves before. You have too, right? To be honest, there’s almost nothing as much fun as a chunk of solid styrofoam neve as toilet paper. You think I’m kidding?

Toilet Paper for hiking - two plastic bags and a little roll
Toilet Paper for hiking – two plastic bags and a little roll

You’ll want to carry the smallest lightest bit of toilet paper you can get away with, unless you’re on a porter or sled supported trip, then you take the whole roll. In the pic above, I have a ziplock baggie, with another ziplock baggie to put inside for the dirty used toilet paper. If you follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles MORE INFO you won’t want to be leaving your toilet paper anywhere outdoors. The stuff seems to last forever. Even in the Papuan Jungle there were old bits and pieces left over from previous Westerners.

Getting that little roll off of a big roll can be a challenge for some people. I know of people who go to a gas station or NFS bathroom and carefully unroll it off the big roll onto the little roll. That’s a real pain. I prefer to just save the ends of the rolls, when it becomes about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick on the cardboard tube and stick them in a plastic bag in the back of the closet until I need them for a trip.

End rolls of toilet paper in a plastic bag waiting to be converted into hiking toilet paper small rolls
End rolls of toilet paper in a plastic bag waiting to be converted into hiking toilet paper small rolls

Over the years I have developed a little trick in which I squeeze and fold the paper tube liner until I can twist it out, leaving a small roll of toilet paper ready to go. Some toilet paper is glued onto the tube pretty firmly, so you’d have to slide your fingers around inside a little bit more to free the end. You can then put the resulting thin small roll of toilet paper inside your plastic bag for your hike, backpacking trip, or whatever it is you’ll need to do.

Two mini rolls from two end rolls of toilet paper. The tubes were folded and pulled out. Note that one has some paper still glued firmly to it.
Two mini rolls from two end rolls of toilet paper. The tubes were folded and pulled out. Note that one has some paper still glued firmly to it.

When I’m on an overnight or longer, I typically keep my plastic bags and mini roll inside whatever layer I’ll almost always have on. If I’m wearing a base layer with a Napoleon pocket, that’s a great place. If I have a puffy jacket that I’ll most likely put on before a trip to the “outhouse” I’ll keep it in there. I want it as close to me at all times as possible. You hate to get there and discover you forgot it.

Here’s a video showing the trick to get the tube out of your toilet paper

[vimeo 110856786]

If you have a better way, please leave a comment or better yet, post a video link for us. I’d love to get your opinion on this. Thanks!

Carstensz Gear Guide to Boots

I explored clothing for traveling, trekking, and climbing on Carstensz Pyramid in my LAST ARTICLE so now we’ll look at the Carstensz Gear Guide to Boots. As stated in the previous article, you’ll most likely spend

  • a day or two in Bali
  • a day or two in Timika or some similar sized town
  • several days on the trek
  • a day climbing to the summit of Puncak Jaya and rappelling down

Each of these has some diverse need for footwear.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Bali Footwear

In Bali you can wear sandals most of the time and never need anything heavier. The climate is warm and the beaches are inviting. I really recommend that you leave your sandals in Bali if you plan on returning. You’ll really appreciate having a clean pair after all the mud and muck of the rest of the trip.

Carstensz Gear Guide Recommended sandals in the tide at Bali beach resort
Recommended sandals in the tide at Bali beach resort

Carstensz Gear Guide – Timika Footwear

Keep in mind that many trips will not be returning to Timika or whatever jumping-off point you’ll be starting from. With that in mind anything you take to Timika will be used on the rest of the trip. The porters carry your bags once you arrive at the trail head so it’s not really too complicated to add in an extra pair of something. Most of my group wore those high density foam sandals and their hiking boots while in Timika. Whatever you do though it would be a good idea to use the same socks here as on the rest of the trip. I’ll recommend them shortly.

I climbed Orizaba in my Salomon trail running shoes
I climbed Orizaba in my Salomon trail running shoes

I had chosen to wear my Salomon 3D Ultra shoes as my primary footwear in Timika. They were just a bit warm in the day but the Goretex waterproof outer was great during the frequent rain. If you have the extra room and weight in your gear, a pair of trail running shoes is a great alternative shoe to take with.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Trekking Footwear

There aren’t too many alternatives to the trek to Base Camp on Carstensz. Almost every Carstensz gear guide published by the guide companies and previous climbers will suggest Wellingtons like these Baffin Men’s Express PT Rain Boot. I wholeheartedly agree. You will most likely be walking up to 10 miles a day for 6 or so days. They should be reasonably comfortable but don’t spend a lot of money. I ended up giving my boots away to the porters afterward. They smelled so bad from being soaked the entire trek that I couldn’t bear to put them in the duffle to return home with.

Carstensz Gear Guide Suggestion: Wellies - you'll live in them for days in rugged slippery terrain
Carstensz Gear Guide Suggestion: Wellies – you’ll live in them for days in rugged slippery terrain

If you choose to put insoles in, they should be closed cell foam. Any open cell foam will absorb water and lead to blisters or trench foot or worse. They will not dry out. Closed cell foam will not absorb water. Socks need to be at least semi-synthetic and a pile or loop construction. Ragg wool will not dry. In fact, most wool and cotton will not dry no matter what you do. The synthetic socks, like Thorlo will dry out fairly well in your sleeping bag. Try them in the boots on the treadmill at the steepest inclination (like 15%) that your treadmill will do at about 1.0 MPH. You probably will never walk faster than that on the trek. Make sure it works before you go.

You will be walking in knee-deep mud, stepping on slippery roots, crossing wet lashed log bridges. You do not want to fall. Believe me. I did and tore up some rib cartilage that took me several months to heal from. The simple cheap square lug soles seemed to be the best for this terrain.

In camp at night you’ll want to immediately set to work drying your socks. Take an alternate pair and hang one to dry from your daypack while you hike and wear the other pair for the trek. You could also stuff them down your shirt and let your body heat dry them like on a mountaineering trip. You should switch to an alternate pair of shoes in camp then while you try to dry out your Wellies. Most of those on my group wore their trendy foam sandals but I wore my trail running shoes. I don’t think I would have been happy in the holey foam shoes, since most camps had slimy wet mud and a few had standing water. It’s up to you though. Keep your socks dry whatever you do.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Summit Footwear

Most of the guide companies recommend in the Carstensz gear guide they publish that you bring an alpine style climbing boot like the Scarpa Charmoz. I had waffled several times while training. Part of me just wanted to take my Salomon trail running shoes, since they’d worked for just about everything I’d done previously. I could even climb 5.8 in them and practiced that for a few weeks to see how they worked out. Whatever shoes or boots you take for the summit, I do recommend that you seal them up with an extra pair of socks in a silicone or otherwise waterproof kayak style bag and don’t touch them until you get dressed for the summit. A dry pair of socks and boots will really cheer you up.

Rope Solo 5.7 in Salomon Trail Running Shoes - Training for Carstensz Pyramid
Rope Solo 5.7 in Salomon Trail Running Shoes – Training for Carstensz Pyramid

I finally settled on the classic Scarpa Charmoz. Most everyone else on the trip had various light hikers, like the HiTec boots. Between the two I think that the Scarpa did better for climbing. Despite being Goretex they filled with water on the rappels down in the torrents of rain running down the limestone grooves. Because they were Goretex the water also stayed inside the boots. My toes got quite cold and very wrinkly wet. It was the next morning before they looked even close to normal.

Descending in Freezing Rain with very wet feet
Descending in Freezing Rain with very wet feet

I’m not sure what would have worked better, if anything. I probably could have been just as comfortable in the Salomons. It would have been easier to get them on and off to drain them. Being much lighter they would have dried out faster too. Something to consider would be one of the approach style shoes like the LaSportiva B5 which I think is available in a new version with high top Goretex. If by some miracle I ever go back to Carstensz Pyramid I might do that.

Wrapping Up

You’ll be reversing the order of the trip then, trekking back to an airport, flying to civilization, hanging out on the beach and going home. Trust me when I say that almost everything you take on the trek should be considered expendable. I ended up throwing almost everything away when I got to civilization. Some of it I was able to donate to the porters. Keep that in mind when you’re making your gear decisions.

If you have any questions, post them here or on my Facebook page and I’ll be happy to answer the simple ones as best I can.

Carstensz Gear List Focus on Clothing

If you’ve dreamed of climbing the highest peak on the continent of Oceania, you’ve undoubtedly had a look at a Carstensz Gear List. If you go to the different guide companies they will put up their list for you to read and prepare. My own biggest gripe about the average Carstensz Gear List is that they seem pretty copy/paste and don’t consider the serious and extreme conditions that you will endure on this trek and climb.

Descending in Freezing Rain - your Carstensz gear list should have rainwear
Descending in Freezing Rain – your Carstensz gear list should have rainwear

Carstensz Gear List: Bali Tourism

Many of the guides and outfitters that service this area will include a day or two before and/or after your trek and climb in Bali or another beach resort area.

Bali Clothing:

  • 1 – Swimsuit – fast drying works best
  • 1 – Thin airy travel pants
  • 2 – Thin airy travel shirt
  • 2 – Thin airy undies

That should be all you need in the way of clothing for your beach resort phase of your expedition.

Does your Carstensz Gear List consider your beach days in Bali?
Does your Carstensz Gear List consider your beach days in Bali?

Carstensz Gear List: Papua Clothing

You might be in the West Island area, maybe Timika, for a few days waiting on weather for your flight. It might be a bit cooler at times, and insects and rain could also affect your comfort level. You will be leaving a bag in Bali most likely, and some outfitters do not return to Timika to get a bag left there. That means that everything you have in Timika will be going on the trek with you. Do not bring your Bali clothing on the trek. You will want some relatively clean and decent smelling clothes to put on when you return to Bali. So when you leave Bali, wear the following.

Timika Clothing:

  • 1 – very thin, very light weather resistant trekking pants
  • 1 – thin and light base layer shirt
  • 1 – thin and light undies
  • 1 – thin light water-resistant windbreaker
  • 1 – tech (running) baseball cap

Remember, these are your trekking clothes. You should be fine in Timika with those items on.

The Local Airport in Timika
The Local Airport in Timika

Carstensz Gear List: Trekking Clothing

The trek might be the worst part of the trip. It can be long, miserable, wet, muddy, and get colder each day you’re out. Then on the return trek it will get warmer each day. While most outfitters will give an estimated time for the trek do not get locked into that. Allow a few extra days for roadblocks, weather and emergencies. The less you have with you the better, overall. If you’re already experienced in expeditions, such as having climbed Kili, you know. Otherwise, get used to having to wear the same set of clothing for a couple of weeks. You already have some of these trekking items in your Timika list so add in the following.

Trekking List

  • 1 – pair of quick drying shorts
  • 1 – set of alternative or backup undies
  • 1 – tech fabric t-shirt
  • 1 – thin waterproof/breathable parka with zipper vents
  • 1 – thin waterproof/breathable pants with zipper vents
  • 1 – thin tech (helmet liner) beanie
  • 1 – fleece jacket with hood
  • 2 – pair fleece gloves with rubber pads, one pair weather resistant
Decked out in trekking clothes from my Carstensz gear list
Decked out in trekking clothes from my Carstensz gear list

Carstensz Gear List: Climbing Clothing

For climbing day on Carstensz you’ll be on jagged limestone cliffs using fixed ropes. I recommend that you keep this second set of clothes zipped up tight in a waterproof cargo bag and do not touch it until you get dressed to head for the summit in the middle of the night. You can use your windbreaker and waterproof/breathable jacket and pants if you have been able to keep them dry. If you have any doubts, add in the extra set to this list.

Summit Day Clothing

  • 1 – pair rugged thin softshell climbing pants
  • 1 – pair undies reserved for summit day
  • 1 – base layer set (pants/shirt)
  • 1 – fleece/hybrid/softshell jacket
  • 1 – medium weight synthetic puffy
  • 2 – pair treated leather gloves
  • 1 – synthetic buff (neck tube)

Climbing Carstensz might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do not go cheap and do not risk having the wrong clothing.

On the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, Puncak Jaya on 30 April 2013
On the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, Puncak Jaya on 30 April 2013

Carstensz Gear List Consulting

If you are in need of further information about the Carstensz gear list, based on my own successful experiences, then please, buy the book I wrote about my climb Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age.

If you need some question answered that isn’t covered here or in my book, I do offer Google Helpouts consultations at a great rate, and they’re well worth the money and time. I have consulted with dozens of people about their own concerns for a Carstensz trip, and so far several have already had successful climbs. If you take a chance on Carstensz, you should definitely increase the odds in your favor.

Elbrus Logistics Explained

Elbrus Logistics can be a nightmare to those not experienced in Third World travel. Not to say that it’s in an undeveloped nation, but it has many of the same adventure travel perils to consider.

Elbrus Logistics can include a tour of the Wool Market and a visit with a Baksan Local
Elbrus Logistics can include a tour of the Wool Market and a visit with a beautiful Baksan Local

Elbrus Logistics Question:

Recently on my Facebook Page, someone asked this question about Elbrus Logistics.

Did you use Pilgrim Tours? I have heard some really good info about them. Also, did you go with a group or use the Pilgrim “Lite” tour? Thanks. — MP

To answer the question, yes, I have used Pilgrim Tours twice. Once I used their full 8 day package, and the second time I used the “Lite” package.

There are three local guide services I would recommend for Elbrus Logistics.

I’ve also used Top Sport Travel, with their Elbrus Race Itinerary. I have a great friend in Nikolai from Top Sport. I have a climbing friend who has done the traverse of Elbrus with 7 Summits Club and he was quite happy with his unique experience.

In the van with Elbrus Logistics provider Nikolai from Top Sport Travel
In the van with Elbrus Logistics provider Nikolai from Top Sport Travel

Elbrus Logistics Loopholes and Gotcha’s

First of all, Russia is on the opposite side of the world from us, and the internet can be iffy. Some of your contact people might be actively taking groups on tours or climbs. You might go a few days without hearing back and because the email is from Russia, it’s likely to be in your Spam Folder. Even then there will be some communication issues, and you should use the most simple English possible to communicate.

Next, you will need to deal with Russian Visa issues. Unless something changes soon, expect to do the mail-in Visa Application and for the process to take at least six weeks from the time you get your Invitation and Voucher. You are recommended to use the official site ILS-USA CLICK HERE. I am told by the staff there and at the Consulate that this is the only acceptable processing center, and that all the others must go through this office. Save time and money and use this office.

The Elbrus Logistics provider will insist on some deposit being wired into a bank in Eastern Europe. This is normal, do not be alarmed. The three providers listed are all reputable. Sometimes you have to wire the whole amount. Other times you must bring Euro (preferred right now) or USD for the balance. If you fly through Amsterdam or Frankfurt you can get some Euro at the airport while you wait for your transfer.

Layover in Amsterdam (AMS) with Miffy on the way to Russia
Layover in Amsterdam (AMS) with Miffy on the way to Russia

Once you get your deposit in, your provider will then send you a PDF scan of the documents you need for your Russian Visa. This could also take as long as a week. If you add all of this up, you’ll see that the least expensive route to get your Visa could take 8 weeks or longer. Plan accordingly. In a pinch, you can get one in less than 10 days, but it’s not very easy or inexpensive to do and I highly recommend against it.

Elbrus Logistics Options:

The “Lite” packages basically are customized, pay for some up front, pay for the rest as you go. You decide ahead of time how many days you’ll need to stay in a hotel, and how many at the Barrels Huts. When in the hotels you’ll be fed breakfast and dinner. At the Barrels you’ll be on your own unless you also hire a cook. On the “Lite” package you’ll need to figure out your own climbing itinerary and route finding. By the time you hire both a guide and a cook you’ll have put together an Elbrus logistics package that costs more than the standard 8 day group itinerary.

You’ll also need some cash for the Tram/Gondola fares, any meals you buy outside the standard hotel fare, taxi between the hotel and the Tram/Gondola Stations, and some few other things that might pop up.

In the standard 8 day itinerary you’ll get almost all of your meals taken care of (aside from some alcohol) and you’ll get the guide and cook as part of the group. You’ll just march along with them and they have a relatively high success rate. If you are nervous about weather at all, get the 11 day package which allows for a couple extra weather days that the 8 day cannot.

With the standard group package there might be additional fees if your group decides to use a Snowcat to transport luggage or for the trip to Pastukhov Rocks on Summit Day. These are generally not options on the “Lite” package unless you have passable Russian skills and can talk your way into them. You might also tip your guide and cook if you choose.

Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013
Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013

I have two books available about two of my trips to Russia.

Elbrus, My Waterloo – available only on Amazon Kindle right now. This book is about a trip I did on the Pilgrim “Lite” package CLICK HERE

Elbrus Race 2013 – available on Amazon Kindle and paperback, B&N Nook, and Google Play. This book is about a trip with Top Sport Travel for the Elbrus Race Skyrunning event. CLICK HERE

Both describe some of my own experiences out of my travel journals while in Russia and have a wealth of information on the area and how to get around. If you have any other questions just comment below.

Elbrus Race 2013 Itinerary: Food and Transportation

Todd and I will be following this itinerary, as posted on the ElbrusRace.com website:

15.09.2013 1 Flight arrival to Min Vody. Transfer to Baksan Valley Hotel Elba HB __D
16.09.2013 2 Acclimatization walking nearby. Hotel Elba HB B_D
17.09.2013 3 Transfer to Azau lift station. The opening of the competition. Going up to refuge “Barrels” ~3710m refuge “Barrels” BLD
18.09.2013 4 Qualifying speed climb from Barrels hut to the Pastukov rocks, 4800 m. refuge “Barrels” BLD
19.09.2013 5 Relax day. refuge “Barrels” BLD
20.09.2013 6 Speed Climb of Mt. Elbrus West 5642 m. Descent from Barrels to the Valley Hotel Elba HB BLD
21.09.2013 7 spare day for the Race or Awards Ceremony & farewell party at the evening Hotel Elba HB B__
22.09.2013 8 Transfer to airport. Flight from Min Vody. B__
Mir Station with Elbrus in the background
Mir Station with Elbrus in the background

Transportation Days:

Sunday, September 15, we’ll be flying in to Mineralnye Vody (MRV). This airport normally doesn’t have any way to eat or drink in arrivals, but they do generally feed the passengers well enough on the flight there from Moscow. The van driver will pick us up and drive the 3-4 hours to the hotel just outside Cheget, a village near the base of Elbrus. On that drive it’s possible to stop at a quick mart and get water or snacks.

Monday, September 16 we’ll take a taxi or car provided by the hotel to the lifts in Azau and ride up to the Barrels and walk around a little to check out the snow at the foot of the glacier and get some air at 12,000′ into our lungs. I probably won’t walk up very high, and it will be slow so that I don’t get any residual training effect. We’ll ride the lifts down and then take a car to the hotel.

Tuesday, September 17 we’ll all be taken by van to the tram station in Azau with all our bags for the huts. We’ll have the opening ceremony then take the tram up to the Barrels where we’ll set up camp for the duration. The organizers claim that the tram operators will waive ticket fees for the event participants, but I don’t know that this has ever been true. We’ll have to be prepared for that.

Wednesday, September 18 is the Qualifier. We “run” from the Barrels to Pastukhova Rocks at about 15,300′ with a two hour cutoff. Then we have a quite liberal cutoff for the trip back to the Barrels. Like four hours. On this day I had considered returning to Cheget in the evening to spend the night low, but that will depend on how I am processing oxygen and recovery.

Thursday, September 19. Assuming I go to Cheget I’ll have to make my way back up to the Barrels. Otherwise we hang out in the sun and relax. Absorb food and energy. Dry our clothing. Charge our electronics.

Friday, September 20. If the weather is good and all is well, we “run” for the summit of Elbrus, at over 18,500′. We have a five hour cutoff for the 6,500′ climb to the top. And a four hour cutoff for the trip back down to the Barrels. If all goes well, we will then return to the base, and get a van to the hotel. Otherwise we stay another night in the Barrels.

Saturday, September 21. If the weather was not very good, we give the summit a shot on this day. Otherwise we’ll be in Cheget just hanging out. The award ceremony and dinner will be that night, and we’ll be taking a van to that. If we are hanging out in Cheget, it’s a short drive or long walk from the hotel so we can go visit the market and grills.

Sunday, September 22. We wake up early and will be taken by car or van to the airport in Mineralnye Vody. The departures section of the airport is a bit more modern, and will have a small area to eat and drink in it. We then fly to Moscow to end our trip.

Eating Days:

Sunday we’ll be getting a dinner at the hotel in Cheget. On Monday we’ll be getting a breakfast and dinner. We’ll be on our own for lunch. We might be able to get a box lunch from the cook. If the weather and tourism is good there are grills up at Mir, the top tram station. Otherwise there will be grills in Azau and Cheget. Worst case we’re on our own and have shakes and bars for lunch.

Tuesday through Friday we’re on the schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some in the hotel, some in the Barrels Kitchen.

Saturday we have only breakfast, either at the hotel or the Barrels. Lunch will be on our own, unless we’re stuck at the Barrels doing the Race on Saturday. Last time this happened they did feed us, though it was meager. Then we have the Celebration Dinner on Saturday night, included in the Race entry fee.

Sunday we have breakfast early in the hotel, then it’s off to the airport.

Next:

In the next article I’ll look at this itinerary in regards to clothing and gear. Check back soon.

Elbrus Race 2013 Weather on the Way

We’ll be arriving in Moscow on September 15, 2013. From there we fly to Mineralnye Vody where we will be picked up at the airport and taken to our hotel just outside Cheget, just down the road from Azau, where the tram and gondola go to the Barrels Huts on Elbrus. I checked the weather along the way for Moscow, Mineralnye Vody (just say Mineral Vody) and Cheget for Sunday, so I can plan my travel wardrobe.

Weather for Moscow on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013
Weather for Moscow on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013
Weather for Mineralnye Vody on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013
Weather for Mineralnye Vody on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013
Weather for Cheget on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013
Weather for Cheget on September 15 2013 on the way to Elbrus Race 2013

The site I normally go to for a mountain-top forecast “Mountain-Forecast.com” only goes out six days now (you could sometimes get a 9-day) so it’s not terribly helpful, but here are the links, if you’re curious:

Mountain Forecast for Elbrus

Elbrus Summit: [FORECAST]
Elbrus Barrels: [FORECAST]
Elbrus Base: [FORECAST]

Screenshots of current forecast through September 11 2013

Elbrus Summit Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)
Elbrus Summit Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)
Elbrus Barrels Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)
Elbrus Barrels Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)
Elbrus Valley Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)
Elbrus Valley Forecast through September 11 2013 (leading up to Elbrus Race 2013)

I’ll be watching the weather carefully, especially for the summit. Doing this race with 80 MPH + winds will not be a lot of fun. Normally “running” up a mountain like this you dress as lightly as possible. Trail running shoes, softshell tights, softshell hoodies. This could be interesting…

Elbrus Race Tourist Itinerary 2013

Recently in my Facebook Page I commented that it would be fun to see if anyone wanted to climb Elbrus, one of the Seven Summits, during the Race this year. I am in the process of ironing out the details with my Russian Guide friend, but I have been able to get a prospective itinerary.

Elbrus Race 2010 - racers at about 14,300' above the Barrels hut
Elbrus Race 2010 – racers at about 14,300′ above the Barrels hut

VIII International Elbrus Race 2013 Tourist Program :

Date Days Day’s program
15.09.2013 day 01 Flight arrival to Min Vody. Transfer to Baksan Valley. Accommodation in the Hotel.
16.09.2013 day 02 Acclimatization Hike TBD. Accommodation in the Hotel.
17.09.2013 day 03 Transfer to Azau lift station. The opening of the competition. Going up to refuge “Barrels” ~3710m. Night at refuge “Barrels”
18.09.2013 day04 Early morning acclimatization hike to the Pastukova rocks, 4800 m. Racers arrive about 12:30 PM
19.09.2013 day 05 Relax day. Night at the refuge “Barrels” (full moon at 15:00 pm)
20.09.2013 day 06 2:00 AM Alpine start – begin climb of Mt. Elbrus 5642 m. Racers arrive about 10:00 AM
21.09.2013 day 07 Spare day for weather, summit climb, or Race or Awards Ceremony at the morning & The farewell party at the evening
22.09.2013 day 08 Transfer to airport. Flight from Min Vody.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that this is a traditional itinerary for climbing the mountain, and while it is concurrent with the race, is not participating in the race. People who are qualified and interested in the race should contact me privately for instruction and advice.

Additionally, this is a rough itinerary based on current discussions with the Russian Logistics company, and is subject to availability of rooms, transportation, and Russian Guides during the event. My most recent communication suggests that we might extend it out to 9 days, September 23, and do the P-Rock hike on September 19, and the Summit on September 21 or 22. Because my contact is a working guide, and Russia is 12 hours time difference from me, there is a communication gap.

Prices and exact dates and times will be posted in the near future. Thanks for your patience.

Update 10 July 2013:

My Russian associate has responded with an 8-day and 11-day itinerary for this trip. The rates will be in the 600-700 Euro range assuming 2-4 participants. It would be a bit different for either more or less climbers. This price does not include the cost of snowcats, guides, and a few meals on the “on your own” acclimatization days. I will get more details when I return from Alpamayo.

Carstensz Pyramid Travel Warning

Carstensz Pyramid travel can be difficult. There are a few logistic hoops to jump through. Trekking in Equatorial Jungle. Various permits. Lack of helicopters. These are all issues to deal with. No one is going to rescue you and you need to be self-sufficient. You are taking a big risk. I had quite a few experiences of this nature when I climbed Carstensz in April of 2013. I wrote about them in my book Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age.

The mine was brought up as well. We were told that many expeditions had run into trouble with the mine, who in partnership with the local government owned all the land in the Carstensz area. With our government permits we were allowed to trek in, summit, then trek out. We would not be allowed to trespass, or cross any property of the mine not specifically spelled out in our permit. — Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age

My good friend at the logistics company I used for this trip posted this on the Facebook Event page for our climb of Carstensz Pyramid:

Carstensz Pyramid Travel and Climbing: Company Policy

Carstensz Pyramid Travel and Climbing - Freeport Mine Policy
Freeport Policy for Carstensz Climbers

Carstensz is indeed a logistical nightmare. There are only a mere handful of local operators able to handle the convoluted system of permits and porters and hiking trails that get you to the bottom of the cliffs of Carstensz. Then you have 2,000′ of climbing on steep limestone and gravel gullies with ratty fixed lines with poor anchors. While not technically severe in grade, the climbing has a fair amount of exposure, or perception of steepness and a deadly drop into the abyss between your heels. It’s not like Kilimanjaro, on which any reasonably fit person could walk up to the top. — Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age

If you want to see the full text of the (Carstensz Pyramid Travel and) Climbing Policy CLICK HERE