Mount Elbrus with an altitude of 5642m is the highest peak in Europe. It is located in Russia in the north in the Caucasus mountain range. Even before my departure, I faced my first challenge, a second back injury. My initial plan was to climb the north side; the wilder, less touristy and more technical side. At that moment, I definitely felt a wave of discouragement after all these months of training and working hard to raise the necessary money to cover all the costs associated with my project. Instead of letting panic and discouragement get the better of me, I decided to seek professional help to get back on my feet. After several physiotherapy treatments and specific training, I was able to regain my strength. Despite everything, I had to give up the ascent of the North slope for the South slope, which is extremely touristy. A difficult decision, but one that would still allow me to realize my dream. The trip to Russia and more specifically to Mineral Vody took more than 30hrs of travel time. On arrival, I met my guide Chatur Tamang, a Nepalese guide with 25 years of mountain experience. He has over 70 ascents of Elbrus, 6 ascents of Mount Everest and several other Himalayan peaks to his credit. At the same time, I met a Quebecer, Marc, who was going to be part of the expedition. From our first exchanges, I knew that we would get along well. The landscapes were more and more spectacular as we advanced into the mountains. The normal route, on the south side, is the easiest, safest and fastest using the ski lifts to the Garabachi refugees located at 3847m. From there, we would acclimatize by making gradual ascents before our attempt to the summit.
I had heard about the surprise storms on Mount Elbrus, given its proximity to the Black Sea. In the afternoon of our arrival at the hut, we did our second pre-acclimatization walk up to the altitude of 4500m. We started our walk under a blue sky and suddenly the wind picked up, the clouds arrived and we found ourselves in a snowstorm in the middle of August. This phenomenon was going to happen almost every day on the mountain. During one of our acclimatization walks and as the storm hit us again, I suddenly started to cry. Yes, I was cold, the conditions were difficult, but I cried with joy because despite the challenges, I was living my dream and I was fulfilled. As the weather was looking positive, we decided to try for the summit on the night of August 7, 2019. The majority of climbers take a skicat machine to reach the altitude of 5000m and from there they will the climb the last 642m to the summit. For me, it was inconceivable to choose this option, already I used the cable car and felt that I had cheated. So my guide and I left the hut around midnight, only with the light of our headlamps to illuminate us. After an hour’s walk the wind picked up again and I had to stop to put on all my extra clothes, it was probably around -28 C at that point. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so cold, it was +30 C in the valley a few days before. Once we approached the traverse that would lead us to the pass separating the two summits, I started coughing and the ache caught me on the spot. I remember crouching down to come to my senses and wondering why? What was motivating me to challenge myself physically and mentally like that? After a few seconds of rest, I started walking again. The last steps to the top were painful, my hands were constantly freezing and I had to constantly move them up and down to re-stimulate the circulation. Finally on August 7, 2019 at 5:00 am, I reached the summit of Europe, my third of the 7 summits. I was once again overwhelmed by a whole range of emotions. The view was probably one of the most beautiful I had ever seen, at that moment I remembered why I loved climbing mountains. Mt Elbrus taught me that in life it is important to be flexible, because plans always end up changing.