July 24, 2011

Climbing Mt. Elbrus North Side

Just got back to civilization after a long and bumpy ride from the north side of Russia's Mt. Elbrus. The standard route up Mt. Elbrus is typically from the south, but due to tension along the Russia / Georgia border, that side of the mountain is currently closed. Some operators decided to cancel their Elbrus trips this year, but a few of the more courageous guiding companies threw down the gauntlet and ran their first Elbrus North expeditions.

I led the Adventure Consultants expedition and will be starting a second trip in a few days. Unlike the South side, Mt. Elbrus is vast, wild and undeveloped on it's northern flanks and provides an authentic Russian experience from start to finish.

Surprisingly, the hardest day was not the 1900 meter summit push, but rather a 4 hour power tour of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Base Camp on the north side of Elbrus.

Mt. Everest.

Hiking around base camp.

Early morning on summit day.

Nearing 5000 meters.

Traversing to the saddle between the East and West Summits.

Summit white-out.

Clearing on the descent.

Back at base camp.

A happy team at BC.

July 12, 2011

Mountain Guiding in Switzerland

James L climbing Pigne de la Ley. This was a Summit and Skills course for ISM.
After almost one month in the Chamonix Valley, I finally ventured out of my new found comfort zone. I took a transfer to Geneva, rented a car, drove to Leysin, Switzerland and spent six days working in the area. This was pretty much the first instructional course I'd done since leaving Canada and my voice is still sore from talking way too much. I worked with Paolo I, a guide from Italy, and learned a bunch of good tricks from this side of pond. The goal of the course was to make competent leaders of the students and it was cool to see them rope-a-doping eachother in technical terrain.
After Leysin, I returned to Chamonix with one of the students for an ascent of Mt. Blanc. Things didn't exactly go as planned and well... we ended up spending a cold night high on the mountain. Everything ended okay and all I'm gonna say about it now is that it was the single most sobering experience in twelve years of guiding.
And after all that, I now find myself in St. Petersburg, Russia - the starting point for the Adventure Consultants 2011 Mt. Elbrus Expedition. St. Petersburg is a city I've dreamt about seeing ever since reading the great Russian novelists Dostoyevsky, Nabokov and Gogol and I'm looking forward to the good mix of culture and mountain climbing.
Glacier skills below the Moiry Hut.
Who needs good coffee when this is your morning view?
Approaching the Weissmies.
Oh the civility... Climbing in Europe is like going on a backcountry hotel tour.
Paolo breaks out the map.
The Almagellerhütte
Morning clouds.
Tout la gang.
Paolo points the way.
Nearing the top of the Weissmies.
The final exposed Ridge on the 4000m Weissmies.
I got a little photo happy on this section.
Almost up...
Just a few more steps.
Going down.
The students clearly learnt that bright colors are better for photos.