Today, a while ago, we left Seattle to climb Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet, the highest mountain in Antarctica! Just getting there was an adventure: flying first to Punta Arenas, Chile, the very tip of South America, and then, in a C130 cargo plane, 2,000 miles more to Patriot Hills, just 600 miles from the South Pole.
I’d seen pictures of the endless ice and the midnight daylight, and I was eager (if a little nervous) to see them for myself. But I was also excited because Vinson would be our fifth of the Seven Summits.
I had told Phil my hope of doing all seven, and he’d rolled his eyes the way he does when he thinks I’m chasing a pipe-dream, but after Aconcagua, I didn’t think it was that unreasonable. He, himself, admitted that I’d done fine at 22,841 feet, and that he believed I could climb higher.
Another anniversary! 33 years ago today, on October 20, 1984, after his third attempt, Phil made the first American ascent of the North Face of Mt. Everest!
Pain is temporary; the summit can make us extremely happy! Finally, we reached the summit of Mt. Elbrus together, 18,481′, highest mountain in Russia and the continent of Europe, achieving the second of our Seven Summits, in the summer of 1993.
After climbing throughout the night and into the morning awhile back, here was our team’s final route to the summit of Mt. Elbrus. Very exciting, lots of climbers led by International Mountain Guides reached the summit this week!
Pain can work. After sleeping in the hut at over 13,500’, we woke up at midnight and had a 5,000 foot day to climb to the summit of Mt. Elbrus. Here was Phil’s response: “Once or twice a year Sue used her hard-earned vacation days to come along. We woke up in the sleeping hut the morning of our summit climb and Sue felt completely trashed. Her head was pounding and she didn’t think she could move. I’d suggested she stay at the hut. We were going for the experience, not for the summit, and I only wanted her climbing if it was going to be fun. But Sue had said, “Well, I can stay here and feel like crap or I can climb and feel like crap. If I’m going to feel like crap I might as well go.” After a little bit of climbing she had begun to feel better, which hadn’t surprised me. Sometimes movement is the best medicine for altitude ills.”
After a few days of acclimatizing, training and making practice climbs in the Caucasus we set out to climb to the hut on Mt. Elbrus. The summit of Elbrus is 18,481’, the hut where we would sleep was approximately 13,500’. Almost there and felt fine until the middle of the night!
Phil, my husband, was our leader on Mt. Elbrus in Russia and Igor, his partner and friend, was our Russian guide. The first few days preparing for our attempt on Elbrus we spent time acclimatizing and training in the Caucasus Mountains. Amazing how expert guides can teach us strong skills and techniques that help us reach the summit and keep us as safe as possible. Honestly, we don’t climb high mountains alone!
Oh my how time flies, the second Seven Summit of my dreams with Phil was Mt. Elbrus in Russia, highest mountain in Europe. Lots of climbers are heading over to Russia now to climb Elbrus, wishing them all the best. We started our Elbrus adventure together 24 years ago. One great way to start the expedition is an acclimatization hike just prior to the climb, so standing on this rock in Russia worked!