Last night (August 3rd) I spoke to Bryan as he was getting ready to head out for a day hike to acclimatize. I believe it is a hike to the Pastukhov Rocks. Earlier in the day Bryan had been hiking around with his guide Sultun, who had to say “Slow down,” to Bryan many times. Are any of you surprised? They hiked up to a ski patrol hut, which is Sultun’s job on the mountain during the winter months, and hung out with a bunch of rowdy ski patrollers. They speak Balkaria or Balkarian, which is a different language than Russian (though Bryan would have never caught on had he not been told). It is actually their first language, as they learn Russian as a second. They all drank brandy and Bryan learned how to say “cheers” in Balkaria. Sultun also gave Bryan the sound advice to quit his job and dedicate his time to learning this language.
Depending on how Bryan does on the day hike, he will get the go ahead to proceed straight to the summit the next day. With Sultun asking Bryan to slow down, I don’t think it will be a problem. Though Bryan wanted to make the plan for the summit sooner, Sultun is making him wait to discuss until after the hike. I am not sure Sultun knows Bryan will most likely see this as a challenge and move like a billy goat up that mountain just to prove he can. On the same note, Bryan mentioned Sultun says the summit will take 6 hours from the Pastukhov Rocks. When he mentioned this to me he said, “we will see.” If you know Bryan, that means, “I bet I can do it in 4 hours at least. If he tells me I can’t, then I will do it in three.”
I didn’t ask, but I would bet the PopTarts are still in the thin foil package because dinner the night before was stuffed peppers (he described it as a cross between a bell pepper and jalapeno since it was a bit spicy) with lamb, beef and rice. He also had a creamy salad with cucumbers and soup. He mentioned there is a high number of Muslims in the region, so pork doesn’t seem to be on the menu, “so that is kind of a bummer.”
Let’s skip to today (August 4th), as I just got off the phone with the hottest redhead in Russia. It was snowing pretty hard, and he kept on mentioning the fear of being electrocuted. Though I was worried for his safety, I sure do like hearing his voice, so I told him to stop being a baby and talk to me. No really, he has to climb a hill to get reception and every time he moved a certain way he was shocked. Love hurts, however, so he persevered in order to give me the latest and greatest.
Bryan got the go ahead to summit. Yes what most people take 8-10 days to do, he is doing only in a few. I guess that tent paid off! That is great news, but also really crappy news because it means the tent is coming back for preparation for Everest which also means Bryan sleeping in a separate bed for a couple months. But I get too far ahead of myself…
So yes, the summit of Elbrus. Though he has the green light to go, he also has a nasty snow storm coming down on him as I type. Depending on the weather, he will get going as soon as he is able. Perhaps tomorrow night? The plan would be to take a snowcat back to the Pastukhov Rocks which saves a few hours, and then hike from there. His dinner of chicken and cheesy-creamy sauce and stewed eggplant was sitting full in his belly, and he was looking forward to getting warm and reading a book back at the hut.
Just hearing from Bryan makes my day. He seems to be in high spirits, and his calls have calmed mine. I have gone from having irrational fears of him being kidnapped in Russia, to my fears shrinking to nothing and then being replaced by the slight anxiety he won’t be able to find me some reasonably priced fur boots once he gets off the mountain (kind of kidding about the anxiety about the boots). Continue to send well wishes his way as he makes his way to crossing numero cinco off the list!