The second part of our trek was to be on the other side of The Baksan valley on the Eastern side of Elbrus. We spent a full day buying and sorting provisions in Upper Baksan village before a short steep ascent to our campsite for the evening. The following morning in perfect weather we started off on the long pull up the Siltran river up to lake Siltran, although the distance was short the height gain was considerable and with a rucksack of 32kg it was a hard day. We met Sergey that night who was trekking on his own along a similar route, we were to bump into him now and again over the next several days. Sergey spoke a bit English so we had a good chat in the evening. The next day we headed of up to our first pass which would drop us into the next valley. Unfortunately what was supposed to be an easy pass by the map turned out to be quite different, while the ascent was straight forward enough on the other side was a 200m almost shear drop. It just goes to show how much the Glaciers have dropped since the last revision of the maps (probably 40 or so years ago) As roping down 6 pitches or so would have taken to much time with an uncertain outcome Vova the leader opted for a retreat to an easier pass named after the lake and river where we camped for another night.
Next day we descended off the pass and down into the next valley to join the river Subashi, another long hard day in glorious weather saw us camping below the moraine dam at the bottom of the Subashi glacier, where we once again met up with Sergey. It was a very picturesk spot with Mt Subashi towering above us bathed in sunshine while night set on the valley floor, could have stayed up longer but we had another hard day ahead of us so it was an early night for all.
Today we were to leave the Subashi valley, cross over the Dzhikaugenkez pass and onto Peak Kalistkoga, which is an isolated island of rock surrounded on all sides by the many massive glaciers coming down the East side of Elbrus. The ascent up to the pass was a straight forward walk were we stopped for an early dinner. It was only a short 100m descent onto the glacier which although thankfully was clear of snow it turned out to be very wide indeed. I worked it out to be at least 3km and by the time we reached the barren volcanic rock on the outskirts of the pick most of us were done in. Some of us made a half-hearted attempt to scale the peak by the Northern side but steep and very loose rock saw us turn back short of time and energy, still I vowed to get up early the next day and have a look at the south side.
The next morning Inna and I got up early the explore the North side of the peak and see if we could find any easy routes up to its rocky pinicle summit. After reaching the top of its lower summit we decided the higher summit looked like a graded rock climb would need ropes, harness and some protection. Now not having time for such a climb as we were due to move on after breakfast we decided the lower peak was enough and we could always come back another day. After breakfast we continued on our way across another glacier to camp on a rocky outcrop above the pass Irik Chat. It was only a short 2hr walk and we were there before lunch time. while the others went off to explore the local peak, I decided I would spend my afternoon practicing my ice climbing on the Glacier wall. It’s not often you get the chance to do this in the UK so I was very happy with the 5 climbs I did mixing some free climbing and some with rope protection. By the time I had finished the wind had got up and some clouds were rolling in, this was an ominous feature and was to have us sitting in and indeed holding onto our tents for the next 2 days and nights.
Looking back now its is rather unfortunate I didn’t take and photos of the bad weather that followed and I suppose looking back, a video of me hanging onto the tent for grim death at 02:00 in the morning would seem funny now. But at the time documenting things was not on my mind and I suppose I didn’t want to risk the camera nor was I in the mood after getting up for the 3rd time on the second night to repair the snapped guy lines and build the defending wall a bit higher. Lack of sleep was also making me a bit irritable not helped by the fact I had nothing to do, next time stuff the extra weight, I’ll pack a book. After the bad weather cleared it was time to change our plans that had us doing the harder route and just get off the mountain by the easiest means. It was only a short walk to the Irik Chat pass so we opted for this and a pleasant walk down the Irik river to camp just above the village of Elbrus eating many raspberries on the way. Vova being the group leader and always first at the campsite went down to the village for supplies and we all had a merry last evening in front of the camp fire.