My Journey to the Roof of Europe

Since I was 17, I have dreamt of Climbing the seven summits, the highest mountain on each continent. A friend of mine gave me Ian’s Everest ‘A Summit Calling’ DVD and then watched several video’s Ian has produced. I was excited to start planning my journey and it started with Kilimanjaro.The roof of Europe

How I Started Training

When I was younger, I used to go on summer camps in Colorado and loved living and camping in the outdoors. I enjoyed rock climbing and member of my local climbing gym. After chatting with Ian a few times, I realized the importance of endurance and strength training for these adventures. My plan was to get leaner and stronger as the battle I would face would be a battle against the altitude. Dropping 15/20 pounds was going to require an overhaul. My goal was to develop a plan for the next 5 or 6 years. As I started planning, money was going to be the biggest hurdle on my journey. An overhaul of my diet needed to start and a scientific approach to my training.

Training an hour a day during the week along with, hiking every weekend building up to 6 hour hikes was doing to take commitment. As I got stronger I aimed for longer and longer hikes carrying more weight as the months progressed. Yoga, weight training, stability and flexibility training all became enjoyable parts of my preparation.  I can tell you so far the long hikes and daily training are paying off. Upping my game for Aconcagua, Denali and Everest would come at a later date. Right now I’m on the path to success. Learn more.

The northern side of Mount Elbrus

What are the Different Challenges Faced

There are a wide range of skills needed to be successful. One of the biggest challenges  is the high and extreme attitude. Understanding how I would perform at 18,000 feet, 23,000 feet, 26,000 feet and above was my biggest challenge as I prepared for Everest.

1). Understanding how my body performs in low oxygen environments.
2). Specific Physical training and conditioning.
3). The technical skill sets.
4). The mental capacity
5). Managing myself at Altitude
6). Camp craft and Gear

Mount Elbrus

Climbing Kilimanjaro

It was time to test myself at altitude. Firstly, I needed to see if I can actually go to altitude and how my body would react to the lack of oxygen. I followed Ian’s advice and joined his 8 day Lemosho route Itinerary. It was a big eye opener for me and learning the support the porters offer will not be there on the bigger mountains. The experience was very special for me.

I learned a lot about managing my hygiene, pacing, down time and what it feel living at high altitude. I tried to carry 20lbs in my backpack on a number of days to see how it felt. It was an eye opener as we were moving slowly but my heart rate was above normal. It was a great learning experience as I would have to carry weight on Aconcagua, Denali and Everest. I learned a lot on Kilimanjaro. More days, means better acclimatization and better safety. That’s what Ian kept saying to me.The south side of Mount Elbrus

Moving on to Mount Elbrus

I decided to keep this ship sailing so I signed up to the Mount Elbrus six months after Kilimanjaro. My training added more weight, core and stability training as I would be using mountaineering boots on Elbrus.  Building my endurance was also an integral part of my daily training. After a few months I started to feel stronger and continued to get leaner as I built up my hours of training per week.

I knew Elbrus was going to be potentially more challenging terrain under foot. Even tough Kilimanjaro was steep and challenging up and down. Walking on the snow and in deep snow was much harder than Kilimanjaro. Also the weather was so changeable it was much harder to regulate temperature.

More Acclimatization

Arriving in Russia was very straight forward. My visa was checked and moved to the internal flight to Mineralyne Vody. I met 8 other teams members while waiting for my flight. I was tired but excited to get hiking. Mineralyne Vody is a small airport and easy to find your way to the baggage and exit the airport. The team met our guides, did a quick change to hiking gear an we were underway. We drop about 30 minutes, stopped for food and continued the long drive to the northern side of Mount Elbrus.

Over the coming days we hiked up to 3,125m/ 10,252 feet then 3,700m/ 12,139 feet. This was followed by 3 more additional hikes to higher elevation up to 3,800m/ 12,467 feet. We then slept at 3,900m/ 12,795 feet with further acclimatization up to 4,000m/ 13,123 feet and 4,700m/ 15,420 feet before going for the summit. This plan gave the team the best possible acclimatization to ensure the safest journey. It was an amazing itinerary and highly recommend it.

Looking up to the summit of Elbrus

Summit Attempts

The scenery on the northern and eastern side of Elbrus were beautiful but we turned our focus to the summit. Our first day on the glacier was nasty. It was super windy with lighting storms. We got in a short acclimatization hike but most of the day was spent in the huts. The weather wasn’t great the next morning but we got a window to acclimatize in the late morning. It was still windy and started to snow as we reached the Pustushok rocks but nice to get above 15,000 feet before returning for a late lunch.

There was an option to go for the summit that night but the weather was not great. We had extra days so we waited for the better weather window. Other teams has one chance for the summit and they lost it. We had waited and got our chance the following day. The summit day was challenging under foot as there was some fresh snow. This is always harder than rocking firm terrain. Don’t let the winds get into your head. It is important to stay focused on the goal. The whole team worked together to achieve the summit. Completely different than Kilimanjaro but what a journey and learning experience on the road to bigger mountains.

Mount Elbrus

Learn from the Experts

Call Ian and learn from his experience. Next up for me is Mera and Island Peaks as I build up my Himalayan experience. I highly recommend Ian Taylor Trekking as you build your mountaineering experience and reach for your dreams.

All you Need to Know about Climbing Mount Elbrus
10 Reasons to Pick Ian Taylor Trekking for your Mount Elbrus Climb
What Should you be Packing for your Mount Elbrus Expedition