One way to alleviate the excruciating boredom of climbing the fire staircase as part of my training routine is surfing the internet on my phone. (Yes, it can be done, although it is easier on the way down than up and it is certainly not possible while going backwards.) As part of that practice, I have possibly read every blog ever written about Mt. Elbrus, ranging from the missives sent by the ubiquitous Pilgrim Tours (who publish success ratios for each of their almost weekly climbs once the season starts) to past worldwide wrestling pro John Layfield’s diary of his ill fated attempt to summit a couple of years ago. I
haven’t ignored YouTube either. I have stayed up many a night viewing other people’s clips of the Barrel Huts, the snow, and sometimes, the summit.
What all these have in common is their utter lack of consistency. You go from the cheery Canadians planting their flag at the summit under almost clear skies to the blog from the South African woman whose group gets caught in a storm just meters from the summit and who has to struggle for hours through deep, deep snow to get back down. There’s one video that seems to consist of nothing but climbers collapsed in a heap while snow pelts down on them.
Last Thursday I watched and read enough of these that I awoke Friday wondering just what the heck I was I actually planning on doing. How do we know whether we are going to encounter blue skies or will we fall victim to the truly dangerous mountain gods? But, it didn’t take much more than remembering how I felt when we reached the top of Kilimanjaro in all its icy splendor, or the views of the wind whipped rock and stone of Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail, to get me going again. Two weeks from today. Countdown is on.