The Badges

My ‘Beginners’ Mountaineering Course ended several days ago: after descending from Mount Gidan, we had some classes on snow, and a day later were back in the main Bezengi Camp, following a rather unpleasant walk down a steep slope of rolling scree. At Bezengi we were welcomed by the staff, the rescue forces and some other mountaineers with a fun little show. We were then awarded our well-earned ‘Alpinist of Russia’ badges, and would from then on be called just that – ‘The Badges’.

The name of the intermediate mountaineering course following the ‘Beginners’ course or ‘shift’ is ‘The Badges’. This ‘shift’ lasts for twenty days and includes more training and much more climbing: in order to complete the Badges course one must summit at least four different peaks of varying degree of technical difficulty. Me being me, I couldn’t help staying on for the physical and psychological torture which the ‘shift’ promised to be.

Before plunging head down into it again, however, I had a couple of beautiful rest days, during which I did nothing but sleep, eat and read. While I was at it, new students arrived in Bezengi for the course, and we were divided into new, smaller groups; there are just five of us in mine: three gentlemen and two ladies :). We are a mixed bunch, more fun than my first group. Our instructor is a good climber from Ukraine named Igor.

We have been training and advancing our knowledge on rescue skills, moving on different types of terrain and use of ropes for the past four days. Not unexpectedly, it hasn’t been easy but I have been enjoying the challenges. Now the group is preparing to leave for Teplii Ugol again the day after tomorrow to complete two of the four climbs, mandatory for certification. Sadly, two of us are not in the best shape for the task at hand as altitude and strenuous exercise are taking their toll on our bodies. Although I am one of the more acclimated members of the group, even I am beginning to feel tired and uncertain of my body’s ability to get up and back down four mountains safely. As always, I will keep going until I can’t make another step, and then, onwards – until I can’t even imagine making another one.

I am once again ‘zavhoz’, in charge of the team’s food supplies and cooking. It is not an easy position to be in because one must determine the exact amount and kind of food the group will consume during approach, preparation and climbing. One can’t be too generous as all food is carried by the group, zavhoz included. Nutrition, however, must be adequate to provide the group with enough strength and energy to climb. The corresponding calculations and bargaining with the team took me all morning, but we seem to have finally agreed on what and how much to eat.

We are now off to do some rock-climbing and will be readying our backpacks for the upcoming climbs soon, too. Wish me luck – and a light backpack – on my way to the mountains ;)!

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