LEOŠ KRATOCHVÍL: TO ELBRUS ACROSS AN ICE WALL #3
01. 10. 2019
We woke up into a beautiful day. We did not rush anywhere. We made tea, breakfast, dried our clothes and tents. The tent canvas was covered in hoarfrost from the inside because of our wet breath, I had dried my socks in my sleeping bag overnight so I could relax in my hiking boots.
At 10 A.M. we set off towards Irikchat. It was quite a steep slope. The valley was still green, but the rocks slowly prevailed. There were zillions of flowers everywhere. It was like walking in a rock garden. There were a lot of streams with drinkable water along the way. We, therefore, did not have to worry about the lack of water and we could keep our bottles empty.
The last climb to the gap below Irikchat was only stony debris covered with snow. We were on the same level as the tails of the glacier travelling from the Elbrus mountainside. The acclimatization was still not perfectly optimal. I had trouble catching my breath from time to time, but it was OK. It was very windy in the gap. I immediately wrapped myself into the jacket. The bivouacs were beyond the summit of Irikchat. Unfortunately, we could not see them.
We therefore sent Honza as a scout. He left his rucksack with us and went to see if we would fit in there. It was 100 height metres in a distance of 400 m. We had arranged a signal. Spread hands meant "OK, we have a place to sleep." We noticed some Russian group coming towards us across the glacier from the other side of the gap. There were a lot of them. We hesitated whether to occupy the place for bivouacking or wait for Honza. It was extremely windy there. The clouds came. Well, it turned out well. We finally had a place just beyond the summit, a few metres above the glacier. We took Honza's rucksack and went to meet him. There was only one tent and one man up there. He said he was cleaning his head off the city life. We had to arrange water and food and go to sleep as early as possible. The night was cold and pretty hard due to insufficient acclimatization. Not much sleep. But it was pleasantly warm in the tent.
We woke up at about 5 o'clock in order to be on the glacier at 7. We managed it pretty well. The morning ritual... drink, meal, packing up. I even had time to make a few photos of the rising sun and shoot a few videos.
The glacier took us 1,5-2 hours. It was perfectly frozen and the bridges over the cracks held firmly. The well-trodden trail also helped us. At 9 A.M. we came to a lava flow penetrating deep into the glacier. The time was good, it was warm and the dark lava stones were pleasantly warm. We had a short break and sunbathed for a while. Then something to drink and eat and at 11:30 we set off towards the bivouac. There were several of them, one above another. We agreed that we would try to go as far as possible. The trail wound through debris, lava dust and sand.
The Elbrus crater and our line of ascent were just in front of us. Before 3 P.M., we arrived to the last but one bivouac situated at an elevation of 4,300 m. The time was great. We found a place for the tents and exchanged a few words with the people already bivouacking there. There were there with some travel agency. The weather was supposed to be the best in the last few years. Excellent. We went to sleep early. We set the alarm clock to 11:30 P.M. I could not sleep very well at the beginning. I managed to fall asleep for a few hours. It was cold in the evening. And our ritual again... meal, drink, packing up. At 1:30 A.M., we went up.
We ascended at ease, 100 steps, 20-second rest. It was relatively warm, no wind, clear sky. Hasák started feeling unwell, altitude sickness. We went on to 4,800 metres. There, due to his condition, we turned back and returned all the way back, across the glaciers to the village of Elbrus. At 1 P.M. we were sitting in the "Garage" enjoying our beer and soup.
We had walked 20 km with heavy rucksacks and descended 3,000 altitude metres. We were sullen at first but it gradually got better. Well, what shall I say... we had missed a great opportunity. But we were there altogether, so it was OK and it was the right thing to do. In the evening, we had a meal in Sakliya. We were very tired of the return.