Saturday was a free day for us, so after the meagre breakfast in the hotel (which would probably be classed as a three star hotel) we met our three remaining team members (a Russian couple (Sergey and Liliya) and an experienced American mountain climber, Chuck (who had already done a number of peaks around the world, including Mount Everest twice!)), We hit the town of Terskol. Terskol is very much a tourist village geared towards Russian tastes. I couldn’t say it was a hive of activity, but I reckon that the town is probably packed in winter due to the ski runs in the area. There were a number of restaurants in the area, a ski lift or two and an open market. But Terskol very much looked like a town that was half finished on the construction front. Indeed, the walk from our hotel to the town centre (if you can call it that) meant that we had to pass underneath the extension to a hotel that was unfinished and by the looks of it; the remaining work had been abandoned.
Saturday was definitely a day to relax and catch up on the little sleep that we had had. We wandered all around Terskol and whilst looking for a cash machine (there are at least two in the town, one near the centre), had to take a walk through a Russian military barracks. Whilst there weren’t any Russian tanks in the area, there was obviously Russian military accommodation, judging by the olive green equipment we saw hanging out to dry on various balconies.
We also had the opportunity to meet our principal mountain guide, Dasha. Dasha quickly demonstrated that she was knowledgeable in her field of expertise as she quickly picked our kit lists apart. The only person who managed to survive her kit inspection was Chuck, our Everest man. Even then, I think she tried to find something but gave up after a while. So this meant that everyone had to get additional bits of kit to ensure we were all up to scratch. I knew that I’d hire carabineers, ice axe and harness (I think for the next climb, I’ll buy my own), but ended up hiring a thermos (as I’d forgotten mine) and puffer jacket, just in case. I didn’t use the puffer jacket, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Some of our team ended up hiring quite an extensive range of additional kit, including plastic mountain boots. I was recommended (along with a couple of others) to hire the plastic boots and not rely on my “La Sportiva” boots, which I had used on my Mont Blanc climb. A couple of others also stuck with their choice of mountain boots. Even Chuck kept his “La Sportiva” boots, but they were the version that had the gaiters built around them, so much more suited to the environment that we were tackling.
There was logic in the hiring of plastic boots, in that they’d keep the feet warmer, but I just thought that I could bung a couple of heat pads in the soles to keep me warm. Whilst hindsight is a wonderful thing, the heat pads were bloody useless and were actually more of a hindrance as they made my feet uncomfortable. My feet didn’t get cold anyway, due to the fact that we never really stood still long enough.
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