This is an article I wrote for WA Today on my experience Climbing Mt Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak.
Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano situated in south-western Russia, some 30 kilometres from the hostile border region with Georgia. It is also in proximity to Chechnya , making its slopes a key target of terrorist attacks since the war of independence in 1994.
Elbrus reaches 5642 metres high and is the highest mountain in Europe. It is therefore a member of the Seven Summits, the third I was to tackle in my goal to climb them all by 2018.
Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I’ve also managed to knock off the formidable peak of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest anthill. It was a truly epic struggle but, after several hours, we managed to reach the top, polishing off a six-pack along the way. I think the total round-trip was five to six hours.
Mount Kosciuszko is a much disputed member of the Seven Summits, I believe mainly due to its ease rather than any geographic reasoning. Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, which is much higher and harder, is claimed by many to lie within the continent of “Australasia”.
Being a circumstantially patriotic Australian, I choose to believe Australia is a continent in its own right, making Kozi one of the seven. I also didn’t want to splash out the $15,000 to make the trip to Papua.
Mount Elbrus was a different proposition all together, often taking between 15 and 30 lives on its slopes annually. The weather is temperamental at best, with temperatures dipping down to minus 30 on its summit on some occasions. It is also around two and a half times the height of Kozi, making altitude another factor to contend with.
I was lucky enough to have Crazy Domains back on board as my sponsor for this trip, so on the last day of June, I was off on the 19-hour plane trip to the world’s largest consumer of soup.
Russia exceeded all expectations. The locals, while not necessarily friendly, were far less hostile than I had expected. The city of Moscow is amazing, with incredible architecture everywhere you look and the feeling that you could never run out of things to explore and see. The girls aren’t too hard on the eye either.
The Caucasus range, which Elbrus lies at the top of, is absolutely spectacular. The small town of Terskol, our first destination, sits in a valley surrounded by towering, snow drenched peaks. It also has a raging river passing through it, sourced from high in the mountains. Would have made for some fantastic white-water rafting but we were here for another purpose this time round.
The group spent a few days acclimatising to the altitude on surrounding peaks and on Elbrus itself before we were ready to attempt to reach the summit. We kicked off at three o’clock in the morning on day five and spent the next four or so hours climbing in beautiful morning conditions.
At around the 5,000-metre mark, things started to change.
A blizzard rolled in, bringing white-out conditions which we endured right through to the end of the descent. It actually was a blessing at times, the long drop-offs we were climbing next to were obscured from view, saving us from looking down at where we would end up if we were to fall.
The ledges were very narrow at some points, only about half a metre wide and we were forced to clip into safety lines as the ground turned to icy rock. Without these, one slight foot misplacement would mean a very long slide, likely to be the last mistake you’d ever make.
After around eight hours we sauntered up the last steep slope to the summit, the highest point in Europe. It was a fantastic feeling and one I’m really starting to become addicted to. A number of our group made it but unfortunately a few had succumbed to the altitude and were forced to descend early.
Even at the top I was feeling pretty strong, all those laps of Jacob’s Ladder certainly paid off. Feeling fit and in control on the descent is pretty important as this is where most tragedies occur. It’s easy to see how people can take their eyes off the ball after struggling to reach the top and simply lose their focus on the way down.
We all made it down safely after another four or so hours (contending with a hailstorm on the last section) and I was fortunate enough to find a supply of beer. This drinking spell continued upon waking up at seven the next morning, right through until midnight. It was not a pretty sight by that stage, for me or the majority of our group, so that’s all I have to say about that.
While reaching the summit was the main goal, the real highlight of the trip for me were the people I was fortunate enough to climb Elbrus with. I’d never experienced a trip like this in such a large group (ours was around 15 strong) but I was incredibly fortunate everyone there had the same goal in mind and were confident yet humble in achieving it.
It was a diverse mix, Americans, Italians, Brits, Finnish, Swedish. I was the sole Australian which seems to be pretty rare these days wherever I travel. By the time we were down a few of us had already planned the next trip, Mount Aconcagua in South America. Already I’m brimming with anticipation about getting out there again and seeing what new experiences it has to offer.
From WA TODAY..
Mr Hudson will take to a treadmill and “climb” the height of Mount Everest at a charity event on August 15 and 16.
He will complete the stunt as part of the annual Save the Children book sale held at UWA’s Hackett Hall. Members of the public are invited to walk on a treadmill alongside Mr Hudson and donate funds to be used for education projects in Nepal.