Our flag on top of Europe

December 12, 2014

Elbrus is the highest mountain peak in Europe located north of the Greater Caucasus main range. It is a dormant stratovolcano with a highest point at 5,642 meters above the sea level. Hundreds of mountaineers climb Elbrus every year, especially in summer – the most appropriate season for trekking. The 7-day expedition of gas workers from Stavropol to the western summit of Elbrus was devoted to the Year of Environmental Awareness at Gazprom.

The week long hike started on July 21 in Treskol settlement of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. Five people (left to right) set out to conquer Elbrus: Sergey Zavodnov, an employee of the Stavropol UGS Directorate of Gazprom UGS branch, Kirill Sukholenko, a student from Moscow State Automobile and Road Technical University, Igor Larionov, Head of the Buildings and Structures Repair Unit at Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol, and Oleg Sebelev, a painter of the Culture and Sports Center of at Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol. The group leader – Alexander Zavodnov, Head of the Central Long-Distance Communications Center at Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol is taking the picture.

The gas workers left their climbing outfit in a local hotel. The acclimatization began from the 3-day hike along the Terskol Canyon.

On the first day they covered seven kilometers under load and went 500 meters up. In the daytime the weather was fine. The sun and fresh mountain air provide everything required for the full-scale acclimatization. By the way, it takes several hours to climb Elbrus. As for the acclimatization, it takes five-six days depending on the training. Human organism needs to get accustomed to the conditions of high mountains and low pressure. Therefore, experienced trekkers move up gradually. On the first day our tourists pitched camp at the height of 2,600 meters to stay overnight.

On the next day, after packing tents and putting on helmets they proceeded. The dangerous area is ahead. These are the so-called ‘sheep rocks’ – the rocks smoothed by an ancient ice cap. Our guys came along the path going steeply up for 600 meters.

In four hours they reached the launching point to the ‘sheep rocks’. A magnificent view of the Greater Caucasus main range opens up behind. Semyorka (center), situated between the Donguz-Orun (4,454 meters) and Nakra-Tau (4,277 meters) summits, is one of the most picturesque ice caps in the vicinity of Elbrus.

A short break at a rockfall hazard area of ‘sheep rocks’. The helmets are appropriate here!

A plateau at the height of 3,200 meters is a nice place for camping. It is rather cold here at night, while in the morning, when fog covers Elbrus, only a cold-proof sleeping bag and a gas stove could save the situation.

The inscription of stones was left as a keepsake. Stavropol citizens, who visited these heights will be remembered for several years.

On July, 23 (third day) the gas workers went down back to the settlement of Terskol to take special equipment for further training in high altitude and climbing the ice cap. Crampons, poles, ice axes, warm clothes and footwear, sunglasses and masks, snaphooks and safety accessory. One cannot go to the Elbrus summit without all that things.

On the same day they reached the Bochki shelter (here the acclimatization continued at the height of 3,900 meters). Today it is one of the main locations for trekkers going to conquer Elbrus. Here several cabins are placed, and tourists frequently use them. The camp for the next overnight stop was pitched at the rocky ridge next to the cableway station.

On the fourth day the gas workers went up to the Pastukhov Rocks (4,600 – 4,800 meters). Snow is always abundant at these heights. 

The fifth day was the day of rest. The trekkers recreated themselves and prepared for climbing on the west summit of Elbrus.

The group discusses the future climbing. The ‘non-flying’ weather is forecasted for the next day. However, the gas workers decided that the entire group should go up to the col, with both summits elevated for another 300 meters. They began climbing at 2:00 am in order to start the descent by the afternoon. It is impossible to stay overnight on the summit: on can get lost or freeze.

At dawn the view from the western summit of Elbrus is fantastic. Any height may be conquered for such sceneries!

In several hours the hurricane started. The disappointing weather forecast was verified in every detail. It was snowing with abrupt wind, and the temperature lowered minus 20 degrees Celsius. While everybody reached the col, the summit was conquered only by Igor Larionov (see photo) and Oleg Sebelev.

Igor Larionov, Head of the Buildings and Structures Repair Unit at the Stavropol Line Pipe Operation Center completed the core mission of the expedition – he planted a flag with the Year of Environmental Awareness to the highest summit in Europe. Now the banner of Gazprom is flying over the whole Old World.

Nikolai Chernov, Elena Fomenko, Alexander Zavodnov, Igor Larionov, Oleg Sebelev (Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol), Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large-size images in Photos.