Peter Metcalf and fellow BD employees climb Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus
In June 2009, Peter Metcalf, Black Diamond's CEO and co-founder, and fellow BD employees Ryan Gellert (Managing Director of Black Diamond Equipment Asia), Bill Crouse (International Sales Manager) and Kolin Powick (Director of Quality) teamed up with BD's Russian distributor, Oleg Banar, to climb the highest peak in Europe, Mount Elbrus (5642 m) in Russia's western Caucasus mountains. The crew decided to avoid the crowded south face and tackle instead the less-visited north face. Below is KP's report from their adventure to climb the highest point in Europe.
SLC to JFK, then JFK to Moscow where we met up with Ryan (coming from BD Asia) and Oleg, our Russian distributor. We then regrouped, packed up and continued making our way to the mountain. A three-hour flight from Moscow to Mineral Volde in one of those Russian planes where you’re hoping you don’t pass out from the smell of diesel jet fuel and we were feeling like we were actually getting somewhere.
We arrived in the small town of Mineral Volde where our van driver drove us on dirt roads for six bone-jarring hours to the basecamp at 2800 m on the north side of Elbrus.
Luckily the ride wasn’t all painful. We ran into a few Russian locals that miraculously had a stock Ford Ranger out far along the same road. They were in search of some hot springs to heal their bodies but I think they were really just a few good ‘ol boys out rallying in the 4x4. As luck would have it they had fresh baked bread, chicken, cheese, and of course vodka. We made the obligatory friendly stop to share some time and toasts.
After a slight downpour, where we weren’t sure if our burly van could pull the move, we finally made it to basecamp and set up shop.
The next morning, the forecast was looking good so we wasted no time and packed up to hump loads to the moraine at Camp 1 (3800 m.) Beautiful vast terrain, wild flowers and views had as all in awe.
We had full intentions of camping at the morrain but ran into an elderly local who called himself “Uncle Nick”. After some obligatory whiskey and vodka (at one in the afternoon), we decided we would utilize his cush aluminum yurts at camp one, but first it was time to dump our loads and head back down to basecamp.
Now it was time to head back up to Camp 1, then a quick jaunt to Camp 2 Lentz Rocks (4500 m) for acclimatization and to dump some gear for the next night. Finally on snow, we were psyched when a full view of the Caucasus came into view.
When you are at altitude, it’s imperative to drink lots of water. In the snow, of course, we were melting water. However, at Uncle Nick’s camp, there was a lake with a thin layer of ice where we could fill up our bottles. You had to balance on a small rock, lean in and fill the bottles. Peter kindly offered to fill our bottles, unfortunately his balance was a bit off…
Light loads and a quick walk to Camp 2 in perfect weather. Unfortunately the perfect weather didn’t last.
We had hoped for a super early start but the storm was still in full effect. By the time 5 am rolled around it had subsided after dropping 6-8 inches of new, but the skies were clear and we were psyched.
It wasn't a steep climb but the fresh snow and thin air made for some slow going. Four-and-a-half hours after leaving high camp, however, we were on the summit of Elbrus! On top we all had something to celebrate: Crouse’s sixth of the seven summits (all he has left is that bump in Australia), Ryan’s first time ever doing a big peak, Metcalf and my second of the seven (we have both already done Denali), and Oleg’s 20th time to the top of Elbrus.
[The team on the summit of Elbrus. From left to right: Bill Crouse, Peter Metcalf, Ryan Gellert, Kolin Powick and Oleg Banar.]