As I mentioned yesterday, my one fear was another flaring of my IT band injury. The worst recent flaring was during a descent from 3000m Observation Peak in Banff National Park with Craig and Yolanda Priddle where I could barely bend the leg. Since then I’ve taken up yoga, stretched and gone to great lengths but here I am in southern Russia and it’s hurting. Ah well.
Mind you I’m not the only one with some injury or pain, Poor Keli slipped and banged her patella. I think she will be fine by the time we hit summit day. Anders, meanwhile, had a rock hit him during the trek today and it will likely become quite the bruise. We applied cold glacier ice water to calm the swelling.
Today was an almost touristy scenic hike deep into the Caucasus. We drove by four-wheel jeep (the Russian answer to the Land Rover) up steep mountain roads to the Adel-sy Valley. We were dropped off by a remote military post quite high up in the mountains. It turned out that it was a border post between Georgia and Russia. The mountain ridge we could see there was the Georgia-Russia border and as such we had to have our passports checked and held for the duration of our hike in case we decided to scale vertical walls to enter Georgia. Finally, off we went into the lush and green hillside. Trekking alongside a glacier-silted green stream originating high up in the valley, we finally ascended a ridge with a spectacular view, not only of the mountains nearby but also Elbrus in the distance. From here the white twin peaks of Elbrus definitely took on the shape of a volcanic cone. In fact it resembled Mt. Baker in Washington and even the iconic Mt. Kilimanjaro. For the first time I became excited at the thought of getting onto Elbrus.
Unfortunately, my IT band was hurting and I was last and slowest today in an effort to keep it as pain-free as possible. I suspect it will be harder going over the next few days. As Sergei described it, today’s hike was a sightseeing trip and that it certainly was. It is beautiful up here. We climbed/trekked to about 2600m and then turned back. On the last leg we picked up a very cute four-legged companion ñ a black haired, well-groomed dog. At first we thought it belonged to someone camping in that remote valley famous for heli-skiing. However he followed us all the way down and then for about two kilometres alongside the jeep. It was breaking Keli’s heart ñ and mine too. We would have given him a home in an instant (explaining it to the customs officers would have been a problem though). In the end he met some passers by and he adopted them in a rather fickle fashion.
In classic Dupsian idiocy, I stepped into a pile of dung during a small pit stop. In an attempt to clean off my shoe, I ended up backing into a bush of sting nettle. Talk about frying pan and fire.
Lunch was at a local cafe near the valley and then back to the hotel. On the whole today was quite relaxing, hot and gorgeous. I wondered what was happening in the world outside the Azau valley. Life seemed relatively uncomplicated and quiet here.
Supper tonight is in a bit and then I suspect sleep. Tomorrow we are set to take the cable car onto Elbrus and then the vacation will be over; the hard part will begin.