In 1996, it had been 2 years since my successful climb of Aconcagua and time for another expedition! Mount Elbrus in Russia is the highest peak in Europe and reasonably accessible time and cost-wise for someone with a full-time career. At just over 18,000 feet above sea level, Elbrus is not particularly high. But it can be exposed to severe winds that blast the glacial summit.
Travel and logistics in Russia are challenging as our team found out many times, especially in the rural south of the country where Elbrus is located. But the people were wonderful with often greeted us with smiles of golden teeth, a sign of wealth. Over mountain passes and crossing rivers in a bus to avoid a broken bridge were all part of the Elbrus experience.
From the basecamp hut at 15,000 feet, with good weather the summit can be reached in one day………….if all goes according to plan. For me, all was good until about 30 minutes from the top. I lost a crampon, slipped and fell down the summit slope, finally coming to rest 300 feet below where I had first fell. With wrecked gear and amazingly no more than a bruised ego, I made it back to base camp. What could have been a life-threatening fall, ended as another opportunity. 2 days later, I borrowed some gear to replace my broken crampons and other items I had lost, went back and reached the top. The 4th of the 7 summits.