Edward Dijmarescu's Elbrus Journal
Edward Dijmarescu challenged himself to climb Mount Elbrus to raise money for FARA Charity, such a kind gesture and one we are very grateful for. Read Edward's summit day journal - its pretty inspiring. You can still donate to his fundraiser HERE
The Summit - Elbrus 2019
As planned, we woke up at 2am when all our alarms started ringing at the same time. All six of us jumped out of the beds feeling excited and apprehensive in the same time. The long awaited moment was here ... the summit night. When I got out of the barrel I was mesmerised by the clear and beautiful sky. It was so clear you could pretty much see all the constellations visible to the naked eye. An eerie sight for sure. It was not excessively cold either, maybe slightly below 0*C.
Back in the barrels everyone was getting ready quietly. Not much talking amongst our team, but at least we were in good spirits.
Everybody was nervous and trying to prepare mentally for the big event. Our clothes and gear were carefully prepared and double checked from the night before. I made sure I checked and tried on everything beforehand. No room for mistakes and missing items now; all the equipment is essential and nothing can be forgotten. I carefully started putting on all of my gear and clothes on, which included the following:
- Thick climbing socks
- Mountaineering boots B3
- Crampons 12 pins
- Thermal leggings
- Climbing trousers
- Weather proof trousers
- Thermal long sleeve t-shirt
- Wicking short sleeve t-shirt
- Weather proof jacket
- Down jacket
- Harness & carabiners
- Woolly hat
- Helmet & torch
- Ski googles
- Mittens & gloves
- Ice axe
- Trekking poles
- Sun glasses
To sum it all up probably around 15kg of gear and clothing; and that was without the back pack which also included a few things (2-3l water, camera, snacks, basic first aid kit, extra gloves, other clothing items, etc.).
After I was ready and packed I headed to the kitchen for a very quick breakfast. Some eggs, cheese and salami followed by jam and sweets. We needed all this energy for later. Usually I have little appetite when I am at altitude but nevertheless, I forced myself to eat some eggy bread with a slice of cheese and salami.
A few minutes later we were all ready for the last checks and the beginning of an extreme adventure. One last time we were checking our gear to ensure everything was put on properly. In the quiet night and with our head torches on, we started marching towards the bottom of the glacier which was a short walk from the barrels. Then we all started putting on all of our gear and crampons, which was an adventure in itself. It is essential to fit your crampons, harness etc. properly, as this can save your life.
With everything that we were wearing, putting the crampons on it was no easy task. At high altitude everything you do is double the effort compared to sea level, where you have more oxygen. Our ride, the snow plough, was ready to take us to the starting point which was a bit higher than the previous acclimatisation climb the day before.
After we got off the snow plough, we started our ascent straight away. We didn’t want to lose any time. We started going up the mountain at 3.30am on a dangerous traverse to reach the mountain saddle between the east and west summit. We followed our Russian guide in a single line, one after the other. It wasn't space for more anyway. First we tackled a steep ascent to get to the traverse and then we started following the narrow track surrounding the east side of the mountain.
The crampons were doing their job now, biting the snow and ice at every step. Although I did not use crampons before, strangely enough, I was feeling in my element using them. The important thing is to fit them right, which I did. Then I just let them do their job, which they did 😁. They were biting the frozen snow and ice very well, giving me a good grip and reassurance that I am safe … as long as I step carefully.
We continue with the ascent; for every breath taken the cold and crispy air was piercing my lungs. To make it even more challenging with a reduced oxygen level I had to inhale double the usual amount, which made it even worse. Even though I was acclimatised to around 4600m … anything above that was new territory (at least this year). After we continued for a while we stopped for a brief moment to drink some hot water from the flask. I checked my oxygen saturation again 90 ... very good considering the altitude. I was feeling good, strong and ready to go all the way.
An hour later we were a bit tired but that was not a safe spot to stop for a break. Without much choice we kept going towards the col. We made another brief stop to take a couple of pictures and a sip of hot water. The night quickly transformed into day. That didn't necessarily made things easier. Now we could actually see the dangerous mountain and the icy slopes, also we could see what waited ahead of us which was a bit demotivating and mentally hard. We were lucky to have good weather on our side and as the sun was coming up from behind the mountain it reflected its shadow onto the horizon. It was stunning and it gave us purpose and a bit of motivation to press on.
More time passed and although it was just about ten minutes, it seemed like an eternity. My mind started to wonder for a few seconds. The usual stuff ... questioning my capability to reach the summit, thinking of family and home, thinking that I cannot let down the charity, all the comforts of life if I was back home, etc. I had to pull myself together from dreaming with my eyes open. Focus! Be here in the moment Edward! Concentrate on what you are doing now ... I encouraged myself. In these moments you need to be extra careful and concentrate. Every step is important and a wrong move can potentially be very risky. This is how you can slip down the mountain and bad things happen.
Anyhow I kept going; one foot in front of the other at a slow but steady pace. In perfect coordination I was propping the ice axe on the highest part of the narrow track and the trekking pole on the lowest. The ice axe was clipped to my harness for safety and self-arrest if needed, while the pole was helping me keep my balance and push forward.
Finally we reached the saddle, eventually we got there. The col was the resting spot before continuing going up the mountain. Other groups were ahead of us and others behind. With all this the mountain wasn't necessarily crowded. The view was surreal and beautiful. It was a perfect morning with a beautiful sunrise. We were surrounded by clouds and mesmerising mountains. Words cannot describe the beautiful scenery.
We didn't have much time on our hands so after a quick snack and drinking some water we were off to tackle the steep section leading to the west summit. We started with our slow pace again, one foot in front of the other. From the col up the climb was even steeper and we roped up to each other and to the fixed ropes as well for extra safety.
Soon after we started, I felt the pain all over. All my muscles were aching and gradually the effort became excruciating, but there was no way we could stop there. It was too steep, too narrow and we did not want to create a bottleneck either. We kept climbing on the steep mountain covered in snow and ice. We managed to pass a smaller group that was slower and they were dealing with some technical issues. One foot in front of the other and tied up together we were gaining meters and altitude at a slow pace. At least we were making progress. Our breathing was harder and harder as we were moving up the mountain.
About an hour later we completed the fixed rope section and probably the most difficult part of our ascent. Once again we stopped to hydrate and rest for a while, there was more space now and it was safer. From here on we were in awe ... we could see the peak. It was within our grasp, so close yet still some distance between us.
Other climbers were on their way down with big smiles on their faces; we knew they’d made it. The summit was so close and we couldn’t wait anymore, so after a short break we kept going. Some of us left our back packs behind to make the final journey a bit lighter. I was one of them. Just a couple of hundred meters left to go. As the summit was close we did not require anything else and we continued with our steady pace. So far the strategy paid off. It was 7.50am and we were getting closer. A few more meters left and we were already smiling. A few more steps later we reached the top.
I summited Elbrus ... one of the 7 summits and 7 volcanoes of the world. The joy was un-containable and euphoria completely took over me and the entire group. Our group started hugging, congratulating each other and taking in the views. It was absolutely fantastic. Of course we also took time for our pictures with the group, with our flags and banners, individual photos. A full photo shooting session was happening @ 5642m asl. We enjoyed our moment for about 15-20 minutes but it was time to go down. I took one more glance over the mountains and horizon before I started my descent.
The return from the summit was not a walk in the park either. In fact, I struggled quite a bit on my way down. Perhaps due to the effort during the ascent and also the fact that I couldn't eat much and I lost lots of energy. Anyhow, I am not going to bore you with the details. The important thing is that we all came back safe and sound and we lived happily ever after. The end.
Last but not least, I am proud to say that I managed to raise £2,275.44 for FARA Foundation and their amazing cause. It’s a great feeling to know that my efforts will help the children in need. I would like to say a big thank you to all my friends, family, colleagues and business partners who supported me in this challenge. Your big hearts helped me raise this generous sum of money which will make a huge difference for the charity.
Many people ask me why do I love mountains so much? Why do I go through this and why do I go back for more? To be honest I do not know the answer myself. An expedition pushes my limits, takes me on the edge of my strength, breaks me physically and mentally and yet I want to go back for more. Perhaps is the thirst for adventure, experiencing freedom or maybe the curiosity for the unknown. Whatever the reason, I feel drawn back to the mountains over and over again. Regardless how hard it is, I will eventually go back to experience that feeling ... to see that unspeakable beauty.
Your adventurer Edward Dijmarescu