Dream World Adventures presents: 

 Elbrus 2011 Adventures Blog



YouTube video of our 2010 expedition (courtesy of Henk Cronje):



Rose Gardner - group leader

Joseph Shava

Cronje Grove

Eldaline Botha

Similo Sibisi

Lerato Thwane

Lazarus Muchenje

Thys Franken



Sat 30 July ’11 – Sun 31 July ‘11

Although Thys flew ahead a couple of days prior and ‘broke trail’ - awaiting our return in Moscow, I will write of our experiences as from our departure on the evening of Saturday 30th July.


The best made plans often fail, and sadly so it was that the planned meeting of the team at the Qatar Airlines check-in counter never realized since everyone arrived at the airport in drips and drabs. Similo’s hand luggage caused much consternation because they insisted it was overweight and no matter the amount of package and repacking we did, he eventually checked his North Face backpack, which according to the scale weighed a whopping 7kgs EMPTY, in as a 2nd baggage item! Then at last we were all through passport control and waiting on our departure at just before 10pm. Our connection time at Doha was only a half hour and that 36C heat at 7am took its toll. The airline & ground staff can be commended on their efficiency! Short transfer and all – it felt like minutes before we were seated on our next flight to Moscow and sat there waiting for our baggage to catch up and be loaded onto the plane.


Our arrival in Moscow was as per usual very hot and humid. Our Russian contact was waiting to meet us and we made quick work of getting the baggage and our flight-weary bodies into the van and on the way to the hotel. Now those who have been to Russia before will know that bureaucracy is alive and well here and the red tape governing almost every aspect of life is frustrating, to say the least, but eventually we were all checked in and headed to rooms to freshen up quickly before heading out on the food hunt. The market nearby has tasty shashlik (kebabs) that went down very well and the team got to know each other a little better. Later, some of the group ventured out on the metro to catch a first glimpse of Red Square and little sleep was had by most, but it was fitting greeting to the city!

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Mon 01 Aug ‘11

Up early and to breakfast as we were to leave for the airport at 8am for our flight down south to Mineralnye Vody. A stressful time it was! Peak time traffic is not any fun in this city. Thankfully we made it comfortably and the S7 check-in staff were a friendly (!) lot and we were grateful for minimal excess baggage costs. The 2hr flight was quite pleasant and after a snack we were soon descending to MinVody. Here the ambient temperature was something awful and having bags, backpacks, plastic boots etc to worry about, we were wilting fast and in dire need of some hydration. The drive to Pyatigorsk, capital of the central Stavropol region, was quick enough and uneventful. Our past days’ travel, coupled with the hot summer days, had begun to take a toll and although everyone was excited to be closer to the mountains, another long road to the Base Camp trip lay ahead, and the remoteness of our goal in this vast country that stretches 11 time zones, hit home!

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Tue 02 Aug ‘11

After a 5am start, armed with lunch packets, we were bundled into 2 vehicles and made our way south. The distance really is not what takes time it’s the condition of the roads. After around 5 hours of bouncing around with luggage threatening to come hurtling at you, we reached a river, with our tented Base Camp (2 500m) nestled in the valley, welcoming us on the other side. The awesome views of Elbrus and the sweeping vistas made the trip worthwhile.

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Excitement was tangible – here we were – poised and ready for the expedition!  After a delicious meal prepared by Helena (a highly skilled cook that we all became terribly fond of) and a rest, we took a walk in the valley to stretch the legs and clear the cobwebs – a blessing after the days of planes, trains and automobiles. Again we crossed over the river(over and not through this time, like we did in the vehicles earlier), where Viktor pointed out a mineral spring where fresh water, carbonated by natural gas, flows. The water is said to have healing properties and the local people drink it as a cure for a number of ailments. It was tasty and refreshing and as you can imagine, we all filled our bottles to the brim. As we were sitting there, so a local Balkarian farmer invited us to his home. This might not seem noteworthy to most, but for us, absolute strangers who he invited in so generously to share with him what little he had, it was the most humbling experience and a gesture none of us will ever forget. On arrival back at camp, Helena had once again worked her magic and being warm and fed, it was not too difficult this time to soon be fast asleep.

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Wed 03 Aug ‘11

Today was an acclimatization day to the Mushroom Rocks (3 200m), and what a day it was! The most unpredictable weather...hot, cold, wind, rain…combined with steep scree slopes and more rain. In the end though, it was a good day and everyone was healthy and raring to go and get started with the task at hand
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Thu 04 Aug ‘11

After a mostly sleepless night for me, breakfast was at 8.30am and last arrangements, packing and re-packing were done and we set off for high camp at 3 800m.  The going was tough in places with stretches over large rock moraine boulders and stretches of compacted, slippery snow – not to mention the path bordering the river near Base Camp that had given everyone nightmares the day before. We made good time and were grateful to get into camp and into our tents for some rest.  Anna, our high camp cook, was just as much a magician as Helena down below and after a good dinner we retired to our tents for some shut-eye. The wind came up ferociously later that night and we could only pray for better conditions in the days to come



Fri 05 Aug ‘11

Today was another classic example of how the best made plans often falter! Last night we were briefed on the plan of action for the acclimatization hike up to Lenz Rocks 4 800m – breakfast 9am, ready to rumble at 10am. We were 45min behind schedule in the end and frustration was running high. After about 40min in, we stopped to rope up as a precaution against crevasse accidents. It was tough going as we wound our way up the slope. The radiant heat off the snow was exhausting and with a stretch across crevasse-country prohibiting any water stops, we were thankful to have a break at a rocky outcrop just below Lenz Rocks. Our guide said it was enough for the day and after a good rest we headed down to camp.      

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Sat 06 Aug ‘11

Rest day! At last, most of us managed to have a good nights’ rest and were thankful to have a late lie-in as well. The day was spent lazing round camp, conserving energy and preparing for what lay ahead. The group’s pace the day before on acclimatization was not the fastest and after lunch the plan of action for our summit bid was discussed. We would begin in the early morning hours and form 2 groups. On reaching the first part of Lenz Rocks at 4 800 and after assessing how the group was doing at that point with regard to health and the time, the first group would set off to the summit with the next in pursuit.

Of course nerves and excitement prevented any worthwhile sleep!    




Sun 07 Aug ‘11

We rose to an amazingly clear and windless morning, for which we were most grateful! In the crisp darkness we donned crampons and set off. Roped up again 40 min in and continued the slow trudge up the snow slope. As the sun broke over the horizon it was a sight so overwhelmingly beautiful that the privilege of experiencing it brought on strong emotions.  At Lenz Rocks, we split the group as we had talked about the day before and Cronje, Thys & Similo together with Viktor hiked ahead, with the rest of us in tow together with Andrey.  At 5 200m Lerato felt shaky and decided to turn back, and Lazarus too in support. Eldaline, unbeknownst to me, and even herself at the time was suffering from the onset of an asthma attack and wisely turned back – a life-saving decision in the end! Shava & I headed up the steep snow slope towards the Eastern Summit and as we crested the summit plateau, so the others were coming down.  It was late and rather than carrying on, we celebrated on the spot and turned homebound. Energies were at their lowest and even getting back to camp was a challenge in thick fog over the crevasse field. Eventually we arrived and were welcomed by Anna, our cook, with a great dinner. 

Well done to all!!

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Mon 08 Aug ‘11

This would have been a reserve day for bad weather, which we didn’t need, so we happily made our way down to Base Camp and celebrated in style with beer and even a bottle of merlot and Helena cooking up a storm! It was a good night and sleep was not far off.




Tue 09 Aug ‘11

A last breakfast was enjoyed by all and we packed and broke camp, waiting for our ride back to ‘civilization’ in Pyatigorsk. We feasted at a local café on braaied lamb chops and again celebrated all that this expedition had meant to each of us. It was sad to be leaving the mountains.

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Wed 10 Aug ‘11

An early flight saw us back in Moscow before lunch, though the traffic en-route to the hotel was crazy and I stand corrected in that it took a couple of hours, by which time everyone was once again fatigued by the hours of travelling. Then it was off to Red Square for some last sightseeing in the rainy weather.



Tue 11 Aug ‘11

A day at leisure was spent by all, exploring art galleries and old Arbat Street.  In the afternoon we left Lerato, Lazarus & Thys behind since they would be taking a midnight train to St. Petersburg to properly rid themselves of the mountain dust and explore this beautiful ‘Venice of the North’.  



If you want to Journey to mysterious Russia with Dream World Adventureson our
 Mt. Elbrus expedition 2012
 Click here




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