After cycling 3800 km from Belgium to Terskol I arrived at the base of Mount Elbrus, the highest peak of Europe. I searched for a hotel to leave my bike and got ready for climbing. The route I chose was the south side. The main reason being my time limits. I calculated that with my one month visa I had to cycle every day at least 165 km, climb Elbrus in 4 days and cover the same average to Astrakhan (the border with Kazakhstan). In this schedule I had a week left to apply for my visa, which takes 3-5 business days.
A terrible night
My last day of cycling was a tough one. I was already pushing the limit of cycling big distances with a 100kg bicycle. It was not different that day, only I had to get to Terskol that night which meant I had to climb up to 2100m and arrive quite late. The next day I packed my stuff and went for an acclimatisation hike up to 3800 m. The weather was great, only a bit windy but I felt good being up in the mountains! I then headed back down to the hotel to start climbing the next day.
The second night in the hotel was really bad. Suddenly I woke up and had to the toilet, urgent. A sudden diarrhoea, and then I had to vomit. So that ended up in the sink right in front of me…Without getting into the details, it was a rough night. In the morning I still decided to climb and I set off to my first camp spot. It’s raining when I start and it starts to snow higher up. After a couple of hours I’m feeling better and by the time I reach my camp spot at around 3600m it’s over. There are some other Russian climbers and it’s nice not to be alone for the evening. We relax and eat together, the next day I continue alone to a higher camp at 4200m.
The second day of climbing I feel much better. The progress is going really good and soon I reach my second camp on the mountain at about 4200m. I pitch my tent and decide to go a bit higher up to acclimatise more. This is an annoying part as people can go up the mountain by ski lifts to 3000m and then take ski scooters to go even higher. I’m a bit frustrated to hear these machines at this altitude and see them pass by at high speeds. A couple of hours later I’m back in the tent, eat and go to sleep. I’m ready for the summit push and decide to get up around 3am.
I wake up early and excited to go up. I’m all alone and it seems I’m one of the first one going for the summit. It feels great to be here and the progress is great. That’s the advantage of cycling to a mountain, you are very well trained and already have a very efficient routine in daily life.
I take care to stay on route, there are some places to be easily getting off track. I’m carrying map, compass and an altitude meter so this facilitates the navigation in the darkness. The route itself (if you stay on track) is pretty easy and doesn’t have too many dangers. No big crevasse crossings and everything is quite straightforward. That doesn’t mean anyone can do it without a guide. Just if you’re an experienced mountaineer, you can probably do it by yourself. You need preparation and experience to climb a mountain like that!
The golden hour
By the time the sun comes up I already passed the saddle (5200m) and feel the warming effect of the sun immediately. It was a pretty cold night so that’s very welcome, and the view is amazing! Not very much longer I get to reach the west summit at 5642m. A special experience because I’m the first person to go human powered (sea to summit) to the highest peak of the continent. Especially the last steps I take, it is all coming back what effort I’ve put into it to get here. One month and a half and 3800km of cycling to finally get here!!!
Elbrus has 2 summits with the west summits being the highest one. I told myself before that if I would’ve have some energy left I would go and climb the East one as well. I felt good so I descended down to the saddle again to climb up to the 2nd summit. This one was a bit more tricky since it is less climbed, but the daylight made it easier to navigate. By the time I got to the summit the wind was getting a bit harder making it quite cold. I don’t stay too long and descent down. There I meet 2 Ukrainian climbers and suddenly I see one of them falling. He fell in a crevasse, but luckily his waist and head where still out. He managed to crawl out by himself and we took this as a warning. From there I used a more rocky part to descent which was slower and more difficult, but much safer to be walking on.
The long way down
When I got back to the saddle I feel good and it seems that I will be getting down really easy. I decide to go to my tent, melt some snow for water and head down the same day. The main reason being that I needed to get in time out of the country. I pack my stuff and head down. My good energy lasted not that long anymore and the last couple of hours to the hotel (at 2100m) became very hard. Still I managed to climb to the summit and back all the way down to the hotel in about 18hrs. There I find something to eat and crash for a well deserved sleep, only to start cycling 165km the next couple of days towards Mt Everest….
Very thankful to my sponsors who support me to get this project done.