||After months of planning, getting the right paperwork in order, training, and other preparations, it was time to pack, check, and double-check my gear for Elburs -- number two on my own personal trek towards the Seven Summits.
I was set to fly out of Denver on Sunday, July 29th. An uneventful trip out to the airport quickly became a spot of panic at check-in, when the agent wanted to see my paper ticket. Huh? I swore (I still do!) that I’d purchased an e-ticket, but the check-in people were adamant that they needed to see the piece of paper -- which I knew was still magntet-ed to the fridge at home. Luckily, my habit of being obscenely early when it comes to air travel paid off, and a NASCAR-worthy run home (40 miles) and back (another 40 miles) to the airport by my wonderful wife delivered the right documentation on time and I was set to go. The flight from Denver to Dulles was uneventful and pleasant, as I stretched out in business class. After climbing Kilimanjaro in early '06, I learned that being sardined into coach class for a trans-Atlantic flight was something to be avoided if at all possible. Being 6'2" and ~240 lbs makes it a tight fit, and spending the extra money for a business-class seat is well worth it, at least to me!
As we neared Washington DC, some dramatic turbulence made the captain's annoncement of heavy storm conditons pretty much superfluous. We landed without incident in a strong thunderstorm, but had to wait to actually get to the gate until the storm passed (because of lightning, all the ground crews had been pulled inside to wait it out). By the time we pulled into the gate, I was starting to think that I probably wouldn’t make my connection in Frankfurt (only 50 minutes between flights!). That thought was cemented as I watched the departure board show my flight out of Washington being delayed 30, 60 and finally 90 minutes, I knew that I’d have to some arranagements to change once I hit Germany.
After the long, long flight to Frankfurt (10 hours), I had missed my original flight by almost an hour, so I made my way to the Lufthansa ticket counter and was able to get a seat onto the next flight to St. Petersburg. And after quick call to the Alpine Ascents rep in St. Petersburg to change my pickup time, I was good to go!
In St. Petersburg, I was actually one of three team members who were coming in a little late. Myself, Chris and Sarah were all on later flights to St. Petersburg, so it actually worked out pretty well. Our rep, Sveta, arranged for our ride to the Hotel Moscow (I thought that was an odd name for a hotel in St. Petersburg, but whatever), and then a short walk down the street to where the rest of the team was just sitting down to dinner. We had the chance to get introduce outselves to each other a little bit over dinner and then head back to the hotel to try to get whatever sleep we could before a day of touring St. Petersburg. It was a little disorienting trying to sleep that first night -- not only was I 10 hours off my normal time zone, but St. Petersburg is quite far north, and this midsummer night was still a bright dusk, even at 11:00pm local time!