Caucasus. Getting down fast. 2009.08.12
I was awaken by the wind. Lucian was already up, enjoying the warmth of the sleeping bag. „Damn, we should have gone a bit lower yesterday”.” Myeah, today it’s pretty shitty outside.”
How are you? asked Lucian. Very good, a little tired. Same here, I don’t feel sick any more. How are the fingers? He couldn’t feel them yet, even though they were warm. Well, they look pink, it might be a starting frostbite, but it doesn’t look serious. Only our noses were red, even though not burned by the sun. We were careful yesterday. „If I had known that we would stay up here, I would have tried to climb yesterday the East Summit also.” „Me too, I answered, but after 2 and a half hours up there, I wasn’t in shape”. „We would have done it anyway” „Yeah, probably, but now this is it. Let’s eat and get down from this hell”.
We didn’t ask Tibi and Ileana how they were in the first place, we barely could hear them from the other tent. Ileana said that Tibi wasn’t feeling very well, but we thought it wasn’t severe. After breakfast, before packing, I went to their tent to check if everything was all right. Tibi was sleeping, Ileana said he barely had barely eaten the previous day. He was thirsty, suffered from equilibrium loss, had strange dreams and muscle fatigue. „He can’t go down like this. You and Lucian will have to get the backpacks down, and then come after us.” Pff, this was bad news, as we were also tired. Doing the climb twice would have compromised the second part of the expedition, as we would have exhausted ourselves. „I’ll talk to Lucian and see what we can do”. Our decision was to repack 4 backpacks into 3, and carry Tibi down along with them. It would have been hard, but easier than climbing down, then up and then down again.
We told them the decision, and we began packing my backpack and Lucian’s. After our tent and gear were packed, we woke Tibi up and helped them pack their stuff. In total, it took us about 2 hours and a half to pack both tents, in the blizzard and fog outside. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold (this meant you didn’t get instant frostbites without your gloves, but nothing close to feeling warm in our clothes). I was wearing everything I had, as we were moving slowly and the body couldn’t generate heat. Boots, 3 pair of trousers, snow-stoppers, 2 T-shirts, 1 fleece and the Marmot jacket, plus 3 layers of protection for the head.
They only said he needed to go down, as much as he could. We knew that also, nothing new. „Any medicine?” „No, no medicine”. Only one of them knew a few words in English. „Ratrack come down, ratrack carry him to cable car”, he said. We had no dollars to spend, as now it was quite low and not dangerous anymore. From 4100 to 3800, we were going to carry him just like until now. The rescuers had to climb somewhere near the Saddle, at 5400, to get someone with a broken leg, they said. I suspected that the broken-legged-man is Tibi, as others climbers saw us on the way down and probably thought Tibi had a broken leg. We said nothing about that, and 2 of them offered to help us slide down with a sledge. So, we put Tibi on it, after he continued to say he is ok, only that he couldn’t walk very well because of his muscle fatigue. „We can’t let only the Russians carry him, we are here together”, one of us said. Tibi agreed with that, he would stay on the sledge if we carried him.
The Russian rescuers don’t know to many things, but they know how to walk. Or run, it depends if they have a backpack or not. As they didn’t have one, they ran. For me, it was probably the most difficult part of the expedition from the point of view of my lungs as I wanted to pass out 3 time on the way (there were others parts later to witch Elbrus was a kids’ play). I found the oxygen better there, lower, and with the thought of a beautiful Summit of Europe. I managed to get down to the cable car without letting go of the sledge and without passing out.
After the crazy descent, we felt much better, and the moral was again at tops. We even wanted to take pictures, to remember and share the moments.