We are at camp 1 which is high camp at 3,800m we are planning on leaving at 3am tomorrow morning (midnight your time) to attempt the summit. We aim to summit between 7am-10am UK time.
Arriving at Moscow and getting the transfer onwards was surreal. I have visited every continent on the planet but Russia is like nothing else I have ever seen before. We got to Mineralny Vody airport and we can't communicate and can't read anything. Then it was as if we got abducted from the airport! We got taken by a driver who shoved us in to a car and basically drove incredibly fast around this town, engrossed in what seemed to be a very aggressive argument on his mobile phone and he then dropped us off at the hotel where we met our Russian liaison but for that hour in the car we were all just looking at ourselves thinking this might be the last car journey we ever take! Honestly it was freaking us out! We got to the hotel and met our Russian liaison Sergy who's a really nice guy. We spent a night in the hotel and the next morning we left pretty early to drive overland to base camp, which is about 5-6 hours in a 4x4 off road. There isn't the infrastructure like there is on the south side of the mountain so there are no roads as such at all really.
We had to go through one checkpoint on route which was blocking the 4x4 path and there were two guys with AK-47's pointing at us so we hid the TV cameras under the bags and the guys got out and did some negotiating and some talking, it was about 5 minutes waiting but it was the longest 5 minutes I have had in a car. We had spoken about the checkpoints but the reality of someone pointing AK-47's at you is pretty intimidating but we got through reasonably uneventfully and arrived at base camp yesterday at 2,300m.
Last night we camped at 2,300m right next to the military base, the soldiers there were really cool, actually quite the opposite of what we had heard before travelling out. There were quite a few other teams around us too. This morning we carried full loads to high camp. The early part of the day was climbing through pretty lush green rolling hills, very much like Wales, it was beautiful and the latter part of the day was through moraine and rocks and stuff and now we are just on the edge of the glacier.
Both me and the other Parksy shaved our beards off, I am quite happy to say that it has taken about 5-7 years off me, it took about 20 years off Parksy, he looked 12!! but the last few days he has got some stubble back so he now looks like a teenager!
I had pretty mixed emotions shaving, I wanted to keep my beard to the end but also wanted to get rid of it, but it was all in our best interests to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible once we were here.
Update on the toe - I had a pretty painful day today, we climbed a 1,500m vertical climb today and it was a tough day by anyone's standard. The toe was getting pretty painful towards the end of the climb. We got to camp and I changed the dressing. The end of the toe is just flesh now, there is no dead skin or live skin on it so it's in my best interest to get up and down as quickly as possible.
Hopefully speak to you all soon from the summit of Elbrus!