Angie and I get on the plane tomorrow May 12 to head for Russia. It was an interesting adventure to get this far so quickly.
About three weeks ago Angie said "Go do Elbrus this spring" in response to the general funk I'd been feeling since my failure on Aconcagua in March. I looked up the dates, and there were a few events I needed to work around, and I had decided to go with one of a few local (Russian) operators, and since the difference in price is so minimal, decided to get a "full service" package.
I found the dates May 14 to May 20 to be the most convenient, and arranged it online. I then had to get my airfare set up, which I did with the annoying little inconvenience that no flights into Moscow that I could get for a reasonable rate arrived with the ability to just transfer on to Mineral Vodnye (the nearest airport to Elbrus region). I decided to sleep in Moscow and get the first flight out in the morning, and the tour operator I chose had an affiliation with a hotel at the airport so I arranged that as well.
In the middle of all this, Angie decided to go with, which is awesome, but now I had to redo some things. I contacted the tour operator while she contacted the airlines. I added her to the package, and they sent the "invitation" letters for us to go (a formality in obtaining a Russian visa). She had to go get passport pictures for the visa copy.
We got all our stuff together quickly and Fedex'ed it to the Consulate with the express option, but this is also in the middle of May Day - a national Russian Federation holiday, which slowed it down a bit. We did get it in amazing time thanks partly to a great efficient staff at the Consulate, and I have to really thank the people at work who helped me in the Fedex process, since I'm somewhat helpless in such things.
I had to wire the money to them, which is great and simple and easy. My bank allows me to do this with minimal hassle. Unfortunately that's not true. When the request came in for a transfer to Russia they locked down all my accounts until I could verify that I'm me and that I had a valid reason to transfer money to Russia. Beware if you try this. I appreciate their security, just annoying to be trying to get online to do my bills and get kicked out of my login.
Angie had to go to my favorite DO at IHC in Highland/Cedar Hills, Dr. Slack for her travel medications (I recommend that if you want to replicate all this you find a good friendly doctor who can arrange for your travel medications - the exception would be Yellow Fever, which has specific requirements, and might only be available at a University or Public Health Travel Clinic).
We had to get our gear together, which normally causes me some anxiety as I decide what goes and what doesn't, and since we're going together and can share some stuff, and since it's full-service and there's some stuff we just won't need to take, and trying to hit the airline luggage restriction (1 20 kilo bag and 1 10 kilo carryon) it was very stressful. I'm still stressed wondering if I got the right stuff in - oh well, I have about 18 hours to change my mind.
My Facebook Friend Elbrus Race gave us some weather beta. At the basecamp at the Barrels Hut it should be hovering around 30 degrees F during the day. At the summit it should be around 0 degrees F during the day, maybe dipping to about -10 with a 30 mph wind and very light snow (less than an inch a day).
This caused me to rethink some of my clothes, so I'll let you know how that goes later. I wasn't planning on taking a laptop, and I don't have a smartphone, so I might not be updating this till after. I'll let you know as I go. If you're following me on Facebook, that might be easier if you just can't wait. Sometimes I can send messages to FB from my tinyphone.