Thursday, May 30, 2013

What About Elbrus Race 2013?

I went to Russia twice in 2010. Both times to climb Elbrus, the highest point of the European Continent. It's also the highest volcano in Europe. That puts it on the list for the Seven Summits, as well as the Volcanic Seven Summits.

Training on Mount Rainier for Elbrus Race 2010

In May of 2010 I went with a group and sadly, on our acclimatization day the weather was perfect, and at 15,300' at Pastukhova Rocks I felt just amazing and wanted to continue on to the top. This tactic actually worked quite well for me on Orizaba in May of 2013. I topped out on the highest volcano in North America on May 5 2013. On Elbrus though, for our summit day, the weather was horrible, blowing high winds and I was quite underdressed, not being very familiar with the European (at least Russian) way of doing things. Slog slog slog as slowly as possible to the summit wearing every single item of clothing you own. Quite a bit different from Rainier.

So I ended up with stiff frozen fingers and bailed to the Barrels Huts, where I lay in a tormented near-sleep until later that day when I recovered from whatever ailed me. When we were leaving we crossed paths with the Red Fox Elbrus Race, which got me to looking things up on the internet. It seems that the "original" Elbrus Race, won by Anatoli Boukreev (famed villain in the Krakauer version of Everest '96), was run in the Fall as opposed to the Red Fox race in the Spring.

Elbrus Race 2010 Opening Ceremonies

I contacted the organizer and got my training in gear, motivated in no small measure by my failure. I showed up for the race in September in the best shape of my life. I arrived a few days early and hung out at the Barrels then did a speed test up to P-Rocks. I blasted up in a speed well within the qualifying cut-off time. You have to pre-qualify for the Race with a run up to the Rocks. We were supported by the organizer on this, and the cook was a very lazy slow lady who didn't boil our water, but claimed it was.

I went down for the opening ceremonies, then went back up to the Barrels to do the Qualifier. At that point I contracted horrible cramps and diarrhea and in spite of that, managed to run up as best I could squeezing it in. I had to stop on the way down (another cut-off for descent time) and let some out behind the cliffs above the Diesel Hut.

Acclimatizing at the Barrels - Elbrus Race 2010

The next day was a rest day, and the day after that was the Race. I felt well enough on Race day, but it was called for weather so we got another rest day. I was still spraying, and that night I got very sick and could not sleep or get out of bed. When they came to wake us up for the Race finally, the skies were clear enough and the wind was low enough, but I wasn't able to move very fast at all. They called the event doctor to check me out. He gave me something Russian and told me to sleep. I crashed from whatever it was and woke up in time to see the victor run into camp.

For 2011 they called off the race as the whole valley was closed due to terrorist activities. In 2012 I had a great deal of difficulty in getting the organizers to communicate in a timely enough manner that I would be able to get a Visa in time. The process to get a Russian Visa is sometimes complicated and changes frequently enough to be iffy even at the best of times. When it ends up you only have two weeks to get one, it can be really tough.

Hypothermic Summit Day - Elbrus 2012
I decided to go anyway, just after the Race. In any event, they ended up cancelling the Race after the first wave of finishers crossed the line because the weather got so bad they were concerned that everyone would get lost on the way down. It's easy to do, and you end up in a zone of crevasses and cliffs and most of the deaths on the normal route on Elbrus are because of that.

When I was there I did an amazing acclimatization run up to the Barrels from Cheget. Unfortunately that wore me out and I got sick and frozen on my summit day. I wrote about it in my book "Elbrus, My Waterloo" [CLICK TO BUY] if you're interested in more.

So now it's 2013. Elbrus Race will be taking place again in late September. I want to go. It's a great motivator for my training. Maybe I should just go in August and get it done. But I think it would be so cool to write about the Race. What do you think?