Morning saw us head off in search of our first acclimatization hike towards the Cheget chairlift about three kilometres away from the hotel. The chairlift would take us up about 600m onto Cheget’s broad shoulders. Oddly, and I suspected there would be many more times like this during this trip, it wasn’t the hike that bothered me but the chairlift itself. It seemed to be a flimsily built contraption with us and our backpacks secured only by a chain and my tense hands. Ah well, what’s life without some danger?
Personally, I was bit worried about my left ilio tibial band. At times on this very short trip I could feel the rubbing pain, a lasting impression of an injury I suffered in 2004 training in Kelowna for a half-marathon. I could only hope it wouldnít get worse.
We climbed to about 3020m (according to my sometimes inaccurate altimeter watch which once told me I was 50m below sea-level while sitting in a bar in St. John’s) and then headed back down via the chairlift. I must say the views are nothing short of incredible. The sky was clear and the surrounding mountains shone with glaciers trickling down their sides. Truly a sight to behold.
On descending I was heading to get food at the cafe when a horde of girls and children surrounded me. At first I thought they wanted me to take their photo as they babbled at me in Russian, until one girl grabbed my hand, stood next to me and everyone started taking photos. After about ten minutes of this I ran away embarrassed, to the laughter of our group. I have a couple of theories:
- I am a hot looking guy
- I am an exotic looking guy
- I am a freak
I choose to believe that it’s because I am hot and exotic, Keli however chose option three. I can’t find a girl to save my life in Canada but they surround me screaming in Russia. Ah well.
As usual the food here was excellent even for a vegetarian, but gluttonous Dups ate too much despite having to stare down Sergei who had started to realize the fun to be had tormenting me by guilting me into eating more. This group was turning out to be a lot of fun. A quick couple of stops to buy last-minute equipment (you really don’t want to have to amputate your hands because you were too cheap with your gloves) and then back to the hotel for a short rest (a lengthy power nap) and supper. I rented a lot of my equipment from Pilgrim as I did not want to carry ice-axes and such for two months. As such we had to do our equipment fitting tonight. I had been informed that my relatively light sleeping bag would be adequate for the Barrels despite threats by Sergei to have me sleep outside on the mountain slopes. He described me to the Pilgrim Tours office person, Tatiana, as the man who couldn’t shut up. Not an uncommon description of me.
There was apparently a group still up at the Barrels who had stayed an extra two days for summit attempts and hence not all the equipment was back. I would likely look like an elf with a mismatched pair of red and green shoes. Meanwhile, Ahsan had discovered that he could eat meat at the hotel (there were angels rejoicing) as much of the region is predominantly Muslim. He wouldnít be able to do this at the Barrels. I have decided to give him some protein bars as he is not at all knowledgeable about being a vegetarian.
I also managed, with Keli’s help, to figure out how to dial internationally using my cell phone. Apparently ìsisterî Sue and my cat Pixel were ìcopingî back home in Edmonton. Somehow I envisioned a Battle Royale. Hopefully messages of my relative ìalivenessî at this point would be relayed by Corey.