American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, U.S.S.R., Caucasus, International Mountaineering Camp, July Session

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1983

Caucasus, International Mountaineering Camp, July session. After a week of travel from Helsinki to Tallinn, Leningrad and Moscow, Bill Sumner and I were joined by Americans Dick and Louise McGowan and 52 climbers from six other countries to participate in the July Session of the Soviet-sponsored International Mountaineering Camp in the Caucasus. In Moscow we met and were given a hearty send-off by famed Soviet climber-scientist, Eugene Gippenreiter. Our already emotional Soviet experience continued for three more weeks, based in the resort town of Cheget in the Baksan Valley nestled between Asia and Europe. A well-organized staff made every effort to make our experience safe and fulfilling. Although July brought unsettled weather, we spent our first week on a trek over Mestia Pass (3980 meters) into the heart of Soviet alpinism, the land of Svanetia. We survived hearty Georgian hospitality with the McGowans and two Russian companions. After a couple of days we left the medieval town of Mestia and returned to Cheget over Donguz Arun Pass (3060 meters). During our second week, we ascended to the Priute Hut (4200 meters) on Elbrus, and after two days of waiting for better weather and undergoing “passive” acclimatization, we climbed the west summit (5642 meters) of this popular peak (the highest in Europe) with Czechs Pavel and Hana Danihelka and Soviets Vasily Elagin and Sergei Penzov. For our last week we set our sights on the jewel of the Caucasus, Ushba (4710 meters). We were left alone to seek out this statuesque, double-spired granite peak. We awaited better weather while camped on the Ushba Plateau and on the third day had a lucky weather break. We ascended the classic ice faces and long corniced ridge of the northern summit of Ushba in what was felt by the Soviets to be the first American ascent. As happens so often, the freedom to travel to the mountains of the world had afforded us the opportunity to experience far greater events and to be with peoples whose common interest in the mountains had bared similar hopes and desires for peace with each other. As Dr. Gippenreiter had so aptly stated, “if only our leaders could meet on such summits and share such feelings.”

Robert B Schoene

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