Tag: Europe

Elbrus Race 2013 Wrap-up

As I prepared for the Elbrus Race 2013 with my team mate Todd Gilles, I worked hard to increase my fitness for the vertical ascent of the Classic, from the Barrels Huts to the summit of Elbrus at approximately 18,500′. Normally you do that a couple days after the Qualifier, about half of the distance and elevation gain of the Classic.

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

At the same time my friend and climbing partner Todd Gilles said he’d like to
join me on Elbrus. I gave him a training program to follow to help him adjust his
current fitness levels more toward fast vertical travel. I’ve known him for a
couple years now and just last December we started climbing together. I went
with him on several Winter Colorado Fourteener climbs and attempts, as well as
several ice and rock climbing trips. He refers to me as his “Mountain Mentor”
and that makes me feel really good. As a former competing champion in
figure skating he was in really good physical condition and not afraid of hard
work. We were going to have a blast. — From the Preface to Elbrus Race 2013

We had the usual hassles with the Russian Visa process, and the generally slow responses of the Russian Logistics companies. Finally there, we ended up staying in the Barrels with Kilian Jornet and his crew. They were there to do a video on Kilian’s attempt at a base-summit-base speed record on Elbrus. Sadly, the weather was not cooperative on either the Qualifier or the two days of the Race. The Qualifier was cut short, the first Race day it was cancelled after the Extreme (base to summit) Race had already started, and when the Race was finally run, they brought the finish line of both the Extreme and Classic routes down to a bit below 17,000′.

The Qualifier in whiteout conditions for Elbrus Race 2013
The Qualifier in whiteout conditions for Elbrus Race 2013

Elbrus Race 2013 – the book

When we returned from the Elbrus Race 2013, I compiled my notes into a book, and published it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and then on Google Play and Google Books. We were quite successful, though we did not reach the top. My 5th place, and Todd’s 3rd place finish were momentous occasions as the best US results in nearly 20 years. For a press release from Elbrus Race 2013 CLICK HERE.

A lot of people didn’t qualify, qualified but dropped out before the Race, or dropped out and turned back in the storm. It was pretty tough conditions and I was thrilled that Todd and I stuck it out. He placed, and I finished and we’ve been an inspiration to others to join us for Elbrus Race 2014 STORY.

Elbrus Race 2013 Classic 3rd Place Trophy for Todd Gilles
Elbrus Race 2013 Classic 3rd Place Trophy for Todd Gilles

If you’re interested in mountaineering, skyrunning, adventure travel, the Seven Summits, or even a great story, Elbrus Race 2013 is the book for you. For more information CLICK HERE for the rest of the story.

Having never read about or experienced mountaineering and extreme incline races before, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s firsthand recount of his and Todd’s experience in Elbrus Race 2013. I am in awe of their accomplishments, and have an even greater respect for their quest and dedication to their dreams. I can’t wait to hear more! — 5-star review on Amazon

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.

Elbrus 2012 Pastukhova Rocks Hike Video

I hiked to Pastukhova Rocks on Elbrus, a volcano in the Caucasus of Russia, and one of the Seven Summits. On Thursday September 6 I took a taxi to Azau, where the tram and gondola bottom stations are.

I took my billet or pass as we Americans prefer, and waved it at the scanner and the gate beeped ajar and I passed through. Having skied a number of times I booked it to the next open gondola door and jumped in. I scared the attendants and you didn’t need to know Russian to know what they yelled. Like a punk snowboarder I smiled and waved as I scooted aboard and sat. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I barely made my goal time, in spite of the chairlift between the top tram station and the Barrels Huts being off that day. This was an important acclimatization hike to 15,300′, about halfway in elevation gain and miles from the Barrels to the Summit of Elbrus. The snow conditions were awful, terrible, hard frozen slush and gravel dusted packed snow…

…with running water over ice. The trail angled just to the left at Pastukhova Rocks, which seemed quite bare this fall. I had set a goal of hitting the Rocks at 1:00 PM, and I made 1:06. Amazing, 2:13 from the Barrels, but I was beat and empty. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I hit the Rocks and made a hasty retreat to the gondola station to make the last car down. I did not want to walk that 4,000′ in the dark on top of the 4,000′ I already did that day. In the middle of all that I got a chance to shoot a few seconds of video here and there and spliced it all together.

Here is my Elbrus acclimatization hike video

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao0Sy0zFbhU

Elbrus 2012 Resting at the Barrels Huts

On Friday, Sept 7, I moved up to the Barrels Huts at the 12,300′ level on Elbrus, a volcano in Russia, the highest point of Europe and one of the Seven Summits. On this trip I first encountered the Barrels on my acclimatization hike of Tuesday September 4 from Cheget to the Barrels.

The Barrels Huts (capitalized because that’s their actual name in Russian) are just what it sounds like – large steel drums, about 30’ long and 10’ in diameter tipped on their sides with doors and windows cut out and beds and little room dividers built in. They’re set in a long row side by side along a large flat spot a few hundred feet above the chairlift. Or almost 1000’ above Mir Station. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I went up again on Thursday for another acclimatization hike, this time from Mir (Tram Station) to Pastukhova Rocks at 15,300′. I returned Friday to spend the night for my summit attempt on Saturday. The Barrels are a very popular tourist destination. When the weather is good, and the lifts are running, average people in jackets and street shoes can quite easily get there and enjoy the views.

On a pleasant weekend day there will be a hundred tourists sitting in the sun staring at the groups of other tourists and climbers going up and down the cat track, and clicking like crazy with their cameras. Some will even have binoculars. The administrator sent me to barrel number four. I stepped up the four narrow ladder rungs and inside, first the vestibule area with old gear storage racks and the old bathroom door, sealed with a very large padlock. Way back in the day they used to have bathrooms and cooking in each of the Barrels. No longer, and you have to use the kitchen and the very dirty outhouses. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I spent the afternoon laying out and organizing my stuff, and purifying water with my PurifiCup, and charging my electronics with my Goal Zero Guide 10

Back at the hut, I again switched to the trail shoes and hung the socks to dry on one of the many crisscrossed cords above the beds. Drying out gear is common enough that many tents and huts have installed lines just for that purpose. I set my phone to charge on the Goal Zero Guide 10 battery pack, and took my boots out, removing the insoles to allow for full air circulation, to dry in the sun. I sat next to them on a slat of wood laid on the concrete for just that use, to enjoy the warm rays of daylight. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I spent Friday night there, sleeping quite coldly, in my bunk in #4 Hut, with no electric heaters, as in 2010.

It got colder and colder as the night progressed, and I huddled snuggly, but cold, in my 15 degree down bag. I ended up running to the outhouse a few times in the night. On a trip out around 4:00 AM I saw a group on the concrete slabs getting their crampons on but when I returned to the hut they were gone. A few minutes later I heard a snowcat start and grind its way up the slope. A part of me wished I were on it. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

After my failed summit attempt I returned to the Barrels and dried out my clothes and charged my electronics. I have been to the Barrels many times now, with two trips in 2010 (May in a group climb with Pilgrim Tours, and in September with Top Sport Travel for Elbrus Race 2010) and now this one. I love them, in spite of the dirty outhouses and bedding, in spite of the cold and damp, in spite of the tourists milling about on the concrete slabs during the sunny days.

I spent a few seconds in my exploration to examine all the decals stuck on the walls by various climbers and guides. It’s kind of fun to see what there is from around the world. Lots of interesting graffiti too, but of the generally “clean” kind – like so and so from whatever country climbed in whatever year. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

Gallery for The Barrels on Elbrus

KPICASA_GALLERY(HangingAtTheBarrelsOnElbrus)

Elbrus 2012 Cheget Hotel and Market

I spent much of my time in the Elbrus region at the hotel in Cheget, a small village about 3 miles from the Azau, the village at the base of Elbrus from which the Tram and Gondola run up the flanks of the highest point of the European Continent. When I first arrived on Monday, September 3, I was wasted from jet lag from the flights in.

I completely unpacked and organized my gear into the wardrobe and did some laundry, which since the room is typical foreign chilly, would take a few days to dry. I purified enough water to last the night, about two quarts. The beds weren’t as small as some foreign beds, and had large duvets and unusually large pillows. Atop all that were pile blankets in a leopard print pattern. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I had breakfast and dinner as part of my hotel rate, and for the most part it was good service and good local food without the hassles of trying to cook for myself. I really enjoyed interfacing with the people in this region of the Caucasus.

The meals take place in a communal dining room just off the kitchen, with one to three serving or cooking staff, typically elderly women. They quietly bring you things and take empty plates away. Some things, like salads and breads are there when you arrive, and others are brought to you as you eat, including hot water in a kettle for whatever type of hot drink you prefer. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

I had a couple of days of rest when I visited the local market in Cheget. There you’ll find a larger wool market building with several stalls, a few souvenir shops and kiosks, and a row of cafes leading up to the chairlifts for Cheget Peak, one of those used for acclimatization by many packaged expeditions on Elbrus.

Smoke rose from the many open welded iron stoves stacked with skewers of grilling spiced meats. People bought and sold and ate and drank and just milled about like me – absorbing the life. I probably hung out like that for a couple hours, which could be tough for some people considering how small the market is. — Elbrus, My Waterloo – publishing October 2012

Photo Gallery Cheget and Market near Elbrus in Russia

KPICASA_GALLERY(HotelInChegetSeptember2012)

Elbrus 2012 – Hiking from Mir to Pastukhova Rocks

On September 6, 2012 I left the hotel and took a taxi to Azau to ride the Gondola up to Mir, the top station for the cable cars on the South side of Elbrus in Russia.

At the top gondola station, Mir, I exited the car and lo and behold this was one of the off days for the chairlift. Well that makes today just that much more complicated. [and] completely ended any fantasy of a summit today. I was totally unprepared to scramble down all 4000′ of that road in the dark. — from “Elbrus, My Waterloo” – publishing October 2012

I worked my way up to the edge of the snow above the Barrels Huts, put on my crampons and made my way over very poor conditions to Pastukhova Rocks, landmark about half way to the summit of Elbrus. The route was exposed glacial ice and melted water running down the surface mixed with slush and dirt. In places it was almost a small waterfall over volcanic sand.

I had set a goal of hitting the Rocks at 1 PM, and I made 1:06. Amazing, 2:13 from the Barrels, but I was beat and empty. I didn’t want to take any more time out than leaning over my poles to pant every hundred steps on the way up. Yes, I was counting.

I had to beat a 30:00 pace the whole way to make the gondola cutoff with enough margin for error. So I ran. Or as close to running on 40% slopes of ice and water and slush as you can get in crampons. — from “Elbrus, My Waterloo” – publishing October 2012

After returning to the hotel I was pretty well knackered, hung clothes to dry, ate, and then went quickly to sleep.

Elbrus Gallery:

KPICASA_GALLERY(HikingToPastukhovaRocks)

Elbrus 2012 – Hiking to the Barrels from Cheget

On Tuesday, September 4th, I did my first shakeout cruise. My acclimatization hike from the hotel near the market in Cheget, up to the barrels, from 6800′ elevation to 12,300′ elevation. Roughly 5400′ of elevation gain over 7.3 miles. Reverse that for the return home. I walked up the access road from Azau to the Barrels.

…the long gravel road that weaves under the gondola and tram lines. There is actually a lot going on up there with several huts, some full time lift and power line workers, so that supply trucks, huge military or mine style trucks with 5′ tires run up and down this road all day. That’s both good and bad, since they simultaneously pack down and chew up the road surface, and the overall grade or angle is determined by the lowest common denominator of the trucks. Sadly, I generally dislike loose gravel in sand, so despite averaging a good time overall, I was not really happy. There were spots that felt like one step forward and two steps back. — from “Elbrus, My Waterloo” – publishing October 2012

It was long, hot, dusty, but it was a great sense of accomplishment to go somewhere that most American climbers never ever go. This is roughly equivalent to the Cheget Peak hike that most guide companies do in the first day or two of the itinerary. Only they usually go up the chairlift to get a thousand meters in before hiking.

KPICASA_GALLERY(ChegetToBarrelsHikingOnElbrus)

Elbrus Race 2010

In September 2010 I attended the Elbrus Race [Blogger Posts]. Below is a gallery of images from the race organizers. I was entered at bib number 24.

I was also featured a few times in a promotional video [1:04, 1:13, 1:33] that the event promoters created as a “trailer”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEqc9zH5uA

Elbrus Race 2010 in fact was the driving force and motivation for the best period of serious intense training I have ever endured. I trained twice a day, doing weight and cardio splits that carried me above and beyond all previous training, and got me down to 14% bodyfat (elite for my age according to the charts) from my starting point of 28%.

I really liked the spirit of the competition, and have seriously considered returning, though in 2011 the area was closed for various reasons. This year it’s open again, and the race is going to be held a few weeks earlier, at the end of August. In 2010 I had been given water right out of the drain pipe without being treated by the cook in the hut. I managed to pass the qualification race in spite of having to stop and “use the rocks” because of dysentery. I was too sick to continue and the event physician medicated me and pulled me from the race.

Here is a brief rundown of the articles from that period on my old blog:

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Elbrus is a volcano in Russia, and is considered to be the highest point of Europe.

Olympic Medal Heads to Everest Summit

Kenton Cool, who has climbed Everest a record (for a British mountaineer) 9 times will be carrying a special package to the top of Everest this season.

he will have honoured a pledge by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Lisle Strutt, deputy leader of the pioneering 1922 expedition, made to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who awarded the climbers medals at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix. Strutt promised to return to Everest and take a medal to the summit, something he never managed. — The Guardian


Kenton fell in 1996, shattering his heels and ankles, resulting in a year away from climbing, and still has metal in his legs that causes him to run with an awkward gait. In spite of that, he’ll be running a leg of the 2012 London Olympics Torch Relay on July 23. Having been a guide and taking clients to the top of Everest in the past, this year Kenton will be climbing with only the medal and a cameraman.

The Olympics are an excellent time to review our past and our future and look for the links between and connecting them. I hope this works out for the best and achieves all the goals surrounding it. I love the Olympic Park in Park City Utah where some of the events of the 2002 Winter Olympics were held, such as the various ski jumping and bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions. I would love to visit the upcoming venues in London someday. Good luck Kenton.

2002 Winter Olympic Park
2002 Winter Olympic Park in Park City Utah

7 year old Indonesian on Seven Summits Quest?

I read this story recently about a 7 year old Indonesian boy who will be attempting Elbrus this July hoping to summit on July 23, National Children’s day with a follow-up Climb in November of Island Peak, a 6,000 meter mountain in the Himalayas near Everest normally used as a testing ground for the ability to climb Everest.

7-year-old Indonesian Turns Mountains into Molehills If successful, he will be the youngest climber to do Elbrus.


From a newspaper article about Arya Cahaya Mulya Sugiarto: — the treacherous peaks do not seem to faze Arya — last year the boy told the tabloid magazine Nyata that it was “nice to be able to reach the top of the mountain; I can see God’s creation.”


Some food for thought:

1) Can he possibly become the youngest Everest climber?
2) Can he possibly become the youngest Seven Summits Climber?
3) Is he really self-motivated, and really able to finish all these climbs under his own power?
4) What if something goes horribly wrong?
5) What are the long-term repercussions?

How do you feel about this?