Acclimatization Trek to Cheget Mountain
Cheget is another mountain near the village of Cheget where we were staying. Also standing at 3,100m, it is steeper than Terskol Observatory trek. It is a good second trek for acclimatization. There was a ski-lft that can take you all the way to the top, but since we were trekking, the plan was to go up the mountain and then use the ski-lift to come down.
As usual, we woke up early at 6.30am and congregated at the lobby for some internet surfing before heading for breakfast. Breakfast was the usual. Once breakfast was done, we started our trek at around 9am.
The initial climb up to Cheget was quite steep and it got us panting in no time. However, from yesterday’s warm up climb, we did not have much of a problem climbing this one.
The view of the surrounding scenery was much better than the trek to Cheget Observatory as it was very close to the Caucasus Range and the border between Russia and Georgia. There was a large expanse of gravel space between our path and the Caucasus Range. This is a no-man’s land which separates the two countries. At one point, there was a notice put up indicating border demarcation.
The signboard triggered a flood of creative juices amongst the team members. They had a lot of fun taking funny poses with the sign board. At 3,000m we reached the first stop which is where the first ski-lift drops you off before you take the second ski-lift to the top. We rested at a very nice cafe overlooking the valleys. I had some coke while the others ate a special Russian dish called Peerushki. Its something like a pancake and its specially well made in that area.
After resting for about 30 minutes, we continued our journey to the top of the mountain. This was another hour’s walk. Along the way, we could see Elbrus in all her glory. This time, the skies were relatively clear and we could see the two peaks of Elbrus. We could even see the Barrel’s Hut at the bottom of the snowline. The previous day, we had checked up on the weather and found that today would be mostly clear in the mornings with snow or shower in the noon and evening.
Mount Cheget is about 3,700m high, but no one is allowed beyond 3,100m due to security reasons. We suspect that there is a army outpost at the top overlooking the Georgian border. At the top of Cheget, we unwinded and relaxed in the sun, gazing at Elbrus. Tomorrow, we head off to Barrel’s Hut. Although we have seen a lot of video footage of Barrel’s Hut and Elbrus, we did not know exactly what to expect or how it would be like.
There were a lot of people at Mount Cheget who had used the ski-lift to come up and enjoy the views. Again, we rested for an hour basking in the sun and enjoying the splendid views.
After an hour, we decided to go down, this time using the ski-lift. It was quite inexpensive at around 200 roubles for each ski-lift. We had to take two of them. One to the cafe where we rested at around 3,000m and then next to the Cheget town. The first one was a single seater chair while the second one was a double seater chair. The views from the ski-lift were amazing with lush green valley below while surrounded by mountains.
When you sit on the ski-lift chair, you are to fasten yourself using a chain that fits onto the other side of the chair, preventing you from falling off. I had a little problem undoing the chain when i got down at the ski-lift as i tried to unhook it a bit too late. The chain wouldn’t come off easily. The operator started shouting at me to unfasten it soon. But since i was struggling with it, he had to temporarily stop the lift so that i could get off. After that embarrasing moment, i got some serious glare from the operator as he switched the system back on. The next chair down, was no different, but this time i managed to unhock the chain earlier and got off easily.
The total trek up to the top was about 3 hours and we were down in about 30 minutes. Once at Cheget, we went for our lunch at Cafe 7 again and had a hearty meal. As usual, mine was vegetarian with beetroot, bread, soup and vegetables.
After the lunch, we went back to the hotel to leave our bags and then head to the rental shop to get our gears for the climb.
The shop, The 7 Summits Club, is located down the road from Terskol village and a nice walk from Cheget along the main road. It was well stocked with all the necessary items that is needed for the climb. In fact, you can get almost everything from the shop.
I got my ski-goggles and thermos flask from there while the others got their gears. The rental was reasonable based on the daily usage. So, for us it was to be rented out from 5th August to 8th August. Any additional day of usage will have to be paid extra while returning the items. You can either pay in roubles or euros.
After the purchase, we went back to the hotel and separated the goods that were to be worn in the town and packed them separately. These will be left in the hotel and collected when we return from Elbrus. The rest of the items to be carried to Barrel’s Hut is the essential climbing gear with the necessary clothing.
The rest of the evening went in lobby doing some internet surfing and chatting before dinner was served. Dasha held a short briefing on the activities for the next day. Since there is no WiFi at Barrel’s Hut and since the SIM card bought in Moscow did not work, we told her to stop on the way to get ourselves a new SIM card for our phones. After the brief chat, we headed off to bed. I could not sleep much due to the excitement of things to come the next day. I tossed in bed till about 2am before falling asleep.
Tomorrow, we will be heading off to Barrel’s Hut.