In July 2017, I traveled to Russia to climb the northern route of Elbrus (Эльбрус), the highest mountain in Europe, with Jagged Globe.
On the same day my friend, El Jefe, arrived by plane on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska, I received my visa to travel to Russia and climb Эльбрус (Elbrus), Europe's highest peak at 5642 meters (18,510 feet).
I left Berlin an hour before midnight on a red-eye flight to Moscow. I flew to Russia for the first time in more than twenty years to climb a mountain in a remote corner of a vast, potentially unfriendly country.
I stand motionless as his eyes slowly close and his forehead tips slightly forward. I stare forward trying to remain calm.
Xavier and I quietly enter the reconstructed Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Like many other places of Orthodox worship, the Soviets blew up the original church building in 1936. The building we enter was consecrated and reopened in December 2012.
The smell of burnt transmission fluid lingers in the air as our minibus pulls off the road. We are in the Prielbrusye National Park a few hundred meters from a bridge that crosses the Malka River. We are uncertain whether the minibus or its driver refuse to go any farther.
A luchador deftly slides behind my back. His arms are around my neck before I can react. He applies a sleeper hold. I start to feel groggy. My arms fail to move. They are stuck in place at my side.
I wake to strange sounds at 4:00 am in the morning. I hear a soft swaying and a gentle rustling in the dark. There is stifled movement coming from the volleyball court in front of the canteen. The sounds are too muffled for a pre-dawn volleyball match.
The Nimbostratus clouds of the previous day slowly clear around 3 am in the morning. A half moon and several stars compete against lingering Stratus clouds as the sky slowly starts to clear.