After all, everything went well. We got to Azau after lunch, and entered happily the hotel of Pilgrim Tour, where we had a room and 2 meals waiting for us. Our guests congratulated us for the summit, and the boys asked again if the diplomas were ready. They were not, so I said that we preferred to have them at dinner, so that I can take a picture of everyone getting it.
We showered, unpacked, cleaned the gear and dried the tents. We wanted only one room, so that we could pack everything easily the next day.
„Now that we have done it in 5 days, we can all go to Bezengi” said Tibi. „That was the whole point, that is why we tried so much to do it so fast”. Tibi had to go on the 22-23rd of August in Turkey, to climb Ararat Mountain with an international expedition (and he did!). Until then, we all wanted to see the true face of the Caucasus.
Elbrus is the highest point of Europe, with it’s 5642m. But it’s a volcano, it’s slopes are nothing like the ones of the true mountains. We decided from home to go to the toughest place around there, the Bezengi area. This is for the Caucasus what Fagaras is for Romania. A very difficult ridge, called by locals the Unknown Paradise. As we learned later, this is the most beautiful mountain area in Rusia and in the south-east of Europe. The Small Himalayas. We also knew that Bezengi Camp (Bezengi Lager in Russian) was the capital of the Russian alpinism. From Elbrus to this base camp there are 230 km by car. For entering it, you need a special border permit, because from the top of the mountains you can climb down in Georgia. On the road there was a military post, very well defended, where you got your papers checked. ( We got our permit from Pilgrim-Tours, thanks for that too!). Tired and happy, we decided to sleep and pack in the morning. „Tomorrow we’ll get down to business”. „Yeap, to the Bezengi Wall”.
Lada! The Taxi that took us to our destination. We negotiated the price to 65 dollars, but he wanted 200 at the destination. After some bad almost-smashing re-negotiation, we gave him 90 dollars. As the usual fee is 150-200, he said 65 to fool us in the end. His problem was he didn’t know who are the people he wanted to fool…
Two snow leopard statues, the protectors of the alpinists and of the Elbrus region. „Snow Leopard” is the highest decoration for climbers in the former Soviet Union, and it is given for climbing all 5 peaks above 7000m.
Our taxi driver left us at the border, because he had no permit. The patrols made no exception. From the Border to the Camp, there are 20 km. With no car coming our way, we decided to eat before walking all that distance. On foot, with our backpacks, it would have been at least interesting…
After about 6 km on foot, we started to take small breaks every 10 minutes. All of us had huge backpacks, just like the ones at the beginning. You couldn’t even walk in the heavy boots because of the rocks and dirt. We had to carry them. 2.5 kg a pair.
We reached the camp at midnight, after a long and harsh road. You will see how it was on the videos that I will upload later on. We thought everything was fine, reaching the camp, but we discovered in the dark that one of Lucian’s boots was missing. So Lucian and I took the headlamp and went back with the driver to search for it. It would have been a disaster without it, as Lucian only had snow boots and sandals. Without backsacks, we could come back the 20 km by foot by the middle of the night.
It was an adventurous thought, but it wasn’t necessary. In the middle of the night, we met the local bus that goes every day to the camp (nobody knew it existed), and the driver had the boot. So we returned to the camp much faster, for free this time (it was only 8-10 km) and with the gear completed again.
We were there, in the middle of the paradise. No sign of the mountains, as it was pitch black outside. Some houses in the Lager, few lights and a tent. We decided to camp near it, and sleep until the next day. The truly hard climb was about to begin.