Friday, 29 June 2012

The Barrels: Day 3

Today is our rest day at base camp. The snowfall/rain/sleet is quite heavy so we only get up around 9am for breakfast!
It's too miz outside to go do any ice axe training so we plan a day around the barrels. Ray and I catch up on blogs, twitter etc and we all start going through our kit for summit preparations!
We plan on leaving around 3/4am, but weather not looking great!

Juri says instead of us all waking up, he will get up at 2,3 and 4/5am to see if conditions have improved and if they have he will come and wake us!
We have some fun UNO games, listen to music on the 'beatbox' and at 3:30 Ray has his live interview with Radio Today via cellular from SA. He spoke so well and it really was a great chat for him to highlight The sunflower fund as well as the blood council of SA. I'm definitely inspired to be a bone marrow donor upon my return home!
You can read Ray's incredible journey on and link to his blog from there!

Its a struggle to upload photos from here-Ray has been sending his to Lynne, his wife back home who can update his blog from there. I can't seem to get anything but twitter right! I am however trying so the pics may be a tad late!

The afternoon is spent getting gear ready, packing backpacks etc and the snow keeps falling!
I'm not convinced of a good weather window at all!
After dinner Juri briefs us again and we all head to barrel number 8 to get some rest!
At 9:10pm the power comes on so I charge my camera battery and iPad. I fall asleep very quickly and wake up a few times wondering if we going...eventually Joe's snoring is so bad again that I find and put in some ear plugs-they are amazing and worth every cent spent!

Time to sleep peacefully...please weather gods be kind to us??

The Barrels: Day 2

Today we are hiking up major slopes all the way to Pastukhov Rocks.
Early breakfast so we could get going by 8am-it's about a 5 hour hike up and 1 hour down!
The snow slopes are so deceptive! It takes forever to crest a hill and things seem way closer than what they really are!
I absolutely love it, the views, the crunching of snow underfoot and the changing landscape are all I dreamt it would be and more!

I made a point of taking plenty of photos-I don't want to have any regrets later!
Everyone is doing well, we've done the first part to Priut Ruins before.
We have a good rest half way up and encounter an amazing husky dog living up at the rescue camp. He is gorgeous and we all call him over-Ray gives him some kudu biltong and Joe gives him some droewors! We watch the two people with the dog dig a bit and then collect fresh glacier water-amazing!

We carry on up-the going is harder and very steep-we basically fall into line following in Juri's tracks-he is so strong! He gave the doc his poles as docs had no snow baskets on them and sink in too deep! We go very slow, almost too slow I couldn't really get a nice rhythm going at the slow pace.
The doc tells us about counting the little flags up the slope to the top-just when you think there are only 8 it turns out its more like 15!
Ray and Robby did some nice video footage and we really got great shots! The group is looking strong and in high spirits!
Our height for today is about 4600m and we have a nice break before heading down.

Juri says we must take off our crampons to descend and we do that quickly!
Jay and I start descending quite fast with Joe catching us up. We love the sliding fast feeling of descent and once you have the bouncy rhythm sorted it's very fast! We stop and wait every now and then, as Robby mentioned we must be able to see the person in the front and back at all times!
The doc doesn't enjoy coming down at all-he zigzags the whole way down. He says his eyes want to go straight, but his legs won't!

We get back all safe and sound and get ready for a much deserved lunch!
Its quite late already so we all just do odds and ends-signal hill, reading etc!
After dinner we all hop into our bags and Ray starts a tradition of music in the dark-poor Jay does not enjoy his dads music choices, but I do!

I read my kindle, wrote some blog updates and had a great 'bed bath' feeling so fresh after the sweaty day! I must say things in the barrel smell quite ripe at times-such is mountaineering life I guess! At least I smell of baby powder!

Another great day on Mount Elbrus!

The Barrels: Day 1

We all tried to get our gear sorted and our little bed areas as comfy as possible and then lunch was served at 12pm in our kitchen container by our expedition cook Vladimir.The table was covered in food, biscuits and sweeties! If this is a sign of things to come then we have arrived!!
I had some hot chocolate, biscuits, chocolates etc before Vladimir gave us delicious borscht with bread-somehow I think I will be putting on weight here and not losing any!!

After lunch we got our harnesses and crampons on for our first acclimatization hike up to the Priut Ruins-around 4100m!
The sun was baking down on us and after only 5 minutes I took off my fleece and spent rest of hike in my t-shirt!
Oh my....the views!! I cannot describe how amazingly beautiful it is here-I can't stop taking photos! And the landscape changes every few minutes with cloud, mist etc-a proper winter wonderland.

I loved each minute of the slog up the snow slopes-Jay and I even played a game whereby we saw who could walk the furtherest with their eyes closed...I lost as I immediately veered right and kept going haha!
My first time walking with crampons was going so well-I was so chuffed with myself! It felt good and I never thought of them again. We laughed and joked the whole day-our group is getting on so well and everyone's a joker!

We rested opposite the Priut ruins on some rocks, eating snacks and drinking precious fluids! Joe tripped on his one crampon and injured his leg-a nasty looking scrape, so we are aware that we must be careful!

Juri got us all ready and showed us a quick sliding type technique for going down fast, it was awesome such fun!
The clouds had covered everything it was like a 'gorillas in the mist' scene!

We got back to the barrels and all jumped into our sleeping bags for some rest and relaxation before dinner at 7pm! It only gets dark around 9/10pm here, which works so well with no electricity.
I did some blog entries, read on my kindle and slept a little.
We got up for dinner which was hearty again and headed for our barrel straight after. The toilets are really nasty-so I'm really lucky I don't have to take Diamox and wee all the time!

We were winding down on our beds some of the group asleep when all of a sudden the light in the barrel came on!!
We whooped and screamed not quite believing our eyes! Turns out the super turns the generator on for two hours some nights from 9-11pm! Ray plugged his phone charger in so fast and lo and behold it worked!! Yay now I could play games etc on iPad and recharge tomorrow night!!

We all slept well, my bag and liner was so hot at one stage I was sweating!
All is good here in Russia....

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cheget Peak hike

We met for breakfast at 8am so that we could walk to the lift by 9am! Juri told us we may have to wait until the operator turns it on-nothing works according to schedules in Russia you know!

We walked up a path and stairs in the forest to reach the base lifts and shortly after us the military arrived with their big guns to go up-they patrol the borders constantly(Georgia is right on the mountain border).
We sneaked a few pics pretending to snap each other!

The chairlifts were amazing, hold pack on front camera dangling precariously and jump on as it comes around! Oh my word-the views!!! I was in awe from the get go! The most awesome mountains, ELBRUS and so much more-all sitting in a chairlift or two going up to 3000m plus!! I got amazing pics from my chair, I was so grateful for being able to experience this!!

Once off the lifts we started the hike-it's mainly loose scree, boulders and rocks with some patches of ice/ snow. You need to concentrate as you can fall quite easily if you don't!
We got amazing pics and saw the barrels - our Elbrus base camp - from across the valley for the first time!

The hike down was a different route, mostly scree and the boys managed a snowball throwing competition as well!

The first part of the hike was strenuous on the calves but not a tough day at all!
Back onto chairlifts-two stations and walk out of forest. We went straight to small cafe where our lunch was waiting! HUGE chicken breasts, fresh tomatoes, coleslaw and bread!

After lunch Joe, doc Nick and I hit the stalls again, souvenir shopping at its best! After the retail therapy we found a small bar/cafe place and had some coffees and drinks before heading back to our hotel to shower/repack bags for the mountain and have some dinner, check and send mails/blogs/tweets and rest well before our trip to our mountain!!

Cheget: Simerka Hotel

Our room was quite sweet-although gave a little growwwl as we had leopard print blankets haha! Luckily no telephone in the room so we didn't have to worry about any friendly ladies giving us a midnight call!

Twin beds, a small table, cupboard, bathroom with shower and a tiny balcony was all we needed for the two nights we would spend here now (another one night after our summit).

We left our bags and went down for a walk to the small local market stalls. The babushkas there sell all handmade items like knitted products, all pure wool, fur and cotton! There was also a few shops selling trinkets and souvenirs and prices generally cheap!

I bought stunning handmade cotton tops, a gorgeous beanie and Joe got some fur and wool booties etc! We will go back after we climb Mount Elbrus! The ladies can hassle a bit but nothing unfriendly-Joe even taught one to call 'Kom hier' ha ha which she did to me haha!

Dinner is strictly and yes I mean STRICTLY at 7pm sharp-the ladies were not impressed when we got in 13 min late-doc Nick came looking for us saying they got into trouble haha!
It's in the basement and a typical dinner consisted of bread, salami, cheese, borscht and either potatoe salad or coleslaw. They also love a thick pancake with cream cheese, tasty wheat porridge, and fried potatoes!
Hearty food, but not everyone's cup of tea!

The best news is that there is FREE wifi in reception-although Funnell and son did get reception on their balcony!
Funniest thing was that you always found the couches in reception full of fellow climbers all on their phones and iPads! All sitting like ducks in a row!

It's quite loud in the rooms as the stairways echo and there's always people around, but I slept really well!
Ray couldn't figure out how the fancy jet shower cubicle water turned on (seeings he is an engineer and all haha-Ray reminded me of this!) so him and Joe popped down to inform the powers that be! Haha turns out you have to pull the lower lever-a nice tip if you are planning in staying there! But beware-the jets fire on all cylinders as you pull the lever so I was soaked from head to toe in all my clothes-cold and NOT fun!

Our hotel was right next to the chairlifts which we were going to use for our acclimatization hike up Cheget Peak which was also a bonus!

The Snowcat ride from hell

So the snowcat waiting for us had an open back with makeshift benches, fuel cans etc and Jay and I squeezed in first-BIG mistake! They hoisted our big bags onto the forks at the back and with a shudder and jerk we were off! We were squashed so tightly and everyone was falling backwards onto Jay and myself.

The ride seemed exciting at first, but very quickly turned scary for me. It was so steep and rocky at places that we were slipping and sliding all over the place and I was panicking that we were going to go off the steep ridges!
We were definitely overloaded and he was not getting up these steep slopes with all of us plus luggage?!
By now I was squashed in the corner swearing and so scared I could vomit! All I wanted was for him to stop and let me off, I didn't want to be on this thing any longer.

On a very steep hill he tried a few times by reversing over and over again, but we slid down for what seemed like ages and that was it! I was getting off no matter what! We piled off onto boulders onto the side of the snow slope, but as I tried to step up I stood in a deep hole falling into it and sinking so deep only my chin was visible-haha.
At least I was laughing-must've been the relief of being off that machine!
I clung to a big rock for dear life and the driver tried over and over again, but it was not to be-a jerry can even flew off the back and slid nonstop to the bottom where it crashed into a rock!
So they said we must climb up to the left, he would go around on another track and collect everyone again!

Anyway I had already decided HELL NO I was not climbing back on that thing again so as it arrived we told Juri we would walk! It was a super steep climb over slippery ice, rocks and scree, but I wouldn't have had it any other way! The others all climbed on and Joe and I hiked up-we met them close to the top as they got stuck again, so we all arrived at the barrels together!
After unloading we were given barrel no 8-I got to choose my bed and took the last one by the window at the end!
It looked clean-ish and comfy, yay we have arrived!!!

To the mountain

After learning that the last chairlifts to the barrels (base camp) are not working, Juri decided that we rather meet at 7am for breakfast with all bags ready to go. He told us there is a chance we could hire a snowcat for 2000 rubles (about R500) to collect us with our luggage at the lifts and drive us to there. This would all depend on the snow conditions of course-if it's melting too much they can't drive on it! Think slush puppy - that's what the snow is like!

We loaded the bus with our duffels and headed off to register at the search and rescue centre-it's free and a MUST DO!!
Whilst Juri did the documentation we walked to an old army tank and took some pics-Jay even did a 'plank on a tank' haha.

The drive was quick and we arrived at the cable car station in Azau quickly.
We carried bags to the entrance and waited our turn.
Everything is old looking-from the cables to the cable car, and hang on - is that a bullet hole I just spotted in the cable car window??

I was a tad nervous as they loaded all 7 of us plus our luggage PLUS other people onto one cable car!!
The ride up to the first station is quick and then we had to transfer all our gear to the second waiting car. Mmmm this car was already piled full of mattresses, wood, jerry cans and gas cylinders?!

We piled in and got chatting with a German guy who told us about how he got stuck on the chairlifts yesterday for an hour! No one came so he abseiled down to the ground?! Once he got down a man appeared laughing-gave him 300 rubles 'cause I didn't get you to top', and he advised we not even try them if they were running again!
Lucky (or unlucky as I was to experience later) for us the snowcat was waiting for us.

I've decided to put the snowcat experience in its own entry as it really was something I could never forget!

Drive to Cheget Village

Wow-as we got off the plane this heat wave hit us-36 degrees!! We all got put in busses, which proceeded to drive us all of 300m to the little door to the arrivals hall?!

I went straight to the little cellular cubicle to find out about getting a Russian sim card as it would be way cheaper than using my vodacom sim (R25 per min calls!) and especially for data charges!

Shame the lady could only speak one or two words English, but luckily with my phrase book and the help of a FRIENDLY Russian lady they understood and I got a MTS sim with airtime for about R100! Another bonus she organized was that for 250 rubles I could get unlimited Internet too!! That's only R65!!

You also have to keep your luggage tags as they check to see if it matches before you can leave!
Our Pilgrim Tours driver Juri was waiting outside and carried my bag to the van parked miles away in 36 degree heat! There is nothing at the airport, no loos, no shops!

Our bright yellow bus was awesome, no seatbelts though! Also no aircom, open windows all the way!
Juri stopped at a garage with a cafe after about 1hour, ladies beware-rather find a bush! I went for a wee round a little wall in a field! The toilets are hideous to say the least!

We bought some ice creams, chips and goodies and were off again! The driving is insane-overtaking on corners etc! I had no handle to hang onto either!
It's very rural mostly countryside, small villages where the babushkas sit together on benches and the men gather under trees! Gorgeous views though! The river along the road runs strongly and is something to see.

We stopped for photos at a small bridge-oh and another thing: the cows own the road! I literally almost died a few times due to these beasts roaming wild!
The trip took about 4hours in total and we reached the little village of Cheget in one piece!

Off the main road onto gravel, pass a few stalls and there we are! Huge blocks of hotels (some look unfinished) and we arrived at Hotel Simerka!
We carried our bags and were given room 206 one level up from reception.

We have arrived!!!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Moscow domestic airport woes

It was an early morning again, we only got to bed around 1am and up again at 6:15, get gear ready to leave at 7am.

I spent quite some time the night before sorting out my gear as Joe and I got hit by that luggage excess at ORT and I didn't want to have issues again here in Russia!

I ended up putting my ice boots, nalgene bottles, hydration powders, biltong, snacks and more into my backpack which now weighed at least 12kg!!

Moscow is an amazing city-so diverse!! We wandered down the main roads, shopped and Red square was superb! I also went into this beautiful church with Doctor Nick and watched bit of a service-amazing!

We caught the metro back to the hotel after consuming the biggest baddest burger king!! We laughed so much as it cost about R50,00 for all 6 of us on the train!

Anyway back to our departure-at 7am we marched down the road and spotted the most amazing coffee/bakery house and sat down for breakfast.
My hot chocolate was pure melted chocolate with skinny frothy milk, and absolutely heavenly!

By the time we left back to the hotel it was spitting, and rather cool!
Our bus arrived at 7:50am for our airport transfer - it was quite big so Tortoise (aka The Funnell) lay down and slept immediately!
The drive was long and the highways packed-weekend traffic apparently!

I still get sweaty when I remember the sight that greeted us as we went through the revolving doors-pandemonium!!! No formal Q,s, basically a free for all mess of people, kids and baggage!! You had to first get to the front, then send your bags through a detector and let me tell you it sounds easier than it was!!

The Russians have no system of Q's, people push in wherever they feel like and for those of you who know me-I was getting more upset by the minute! Until I was reminded to just go with the flow....
We did get through but half of boarding passes wouldn't print, wrong lines and then the excess weight-I saw Robby was sweating up a storm, as we all were! Yay thanks leader, no fees to be paid!!

Now for the final security clearance....da da da dum....oh yes please, shoes off, get into a standing MRI type scanner and wait!! Then go through to the scary ladies motioning for me to open my bags...'wat is dees'-she says pointing at the screen with a latexed finger??? I now broke out into a sweat imagining that latex glove doing all kinds of internal searching depending on my reply!!?! Anyway-Richard this one's for you-it was my little baggies of white powdered energy drink and my little led lantern with batteries causing all the concern! Well just put that latex covered finger away babushka I can explain!!!

She swabbed the powder did a drug test and I opened the lantern and within 7min I was home free...sho I was exhausted!! Poor old JaySun (aka Stretch) had to have his whole bag swabbed haha-something like hand cleanser had leaked he thinks!!

Joe tells me poor old Robby (aka TinTin and fatty) caused quite a stir when his Everest knife was discovered!?! He completely forgot it was in his carry on-what a sad situation-he had to give it up!!
Apparently the lady first pointed at Joe and said 'you, why you have this'- anyway he quickly uttered no no its his bag (pointing at Robby) haha so much for having his back hey!!

Once through we grabbed some juices, free wifi and boarded - what a nice surprise to learn our flight would only take 1:45min and not 2:35 as thought!!

More on our arrival to follow!


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Photos: Day 1-2

What a mission it turned out to be with my blogger etc being in Russian?!?! I'm guessing what to push as I go along so please bear with me!!

Today was amazing on Cheget Peak, but more about that later!
It's 4:20pm here-2:20pm in SA now!

Lots of pics still to be downloaded!

More pics on my Facebook page: candy Hooke

Day 1: Moscow

We had an amazing afternoon, lots of laughing and sightseeing! It's 10:09pm here already and it's still not even completely dark outside yet!! We got back to the hotel about 25min ago, I couldnt believe it was so late already! We canned the steakhouse idea and opted for good old Burger King haha-although Doctor Nick had the most amazing looking chicken and broccoli bake from a store which slogan read: 'you will never drink alone again' haha I loved that-pics to follow!! Red square is amazing and so big!! We couldn't get in properly and see the basilica etc as they are having some sort of concert/event there! Luckily we have another day here on our way back! We all got to buy some awesome Russian fur hats-KGB hats as I call them and Ray even found an awesome hip flask for a bargain! The first place I tried the KGB hat on wanted 5000 rubles!!?! Anyway I figured it was real fur-gross so no loss there! We struck a deal with an old guy and ended up paying only about R70 each!! We laughed so so much I absolutely loved it-we all get on amazingly and I am so so excited for the mountains tomorrow!! We could not have picked a better group ourselves I am so grateful!! Ray has some awesome pics on his blog so please click through to there! His web page is listed here under links on my blog or it's I will sort out my pics etc once I'm sorted with packing etc' as we got caught in Joburg with a R1300 excess baggage charge!! They told me my bag was 26kg!!! Nonsense I say!! Anyway so now I need to go sort it out by moving heavy stuff to my backpack-and maybe even wearing my plastic ice boots (in 25 degree weather!!?) I seriously need a shower now, and we need to meet at 7am to get to the airport in time!! Fun and games in Russia!!! My next post will be way more exciting I promise!!!

Moscow: Holiday Inn Lesnaya

We have arrived! Another hectic day of travelling, but managed to sleep on flight from Doha!
Everyone is having a quick shower/refresher and then we are off on a bit of sightseeing, money changing and finally dinner at a great steakhouse close to our hotel!

Russia looks completely different to what I expected-it's beautiful, green and really interesting. There is free wi-fi in the lobby so at the moment I'm sitting in the little cafe taking advantage as the roaming rates are not cheap!

The hotel is buzzing, we're waiting for Funnell and son....aka tortoise and stretch and then we're off! - I will post pics, currency info and many funny stories tonight!

Friday, 22 June 2012

In Transit...

Just a quick note to let all the families and friends know we are all safe and sound in Doha, Qatar!  We will be boarding for the mother city Moscow, Russia in about 20min!  In the airport lounge, using the pc's here!

We are all tired, with very swollen scratchy eyes (aircon for the last 24 hours), but in good spirits!
The showers didn't work out here, but a porra bath in the lovely bathrooms was fine for now :-)

We will be flying out at 7:40am (they are one hour ahead of SA time) and the flight is around 5hrs 30min!
We anticipate reaching the hotel in Moscow (Holiday Inn Lesnaya) around 4pm today...sho, it's a long day again!! 

Anyway, can't spend too much time here, my eyes are only as big as slits right now and I can see Joe getting ready to roll!

I will post something this evening, with all info on, cheers for now!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My last training run

So there I was this morning - getting dressed for my last official training run before we leave tomorrow.  I couldn't help but feel a little twinge of...sadness?? Not in the 'I want to bawl my eyes out' kind of way - more of something that's come to an end - you know that feeling?  Now don't get me wrong, it's not literally the end of anything, merely this chapter in my adventure...and as hard and cold as it was on some days, I now realise that it became such a big part of my routine that it's going to be so strange for it to change now...

Anyway, I immediately dried my hypothetical tears and decided that a new challenge is to be set on my trip - so by the time I get back home I can jump straight into the next chapter of a new adventure!
I don't quite know what it's going to be (I would have loved for it to be Aconcagua in December/Jan, but alas I need to save first...), it may be an awesome trail run series/half ironman or just another half marathon, but I've realised that life is so much more fun with a goal and purpose in mind...I'd hate to just be slogging along day by day with no direction.  As a parent, I really really hope and pray that I can pass a little of how amazing life can be with goals in mind down to my girls, and that they one day have the same love of adventure that Joe and I have...I can see many hikes and mountain climbs in our future together as a family...just seeing how amazing the bond is between Ray Funnell and his son Jayson really just cements my belief in how important this is!

Back to the run of this morning....I managed a nice 1hour session on the treadmill, at a good pace and wasn't tired or out of breath at was an awesome way for me to end this training chapter, as I did have a few worrying thoughts like 'had I trained enough?', 'will I slow the others down' etc...
I feel so good, I've worked hard and now the rest is up to the weather gods, the logistics and probably just plain old good luck!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Team

I should have done this quite a lot sooner, but there seems to be so much I want to say and too few hours to say it in!!

We had our final briefing session at Drifters in Sandton City last night.  Sean Disney from Adventure Dynamics did the presentation, which included slides and a lot of useful information on our trip.
We also got to finally meet Dr Nick Saragas whom we had not met before.  I think we are going to have an amazing trip - everyone seems laid back and easy to get along with!

So then, our team departing on Friday 22 June consists of:

1.  Robby Kojetin - Guide

2.  Joe Segers - My other half


3.  Ray Funnell - Leukaemia Survivor & founder of


4.  Jayson Funnell -  Ray's son and youngest member of the team!


5.  Doctor Nick Saragas

I promise to post a pic as soon as find one!!

6.  Bryan (I'm embarrassed to say we have not met this member yet!)

7.  Candy Hooke (me)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Packing tips: Snacks & Hydration

  Now this is a subject very dear to my heart....if I don't have my snacks I am not a happy girl!
I learnt the hard way whilst climbing Kilimanjaro that I need to remember to not only pack sweet snacks, but also some savoury items - as on Kili, Joe and I eventually 'traded & bartered' with some of our team for theirs!  So we would swap Niknaks for a small cube of cheese with a pro vita cracker!  In times of desperation and all that....

So here I am this time, making sure I have my absolute essentials!  

In terms of hydration - everyone has their own theories on what you should/shouldn't be taking/adding/drinking etc, but be sure whatever you do, that you test it out way in don't want to get to the mountain and have an allergic reaction or worse because of a new 'tonic' someone suggested you try!
I went to a specialised store - Pace & Power - in Johannesburg and got the right powdered drink for me.  I do not like sweet drinks, so this one is flavourless (with a hint of lemon - think a slice of lemon in a glass of water perhaps).  It is an electrolyte plus it has many others goodies in it too for energy and it aids with recovery as well.

Again, the snacks were packed into individual ziplock bags - removing unnecessary packaging.  

My tip is to take a few extra empty ziplock bags and then I will pack myself a little snack bag everyday for each hike/ on a rest I just whip out the baggy and choose what I feel like!  I also carry some energy lozenges/gum/nougat in my pockets for a quick snack/energy boost when I need it, without having to stop!

After my snacks are packed and sorted, I turn to the hydration.  For weight purposes and for ease of use, I measure out exactly the right amount of powder I need per bottle - I'm using Nalgene bottles, 1l each - and then put it into individual ziplock bags.

Once packed, I seal them tightly and roll the bags.  I then take the bags and stuff them into the empty Nalgene bottle  - this way I don't waste space and everything is kept neat for travel!  You can also stuff all your energy bars and carabiners into these bottles, and carry them in your hand luggage as they can weigh quite a bit!

You learn new tips and tricks as you go along, and I'm sure I will learn a lot on this trip!


Monday, 18 June 2012

First Aid Kit Checklist

Please note that my list is good for me, so be sure to consult your doctor to find out what is good for you!
Many of the items here are purely for emergencies, and I hope not to have to use them!


  1. Broad Spectrum Anti-biotic
  2. Anti-nausea (non-sedative)
  3. Strong painkiller (Stilpayne etc)
  4. Diamox
  5. Strong Anti-inflammatory/muscular pain (Voltaren etc)
Over the counter:

  1. Immodium (Stop diarrhoea)
  2. Valoid (Anti-nausea - only at night as it causes drowsiness)
  3. Grandpa tablets (general headaches, also helps with altitude)
  4. Reuteri - pro biotic drops (stomach upsets)
  5. Teejel/similar - ulcers (numb mouth/gums)
  6. Foot powder - stops perspiration/friction
  7. Transact patches - great for sore muscles (stick on and go)
  8. Grabber warmers - body, feet, hands (can't be without)
  9. Sinuclear - colds/flu/sinusitis
  10. Andolex throat spray - sore throats
  11. Corenza C - effervescent cold and flu tabs
  12. Lip Ice
  13. Vaseline
  14. Ear buds, cotton wool, gauze
  15. Bactroban - antiseptic ointment
  16. Ear drops - pain
  17. Eye drops - moisture/irritation
  18. Friars Balsam - blister care
  19. Blister plasters (glacier gel)
  20. Moleskin
  21. Felt pads
  22. Stretch bandage (sprains etc)
  23. Hand sanitiser (get a few small ones)
  24. Antiseptic alcohol wipes
  25. Voltaren gel (muscle rub)
  26. Small scissors
  27. Tweezers
  28. Anti-histamine cream/lotion (itches, bites/reactions)
  29. Nose spray
  30. Tranquilyte/similar - natural herbal sedative/relaxant
  31. Shoelaces
  32. Anti-septic air/surface spray (barrels)
  33. Water purification drops
  34. Agiolax (for constipation)
  35. Lighter
  36. Elastic bands
It's best to customize your first aid kit and pack what you know works for you.

As mentioned in the previous post, always have prescribed medication with you as it's not easy to replace should your bags get delayed or lost!

Packing Tips: First Aid Kit/Medical

As we are on the homestretch now, with only 4 days to go (yikes), I had to spend most of the weekend sorting through gear and getting all the essentials packed.
There are many websites (just google) which give loads of tips and tricks on expedition packing, and I think my way works very well - there's always a new tip to be found though, so my lists are by no means the be all and end all!

For ease of reference I will break it down:

  • Ziplock bags - these will be your new best friend
  • Keep prescribed medication labels/tags (just in case)
  • Share the load (if one bag goes missing - you have a backup!)
  • Keep prescription meds in your pack with you (you can always replace otc meds easily)
  • Leave meds in their blister packs, but do away with bulky boxes
  • Stick to what you know...don't try strange things on expeditions

1.  Take a blanket/throw and spread out all the medication you will be taking with you.  Arranging it all together like this makes it easier to see what is missing, or what you have too much of.

2.  Start grouping things together: for example, I bag a 'blister' kit, putting friar's balsam, blister pads plasters etc together in one ziplock bag. You can also write on the front of each bag.   

3.  I remove all the boxes and unnecessary packaging from my prescription meds, cut out the labels with the info on them and pack that together (I used a small plastic container which I found at the plastic shop for R6.00).  When cutting the pills into individuals off the blister pack, be sure not to break the air seal and also to have the name of the pill on the silver side (you don't want to have issues guessing which pill is what on the mountain)

4.  I try and make 2 bags for each set of medications - so two blister bags, 2 cold and flu bags, 2 painkiller bags - this way Joe and I split the medications and (God forbid) if one of our bags do go missing we at least have a back-up set of meds to use.  Obviously if you are a single traveller this won't work, but you could split it into checked luggage and hand luggage!

5.  Once all your meds are wrapped up in their individual ziplock bags, you can pack the lot into one central bag - I use soft stuff sacks, but you could use clear plastic bags/toiletry bags.  Remember it's all about packing light!

See how all the meds on the top images can be packed and compacted to this:

In my next chapter I will give you my complete list!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Everest climber Robby Kojetin

We all love inspirational people, and even more so when we actually get to spend climbing a mountain with them!  I'm one of the lucky ones - Robby Kojetin will be our guide on our climb on Mount Elbrus in Russia on 22 June 2012.  Robby forms part of the Adventure Dynamics International company who we booked our trip through.

Me being me, when I first heard that some guy called 'Robby' was to be our guide and not Sean Disney who I was expecting, I had to immediately get onto the interweb and airwaves and do some investigating on this chap...well let me tell you something!  This guy called Robby has a cv of note...and once I had been to his website I knew that we were in for an awesome experience in more than capable hands!

Robby Kojetin became the 17th South African in history to summit Mount Everest on 23 May 2009 in scouring winds and -40˚C below zero.
But there is more to his story than that. In April 2006, Robby took a fall at an indoor climbing facility, breaking nearly every bone in both ankles. 

As an established climber, having summited 3 of the 7 Summits, not even eight months in a wheelchair nor the five painful surgeries could deter him from achieving his life goal. The summit of Mount Everest and returning safely.

Robby’s high-altitude career started over a few cups of coffee which led to the idea of climbing Africa’s 3 highest peaks. After summiting Mount Kilimanjaro at 22, he set his sights on the highest peak in the Andes, Aconcagua, a monster mountain at 6962m high.

In 2004, Robby stood atop of Mount Elbrus, the highest point on the European continent. Since then he has climbed in Peru, Kenya and the Himalaya.

Now Robby enjoys the privilege of speaking to corporate and school groups alike with his uplifting and inspiring story. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he is available to speak to your group and reignite the passion and inspiration that makes them who they are.

I had the privilege of meeting Robby a couple of weeks back as he had arranged some gear for us, and I was quite nervous at first...I shouldn't have even worried....he is just the easiest person to get along with and he has a great sense of humour! I have asked him pages and pages of questions over email, Facebook you name it and not once has he gotten annoyed with this girl!  I've learnt so much from him already and I cannot wait to learn much more on our trip!

Watch this space as I will be asking Robby to guest blog on my page as soon as he can!

You can follow his blog via his homepage and follow him on Twitter:  @EverestRob

Monday, 11 June 2012

Mastering my crampons...

I've been really nervous about managing to get my crampons on and off whilst wearing gloves, in minus 10 degrees with no I took it upon myself this weekend, and did some practising.
Now for those of you as 'green' as me in this department, just open that box slowly...crampons are seriously scary at first...once I had taken them out the packaging, I thought that I would never figure them out!  They are sharp, they clang and there are bits and pieces that move, tie and so much more!

The best advice I can give you here is this:  YOUTUBE!! It's my new favourite friend!! I have learnt tons on there, from putting on crampons, to  stuffing a down jacket!  It's incredible how people just know what people need to to familiarise myself with crampons in general I watched a pile of videos from how to walk in crampons, different techniques and then how to get them on and off safely.  Do yourself a favour, go watch these videos, they will give you a bit more courage to attempt it yourself!

Joe helped me a bit, I placed them on a folded towel on a concrete floor and then stepped into them, toes down and first, clipped the toe clip up and then pushed my heel down.  I then had to wrestle the plastic back clip for a while, I thought it would break I was pulling so hard, but we were told they must be tight, and voila! Eventually I got the hang of it and can now put both on quite comfortably...but in saying that, I'm sure it's a different story once I'm on the glacier, in the dark with thick gloves on!

A little tip:  I painted bright lumo pink nail polish onto my right crampon's front foot lever...I just wanted to make it a little easier for myself in adverse conditions to immediately put the right one at the right boot!

For now I've left them in their box, as soon as the bags arrive I will repack them into that.  You need to pack them point to point in the back to avoid the spikes spiking through the bag and causing chaos!

It's a lot to take in and learn all at once - walking in the plastic boots is hard enough as it is...I feel like a space man waddling from side to side...they are also heavy on their own, but once the crampons are added it really becomes tricky!

I'm very excited to try these for real, and will definitely report back!

Packing starts....

So this weekend I decided to start the packing process, although I'm sure I will pack and re-pack again at least 3 times before we leave in 10 days!!!! YES 10 DAYS!! I'm getting super excited now...and also nervous about the weather!

I've got a 120/130l duffel bag which is seriously 2 girls and I can climb into it comfortably haha!

At first I thought that I had seriously bought it too big, but after folding, rolling etc I see that it really is a good size, and that my goodies will fill it quite nicely...although I am being strict as I really can't afford to pay thousands on excess once we have to board the smaller plane from Moscow to Mineralye Vody - and from what I've read online MOST groups always have to pay in anyway...and I'm of the opinion that it's not fair to expect anyone to pay for someone else's selfish packing - so if I know I'm going to overpack, then I need to take responsibility for my weight...

I've packed all my gear into separate ziplock bags, and I will also be adding a few large black bin liners to the top and bottom - which I will be using once we get to the mountain anyway.  I've been told they come in handy at the barrels, as it can be quite filthy so I can use them to line my wooden sleeping area before placing my pad or anything down!  And I believe they make really fun bum slides on the slopes :-)

I have a few gear items still arriving from the States in the next week - my great friend Nats is bringing that back  for me.  I've ordered crampon bags, goggles, glacier glasses, lens filters for my camera, some new sports bras and some glacier cream/zinc sunblock products.  I'm so so lucky to have her bring these goodies back, again I saved loads of money, had way more to choose from and I just love the US online shopping sites, it's incredible!
To give you an example of how I saved and why it is worth the trouble and wait:

  • Oakley goggles - I paid R480, priced in South Africa at R1699!!
  • Julbo glacier glasses - I paid R450, priced in South Africa at R1200 and up!
  • Lens Filter for my DSLR camera - I paid R195, priced at R545 in South Africa!

I love a bargain!!!

Next up, I will be chatting about my crampons, boots and a few other goodies!


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Current weather conditions on Elbrus

click here for main weather site Weather for Mount Elbrus, RS
max/min (°C)
-2 | -8
-5 | -11
-3 | -10
1 | -10
2 | -10
wind (kph):