Thursday, 5 July 2012

Barrels: Day 4

Woke up quite disappointed and worried! Apparently the snow storm was raging the whole night, both Juri and Robby checked continuously, but it was just not meant to be!
The realization that we could possibly not summit at all finally hit me and it was an awful feeling. It's not just the money or time and effort that goes into planning an expedition like this-it's the sense of 'did I try hard enough before giving up'??.
I trained damn hard for this mountain and I was never under the impression that it was supposed to be a sunny stroll up slopes....Elbrus is known to be a bad weather mountain, but that's what all the expensive gear is for! Of course safety comes first and being a mother I would never do anything stupid!

Anyway off to breakfast around 9am, I think everyone had the thought in mind that this could potentially be the end of our trip...but no one really said so.
We were in mid laughter at the table when Juri casually strides in and says 'your packs still packed? We go NOW'!!
Well there was absolute stunned silence for a minute or two until the whoops and yays erupted! We cleared that mess hall faster than you could say summit!

Nothing like adrenalin pumping, grabbing gear, changing, looking for sunblock-this was it!! My pack was loaded with extra warm clothing, I was not going to suffer later! Crampons on and off we go to the waiting snowcat (beast). I sat on the left corner bench not wanting to be squashed again-another BAD idea! And we're off...all seemed ok for 5 minutes and then it was chaos...the damn thing was sliding so far left and at such speed that I screamed 'stop I don't wanna die!'.
The driver tried to correct the situation, but by now all I could see were rocks and a very steep fall down the glacier!
Robby immediately said no ways 'I'm calling this' and whistled for Juri's attention. We all piled off - my packed lunch packet breaking and sending an apple, chocolate and juice flying through the air! I was so scared the beast would roll onto me, I was using all I had to jump through the thigh high deep snow to get around to safer ground! All I remember seeing was underneath the beasts scraper bucket thing, imagining falling under there!!

I kept walking as far as I could to put a safe distance between myself and the beast. Everyone was talking, shouting and giving their opinion on what the best course of action was to be. Robby wanted us all to walk back to base camp immediately, Ray and I were keen to carry on....anyway we all went down back to the barrels, a lot of disappointment and frustration all around. The other SA team was hiking up and quite surprised to see us on our way down again...

I mentioned to Robby that I would be keen to possibly join them in a third/fourth summit attempt if need be so he did chat a while whilst we all continued down.
I think the most frustrating part is that I know my fitness levels, I know I'm acclimatized and I also know that thinking you're going to summit in beautiful sunshine is not realistic here! As Juri said-people summit in these conditions all the time-that's just the weather on Elbrus.

Back at the barrels we all sort of voiced opinions and worked out logistics for possibly having another day to try. Things such as 'I'm happy we tried, ready to go' etc were said, which I totally appreciate, but for me I have to try harder! I need to know I gave it my all before heading home and at this stage I don't feel I have.
We meet in the mess hall to chat with Juri, I download the latest snow and weather forecasts for him so that he can see what we could possibly do or not do.
Eventually the decision is made to get up at 12am, get fully dressed in all the warm stuff, eat at 1am and be in the snowcat by 2am. By leaving so early we give ourselves more time if the snow is very deep up higher and also get to possibly summit on a clear day-the weather report for the top is great! It's getting to Paschtukov rocks that's the issue! It's a 4-5 hour hike from the barrels and Robby feels it can't be done in one day safely.

For the rest of the afternoon we watch the slopes and cats like hawks-they seem to be ploughing a lot of snow off the tracks. We can also see how off course we drove and slid-miles from the regular route-Juri thinks as it was whiteout conditions the driver may have veered off left and then slid!
A few cats go up the slopes ferrying people so it can be done, it's all just a game of roulette I guess! The sun beating down is also not a good thing as that will cause more snow to fall, which is exactly what happens around 5/6pm. Granted its not half as bad as the day before, but still very concerning indeed!

After dinner we get gear sorted again and try to get to sleep around 8pm. I put ear plugs in immediately and fell asleep about 25min later...which brings us to now. It's 11:23pm and I have been awake since 9:56pm! I just couldn't go back to sleep no matter how hard I tried! So I gave up and updated this blog instead! I can hear a few of the team tossing and turning, so I'm sure a few are also awake! Joe is snoring away as per usual, so at least he is getting some rest!

I'm praying for a miracle and for the snowcat driver....if we can get that beast safely up the slopes I believe we have a great chance at summiting today!
Holding thumbs and toes!!!

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