Contrary to popular wisdom, Elbrus is the highest point in Europe, not Mont Blanc, which stands at 4808m – almost a km lower than Elbrus.
Despite the heightened political situation – the Russo-Georgian War kicked off a few days before, we went to Moscow and met our barmy Russian guide, Dmitry. His fondness for taking his top off was matched only by the regularity of seeing him adorning his beloved aviators in a suitably photogenic location.
We did most of our acclimatisation on nearby peaks such as Andyrichi (3,913m) before moving to Elbrus itself. After a few days, we moved to the Barrels at 3,800m before making our summit attempt.
The climb itself was uneventful. We gradually zig-zagged up and gained altitude at a reasonable rate. The weather turned mid-ascent which reduced temperature and visibility but we remained resolute to summit as a team. We all finally made it to the top where our views from the highest point in Europe amounted to a matter of metres. Typical.
Elbrus represented the finale of a productive eight months where I had reached the highest points in South America, Europe and Africa. My expedition experience was starting to increase and, after the success of those three climbs, I could see a feasible plan to get to Everest in a couple of years.
That, however, was dependent upon my focus and whether I was willing to maintain the commitment required to make my 7 Summits dream a reality having started at university.