Written by our expedition leader Alex Kay, who led on our Elbrus Climb in July 2017.
A successful expedition is one that leaves you with life-long memories of fantastic times and endless laughter. No matter what the outcome is on the mountain, these are the moments that you will remember forever – the hilarity of teammates’ noises when they sleep, the companionship, comradery and motivation between the team during the tougher days and the natural beauty around you. All of the time spent perfectly in the moment.
The north side of Elbrus
Tackling Mt Elbrus from the North Side is tough. Receiving some fairly ferocious weather at times and being one of the more northerly situated 7 summits, it is no walk in the snowy park. For some of the team, it would be the highest point above sea level that they have ever trekked. For others, another chance to push themselves.
Mt Elbrus, however, is just as astonishingly beautiful as it is tough. Climbing from the Northside truly feels like a wild expedition, with numerous kit carries required to establish a high camp (3800m), glacial terrain to be negotiated & minimal phone signal throughout.
Starting our Elbrus Trek
Our two-week trip got off to the best kind of start. The team got on fantastically and the banter & jokes flowed with every breath. We had great weather for the most part, not typical for an unyielding mountain such as this one. We were thankful.
After 6 days of acclimatising to altitudes as high as 4800m, it was time for our summit push. Already aware of the deceptively distant slopes that stood between us and the summit, one of our team members made the courageous and humble decision not to make an attempt. Our ascent began at 1 am. After 7 long hours, we had made it back to our previous high point. It was shortly thereafter, at around 5000m, that two of our team members descended; Exhausted, with nothing left in the tank, they both did themselves proud.
After a further 4 hours under a burning sun, the rest of us made it. The overall feeling was one of tiredness, but we were elated to be at the highest point in Europe and soaked up the sights for as long as we could.
Our return into camp was as we expected. Our teammates who had not reached the summit engulfed us with happiness and congratulations. The whole expedition had been a team effort, from start to finish. The lessons learnt and memories made by all, totally outweighed those few minutes on the summit and for me that is what expeditions should always be about. The July team lived wholly in the moment, sharing laughter and creating stories from the smallest things and without that, the expedition would not have been such a success.