Elbrus still appeals to stout hearts
The world knows many mountains -Caucasus, Tien Shan, Pamir, Altai, Tatra mountains, the Alps as well as their majestic peaks - peak Pobeda, Kongur, Mont Blanc, Matterhorn... All the mountains are beautiful. But Elbrus is unique. There is no another Elbrus and there cannot be.
THOSE WHO HAD the opportunity to see Elbrus in the early hours of the day, when fantastic iridescent colors — blue, pink, purple — play and keep changing, creating an unnatural, magic glow in the haze of the morning mist, will never forget it. Those who stayed at least once at the foot of this giant and were struck by the unbelievable feeling — as if to face eternity one-to-one — will keep this sensation in memory up to his last day.
The poet said,
Eternity, what does it matter to rocks? Our hustle and bustle, do they care of it? For them we are children playing beneath, Annoying and daring sometimes.
Not everyone can enter into one-to-one combat with Elbrus. But there is no greater joy for a Caucasian (and not only), than to conquer this giant. And, of course, at all times there were lots of "applicants", enough and to spare, but Elbrus had remained unattainable dream for the overwhelming majority of them.
A lot was said and a lot was written about Elbrus by different people, in different times: poems, prose, high style and plain words. God Almighty knows how many famous names are, in one way or another, connected with Elbrus.
In the 19th century, the top of Elbrus was reached only two times: in 1820 — by Karachay Hiysa Hachirov and on July 31, 1868 — by a team of famous English alpinists D. Freshweld, A. Mori and K. Taker. Accompanied by experienced mountain climber Francois Devoissi, a native of the valley of Chamonix, they got to the highest point of Elbrus. It was a deed that nobody could do before. They write in the daybook of the expedition:
"July 28: we are in the village of Urusi, warmly welcomed by Prince Ismael and his brothers.
July 29: moving up to Elbrus, accompanied by 5 porters. We continue by the river Baksan valley as far as its junction with the gorge that leads to the valley of Nakra; thence North-West up the gorge until the place where it is locked by the glacier descending from Elbrus. Camping at highlands near the foot of the glacier: 8000 feet (9 hours).
July 30: We move up to the top of the rock along the valley past the glacier and dizzy drop-offs, almost at the same level that a large snow plain to the South-East of the mountain; here we put up our tent in a well sheltered place. 11950 ft. (4.5 hours).
July 31: We get out of the tent at 2.10 a. m., we cross a large plain and climb to the steep slopes attaining the foot of the highest peak (5.25 hours). Slate cliffs continue up to the top. We reached the highest peak at 10.40 a. m.
The most difficult impediment to our ascent was the bitter cold; we didn't meet other serious obstacles. The mount is of volcanic origin, no doubt. The top forms a tripartite crater filled with snow. The ridge surrounding the crater has three elevations standing some distance away one from another. We mounted on all three elevations. Two of them were not covered with snow. We erected a pile of stone on the first elevation which seemed to us the highest. Two of our porters — Dyappoev Dyachi and Sataev Ahyah — went up with us to the top. If you have a look around the area of the Greater Caucasus main chain to the West of Elbrus, you'll see a peak replicating outlines of an aurochs. The last specimens of this animal, widespread in former times, inhabit the Northern slope covered with glacier snow and ice of the Ertzog ridge which forms a part of the Greater Caucasus. Aurochs are found here at the origins of both rivers Zelenchuk, in areas called Sa'adan and Erhus in mixed forests where pine trees prevail. Aurochs pasture by herds of 7 to 10 head. People do not have any care of this specie, and here aurochs do not live in conditions as good as in Belovezhskaya Puscha forest, in Grodno region, where they are under care in winter.
Late count Sumarokov-Elston offered Caucasian Museum a wonderful specimen of this dying out race. It was brought to Tiflis by express delivery in the summer of 1866. Although the government had given strict orders on the safeguarding of these animals, who will execute and see to the execution of remote government's orders in such a back of beyond? There is no doubt that previously aurochs were also found in other Caucasian regions, for instance, the name of one of the ski resorts "Dombay" comes from the Karachai word "dommay" that means "aurochs".
Many years passed. Life is running faster and faster, there is no time to stop and take a look around. But one fine day somebody had an idea to climb up on the top of Elbrus on horseback.
The first attempt of this kind was made in 1965, but, as noted by old climber V. F. Kudinov, "it failed: the horsemen returned from the place called "Pruit Pastukhova" ("Pastukhov Shelter"), because further areas were covered in deep snow and horses refused to move forth, despite prodding of riders burning with the desire to rise to the top and set peculiar record." Only 33 years later, people took a chance to try it again. And the risk was justified. Hopes were pinned on the breed of horse with a distinct endurance and ruggedness. I mean horses of Karachai breed. Of course, the narration would be incomplete without the story of this horse.
Karachai breed of horse was known to Europeans since the 18th century at least. German researcher P. Pallas (1790) wrote: ''The Karachais grow a small but hardy and hot breed of horses, known for their outstanding qualities". Russian academician Heinrich Julius Klaproth (1808) noted, that horses of Karachai breed are ''strong, agile and excellent for riding in the mountains". Another researcher, Bronevsky S. (1823), wrote: "The Karachais have small, but sturdy breed of mountain horses, known under the name of Karachai horses". Hungarian ethnographer, a member of the expedition of Emmanuel, Jean-Charles de Besse also gave a high evaluation of the breed in 1829: ''Karachais ranch fine breed of horses. They are easy on the go and I don't know any other horse breed that is better for ridding on steep slopes and which is so inexhaustible". Russian author Vladimir Shevtsov (1855) gave his description by the same token: "Their horses (i. e. Karachai breed) are among the best of the Caucasian breeds, they are more valuable by their courage in riding through the rocky and steep trails, their walk is accurate and calm. If you give a horse the bridle, you can fearlessly climb through lofty mountains, where horse's hoof can fit and where none of the other breeds are able to take a single step".
Karachai breed horses have been recorded in the publications of the State of the Mountain Horse Stud Book (1935), in the articles of the reference books "Horse resources of the USSR" (1939) and "United State studbook horses of Ordzhonikidze Territory" (1940), in the instructions for appraisal of breeding horses (1942), etc.
Karachai breed and Anglo-Karachai breed group regained their due place being mentioned in the State stud books and official lists of species of the USSR and Russia in 1990-s. This was the result of decades of hard selfless labor of breeding devotees Uzdenov B. D., Adzhiev X. A., Urusov K-G. Special credit goes to Klych Geriy Urusov who was the mastermind of Elbrus conquest on horseback. When meeting with a team of historians of Karachai national department of the Institute of Humanitarian Studies, he repeatedly told children about his idea.
At that time, I worked as Deputy Minister of Education of Karachai-Cherkes Republic and my office was on the second floor of the Government House, right next to the Institute of Humanitarian Studies. I was fond of mountaineering and my friend Ahmat Tebuev, PhD in Medicine, Deputy Minister of Health, loved mountains in the same fashion. We were fascinated by the history of our people; we often met and talked about some aspects of history we were interested in. During one of these conversations, our ethnographer Indiana Karaketova, infatuated with native mountains, told us about the old Klich-Girey's dream. That's the way it was, in 1996, that we started discussing the idea of mount hitherto never seen. We have been preparing carefully, we even held a detailed field reconnaissance: in 1997, our team composed of Ahmad Tebuev, Ramazan Hapchaev and Umar Bairamukov climbed both peaks of Elbrus in order to find best ways to ascend them by horse. In 1998, we developed a training plan, which was to select the group, outfit of equipment, saddling furniture and etc. Fortunately, there were some real patriots, who took a great part in solving of the logistics of the expedition despite of a small delay. This matter took us two months: June and July. The team was finally composed in June. There were nine members of the expedition and three horses with them.
Ahmat Tebuev was the leader of our expedition. The invention of horseshoes with removable steel spikes for mountain climbing was one of his greatest achievements and successes. The mountaineering group was as follows: professional climber Ramadan Hapchaev, Umar Bayramukov, Eldar Kubanov, Tebuev and I. The "cavalry unit" included: Urusov K-G. M., Murat Dzhatdoev (from Hurzuk village, horse — Imbir), Mohammed Bidzhiev (from Uchkulan village, horse — Daur), Dahir Kappushev (from Kart Dzhurt village, horse — Hurzuk).
The climbers were driven by passion of conquerors, while the horsemen, above all, cared about the health and safety of their pets. These "vectors of interest" did not always coincide, and sometimes their disagreement was fraught with the breakdown of the expedition.
On August 7, the climber group took off to Big Karachai and reached Uchkulan village at 1.00 p. m., where it met the equestrian group. Further, the expedition passed through Hurzuk village, passed the frontier post and moved up the gorge of the Ullu-Kam river. About 4 p. m. the team reached the place called "Voroshilov's kosh" ("Voroshilov's field camps") where a halt was made and we settled down for the night. On August 8, at three o'clock in the morning the group moved to the side of the Hotu-Tau pass. About three hours later, we stopped at the foot of the pass, had a light breakfast and kept on going.
At nine o'clock, we got to the pass. We took a breakfast, had some rest and waited for Balkar conductors who were supposed to meet us and accompany to the Great Azau glacier. We have waited for three hours for nothing (later on, it turned out that Balkars were wrong about the day of the appointment). We were not able to wait any longer and continued to move through the pass by ourselves. The pass through the Hotu-Tau (3555 m) was very difficult. Later Urusov recalled, "I have never been on that mountain pass and if I didn't see with my own eyes I would never believe that one can go there by horse". Admit that the words of one of the best judges of Karachai breed horses do worth a lot!
At noon, the group reached the glacier. People and especially the animals were subjected to considerable danger out there. We walked about nine kilometers and there were cracks up to a meter or more under our feet. We had to jump over when cracks were narrow and go around wide cracks. Water was flowing under the glacier, we were afraid that the horses could be frightened. At 3 p. m. we reached the lake, where we met with the conductors. In about an hour we began to descend on the rocky ridge and reached the ledge nearby "Old Outlook" (3000 m) cableway station.
August 9th. The main base. In the morning, the group went off to the "Shelter of the Eleven" which was defined as assault camp. The animals were placed in an unfinished building in about ten meters from alpine hotel. The day was spent for intensive preparations for the training output to "Pastukhov Rocks."
August 10th. Nature elements. At two o'clock in the morning, the group moved off. Urusov, tortured by headaches, remained in the camp. Tebuev, Hapchaev and I reached the height of 4,800 m, and then went down. The rest made it to the height of 5100 meters (to the top called "Kosaya"). Here the weather got worse: the temperature dropped sharply, heavy wind was blowing in the face throwing snow pellets. We waited for a weather change for about three hours, but in vain. We have decided to go down to the camp. At five o'clock in the evening, we held an "emergency meeting" and made a decision to pull horses down to the level of "Old Outlook" (where there was natural food) and feed them and wait for a weather change. Three horsemen with horses and A. Tebuev went down.
August 11th. The day before the assault. Almost all the daylight hours were spent on standby for the weather. At about 4 p. m. there were obvious signs of clearing. It was impossible to delay the time, and the leaders of the expedition decided to take the horses to the assault camp. At 8 p. m. animals received an increased dose of oats and were covered with felt cloaks. It was decided to include seven men and two horses to the attack team (the horse Imbir, who was injured, was left in the camp).
August 12th. Assault on the peak. At 2 a. m. the "infantry" (W. Bayramukov, E. Kubanov, R. Hapchaev and I) was the first to make a move with the view to the fact that a synchronous output of "the infantry" and "the cavalry" was not acceptable because "the cavalry" would go far ahead and later on would have to wait for "the infantry" near the mountain saddle, wasting time and risking to be frozen. Therefore, three horsemen (M. Bidzhiev, M. Dzhatdoev, D. Kappushev) came out only hour and half later, in order to catch us up on the saddle. Nevertheless, "the cavalry" caught up with the climbers on the transition from the «Pastukhov Shelter" to the saddle, approximately at the level of 5,200 m.
When they have reached the saddle, five men decided to move further, but ignoring the route, they picked a bad way: horses were sinking into the soft snow. There was a danger that the animals could hurt themselves with steel spikes of horseshoes, and the riders returned to the hut located on the saddle, which was destroyed during the war. Snow conditions were bad and the riders were very afraid about the horses and refused to continue, but finally, we could persuade them. The sloping part of the saddle was very difficult for the passage: the animals repeatedly punched the crust by their hooves and deeply sank in the snow to their knees. We have acquired a more or less solid ground when we came out to the steep section that was leading directly to the eastern peak: snow was not very deep and interspersed with rocky mounds, which stretched along the north-western slope all the way to the peak.
The ascent took us nearly two hours and a half. It was very cold at the peak and riders put on the burkas (felt cloaks). At 11.30 p. m. the riders reached the peak on horsebacks. There was raging hurricane, it raised up pieces of volcanic rock that struck in the face and lens of imaging equipment. Because of the piercing icy winds, it was impossible to stay long at the peak. We photographed landscapes quickly, photographed ourselves and began to descend. In 25 minutes we reached the saddle and in the afternoon of the first day, began to descend to the "Shelter of the Eleven". By five o'clock in the afternoon we came out to the camp.
I would like to mention the name of Albogachieva Leila, a girl from Ingush Republic. She joined the expedition on the way to "Shelter of the Eleven", and with the permission of the leaders, participated in the ascent and climbed to the top of the east peak, becoming, perhaps, the first Ingush woman who conquered Elbrus.
August 14th. The team returned to Big Karachai, spending evenly one week to conduct the expedition. Only a few months after authorities honored with diplomas and gifts the members of the expedition, people who perpetuated themselves not only by an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, but also in the history of mountaineering.
But there was a silent witness that absolutely no one thought about. This witness predetermined the continuation of the story, which seemed to be finished. This witness is the western summit of the mountain.
The best role of an actor is the one he never played, but for the conqueror, the best summit is the one he never climbed.
We could not be satisfied with our first sporting achievement. Magic number "21" was before our eyes; it is the exact number of meters the western peak is higher than the eastern peak. Only these meters separated first horse conquerors of 1998 from the "absolute record." After all, according to strict scientific measurements, the western peak is the highest point of the European continent and Russia. Secondly, back in 1950, the eastern peak we conquered by a beast of burden, the Chinese yak. And the western summit has not been conquered by a sumpter yet. And, finally, the year 1999 was a jubilee year: 170-th anniversary of the first ascent on Elbrus made by Hysa Khachirov.
Preparations started again. Ahmad Tebuev was appointed leader of the team. The experience of the last ascent proved that forged square spikes tend to twist off during strong impacts with rocks and hard ice. At this time the thorns were made round and machined on a lathe. Their making was entrusted to Umar Bairamukov.
In July, the agreement with the Elbrus Rescue Service was reached on logistical support during the ascent and on a professional staff providing to accompany the group to the top. The team included three horsemen — all participants of the expedition in 1998. M. Bidzhiev and M. Dzhatdoev decided to take their previous horses (Daur and Imbir), D. Kappushev — a new one called Igilik (his horse named "Hurzuk" was at that time in the distant grazing lands).
Besides A. Tebuev and me, the last year's climbers participated in the expedition: E. Kubanov, U. Bayramukov and Marat Khachirov, the namesake of the first climber to Mount Elbrus.
August 14th, 6.00 p. m.: the team left the village Hurzuk and within three hours reached the "Voroshilov kosh". The overnight stop was made there just like the first time.
August 15th, 8.00 a. m.: the expedition moved up the same route. It was relatively easy to overcome the pass: at 1.00 p. m. we have already reached the glacier and passed it over without any problem. We walked down to the "Outlook" where we set up our base camp.
August 16th: the day was devoted to rest and to equipment preparation and checking. We also worked out detailed scheme of ascent. At first, the weather was not particularly encouraging, but at night the sky cleared.
August 17th: A clear sunny day. The expedition in full force with horses went up to the top station of the cableway "Gara-Bashi" where we stopped for the night.
August 18th: climbers went off at night before the horsemen and stopped at the ruined hut on the saddle. At about three o'clock in the morning, the equestrian group moved into the path and at seven o'clock in the morning joined the rest of the team on the saddle.
Here, we decided to confer. Olmezov Abdul-Halim, rescuer from the Elbrus station accompanying the team, said that the snow covering the steep slope of the western peak was very loose and free flowing. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary risks, he suggested using of the lightest of the three horses. It was the "newbie" — Igilik.
оправданным. С большими усилиями лошадь преодолела опасный участок очень крутого склона Западной вершины. Затем по пологому предвершинному плато группа вышла к невысокому (10-15 метров) холмику вершины, где установлена скульптура тура. Игилик делает последние шаги. Все! Высочайшая вершина Кавказа, России и Европы покорена «абсолютно». Случилось это в 10 часов 36 минут 18 августа 1999 года.
На следующий день мы проводили А. Тебуева и М. Хачирова в Черкесск, а 20 августа по испытанному маршруту вернулись в Хурзук. Здесь состоялась торжественная встреча с руководителями республики и жителями этого древнего аула.
В истории покорения высочайшей вершины Кавказа, России и Европы перевернута еще одна, безусловно, славная страница. Вот те слова, которыми генерал армии В. М. Семенов приветствовал в тот день покорителей Эльбруса: «Вы совершили настоящий спортивный подвиг. И совершили его во имя торжества патриотизма, верности славной российской истории, во имя России и утверждения высоких идeaлoв мира и согласия, самых чистых помыслов человека».
Я бы добавил к этим словам высказывание альпиниста Е. Иордамишвили: «Ведь пока есть горы, будут следы на их склонах, будут записки на их вершинах. Это закон борьбы человека с горами. И в жизни каждого рано или поздно наступает момент, когда он должен встретиться с природой лицом к лицу и ощутить, что человек и в малом сильнее ее. Двадцать тысяч поколений существует человечество, из них 19800 поколений — девяносто девять процентов — боролись с природой без помощи электричества, машин и науки. В нынешних поколениях осталось еще порядочно тревожной крови предков. Слово «подвиг» означает действие, которое не каждому дано совершить. Но идущие в горы, как правило, не думают о подвиге, мечтая лишь насладиться ни с чем не сравнимым чувством первопроходителей, хотят видеть целые страны, лежащие у их ног под облаками, чтобы тень от руки простиралась на сотни километров и фиолетовое небо было к ним чуточку ближе, чем к остальным людям.» зп
Later on, it became clear that the decision was justified. The horse got over the dangerous stretch of very steep slope of the western summit with great efforts. Then the team went up to a low (10-15 m of height) mound on the western peak of Elbrus where a statue of a Caucasian goat is installed. Igilik makes final steps and. That's it! The highest peak of the Caucasus, Russia and Europe conquered "absolutely." It happened on August 18th, 1999 at 10.36 a. m.
The next day we accompanied A. Tebuev and M. Hachirov to Cherkessk, and returned to Hurzuk on August 20th. The leaders of the republic and the people of this ancient village organized a red-carpet welcome. Another glorious chapter was written in the history of conquest of the highest peak of Caucasus, Russia and Europe. Here are the words said that day by General Semenov when he welcomed the conquerors of Elbrus: "You made a real sports feat. You made it for the triumph of patriotism, by devotion to the glorious history of Russia, for the sake of high principles of peace and harmony, and the most pure intentions of the humankind."
I would like to quote the famous climber E. Iordamishvili who said, "While there are mountains, there will be marks on their slopes and notes at their tops. This is the law of man's struggle against mountains. In everyone's life, a moment comes when he must stand face-to-face with nature, and feel that the human is stronger even in mere thing. The history of the humanity is 20,000-generations-long and within 19,800 generations (or ninety-nine percent of its existence), mankind was struggling against nature without the aid of electricity, machinery or science. Current generations still have an amount of disturbing blood of their ancestors. The word "deed" means "action" that not everyone can dare do. But those who climb mountains do not think about feats; they crave for enjoying an incomparable feeling of trailblazers. They want to see entire countries to spread at their feet under the skies, the shadow of the hand to stretch for hundreds of kilometers and the purple sky to be a bit closer to them than to the rest of the people ..."
By Boris Begeulov