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Elbrus & Mt. Rainier

 
Two volcanoes One mount is in Mount Garden,
Which is the highest and the best...
U. Vizbor
Volcanoes are different from the other mountains. They often rise apart from a mountain ridge and are distinguished by their height and massive rounded domes. It’s usually technically simple to climb such peaks, however the significant elevation and the severe weather often makes a summit more difficult. In fact, big volcanoes form their own weather. Strong wind, the high temperature drops, snowfalls and large glaciers make conditions similar to high-altitude summits, allowing climbers to get ready for big mountains of Pamir, Alaska, or Himalayas.

There are many thousands of miles between the highest point of the Europe – Mt. Elbrus (18508'/5642m), and one of the most known summits of the continental US – Mt. Rainier (14411'/4393m), but they are surprisingly similar in their beauty and majesty. Both mountains are the old volcanoes. And despite the fact Mt. Rainier is much lower, the relative altitudes of both summits are almost the same; northern location and humid climate of the Mt. Rainier makes ascents more difficult.

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Mount Elbrus

Mt. Elbrus is the highest point of Europe. The West Summit gains an altitude of 18508'/5642m, the East Summit is somewhat lower. Between the East and West Summits is located so called Elbrus Saddle (17386'/5300m). The Elbrus slopes from the south, east, and north are the giant and gentle snow and ice fields with the sporadic crumbling rocks formed by ancient lava. On the west of Mount Elbrus there is near-the-kilometer vertical drop of Kuikirtliu Peak.

Because of already mentioned specificity, the combination of the technical simplicity and high altitude, “mountain hikers” (Russian term) often ascend Mount Elbrus. Unfortunately, because of this combination injuries and deaths aren't so rare: hidden crevasses, avalanches, and hurricanes are waiting for inexperienced climbers.

I climbed Mt. Elbrus four times and was on its top twice. In September 1983 my friend Nick Ustinov and me reached the Elbrus Saddle (17386'/5300m) by classical route from the south through the Refuge of Eleven (13778'/4200m), but turned back because of the late time. In March 1984 as a part of the big team we undertake a summit from the southeast by Acherkyakol lava flow. Our rope climbed up to same elevation. In August 1986 my partner and me reached the top of East Summit by the same route, descended to the Elbrus Saddle, climbed the West Summit, and finally descended through the Refuge of Eleven. In May 19992 our team of four climbers was on the top of East Summit again.

 


 


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Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier (14411'/4393m) is the big and wonderful mountain located on the northwest of the US, in state Washington near the Seattle. It holds the largest single peak glacial system in the contiguous United States. Glaciers and permanent ice fields mantle 34 square miles of the Mountain. Even on Mount Elbrus I haven't seen such giant ice drifts and towers. Mt. Rainier is also one of the biggest snow machine on the planet. It holds the world-record for the most snowfall, with 93.5 feet (about 28 meters) in 1971/72!

The coniferous forests of the Rainier National Park astound by the size of the ancient trees. The thousands of people are visiting the park yearly, but Mount Rainier is absolutely clean, thanks to high climbers' culture and the care of the park rangers.

I wasn't on the top of Mt. Rainier yet. We made two unsuccessful attempts this summer (1999). We gained the approximate elevation of 12400'/3800m by classical route through Disappointment Cleaver. And to "jump over the obstacle" we are planning the technical ascent from the north on the summer 2000.


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Russian (KOI8-R)
Last updated 23 April, 2000