Elbrus Day 2

Today was tough. A 1,000 meter climb in 27degree heat, then back down to our base-camp in a thunderstorm. I was slow but the team stayed with me. They’re amazing, but I’ve got a lot of work to do before the big one #Elbrus.

On the upside, my dodgy knee held out great and I nearly ran down the whole mountain before expedition boss, Pat Falvey, told me to ‘cop myself on’ and mind my knees.

It was a 7hr round trip that brought us up to around 3,000 metres, but without the assistance of a chairlift this time. We’re still playing the acclimatisation ‘game’ – climbing high and sleeping low, to encourage our bodies to adjust to the thin air.

Our target today was a major focal point for miles around; a key observatory nestled high on the Terskol Peak in the shadow of Elbrus. We were looking across at it yesterday when we climbed Mount Cheget and I was secretly worried that I would never be able to make the distance. My personal target today was just to get there, and at least I did that.

I found the going really hard, a steep incline for over 4hrs up, and although it was cloudy, it was very, very warm. I couldn’t help but enjoy the route though, it was stunningly beautiful.

We head out across a noisy, flooded river; picking our way gingerly across a bridge fashioned out of old, discarded doors! We made our way across Terskol Village, through a heavily scented pine forest and into Alpine meadows, with spectacular carpets of flowers reaching up the mountain to the rugged volcanic slopes at the foot of the glacier. Along the way we saw something which must surely be a rare phenomenon – what seemed to be rainbow coloured aurora borealis shimmering under the cloud above Elbrus. The general consensus was that it was something to do with atmospheric crystals, but I’ll have to check that out.

We were hiking up to what Pat tells us is one of Russia’s main astronomical observatories, with telescopes operated by the International Centre for Astronomical Studies, Kiev. We paused briefly there for lunch before heading back down, storm chasing ahead of valley pounding rumbles of thunder and ‘Irish-style’ rain clouds.

One of my favourite moments from today was when we caught sight of a stunning waterfall on the way, which fellow climber Joe Byrne tells me is called ‘The Silver Pigtails’. It’s a natural feature with glacial ice water cascading down over a mushroom shaped ledge in the rock, forming a ‘cave’ behind. Walking under the curtain of water was like straying into a Timotei advert. You have no idea how good this natural shower felt after hoofing nearly a thousand metres up a mountain in 27degree heat.

Day 3 sees us back out again, but with predictions for more of that ‘Irish-style’ rain.

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