||Day 9 was the move to our highest camp at the Pruitt Hut. The Pruitt Hut is the highest on Elbrus, and is actually a series of prefabricated buildings perched on the rocks at about 13,000’. The Pruitt area is almost like being around an archeological ruin, as remains of previous constructs, dating back to WW II, lie at the feet of newer buildings. On first glance it looks like so much garbage just piled around everywhere, and to some extent that is true (Russian ideas of environmentalism aren’t nearly as evolved as American ideas of environmentalism this from our Russian guides, not just my opinion!). But we were told that significant cleanup efforts are underway to make the mountain a more pristine place, and those efforts are going forward slowly but surely. From a historical standpoint thought, it’s an interesting place. Per our guides, a lot of the remnants in the area date back to the 40s, from when Hitler’s forces occupied the mountain, more of a political than a strategic target. It's not uncommon to find WWII era bullets and cases in the glacier
But I digress. After another hearty breakfast, we actually took advantage of the Snowcat services on the mountain and let one of those beasts haul our heavy packs so we could hike to the huts without much load. It definitely made a difference, and we scooted up to 13,000’ in short order. Each of the prefabs at Pruitt holds about 12 people snugly. With 14 climbers and 4 guides, we ended up having to set up a couple tents outside on the glacier. Rather than shoehorn myself in with the crowd, I gladly volunteered to lodge in the tent. Between the warm summer temps and my zero-degree sleeping bag, keeping warm wasn’t a problem, and there’d be a lot more space and less chaos in the tent.
Once we were all set up with our lodging and after lunch, the afternoon was spent reviewing self-arrest techniques, so it was Gore-tex and ice axes and up the glacier a few hundred yards to a steep slope with a mellow runout, perfect for self-arrest practice. Under the watchful eye of our guides, we spent a couple hours essentially throwing ourselves downhill and arresting with our ice axes, including falling forward, backward, and upside down. The repeated practice runs and the warmth of the day soon melted out all the snow off our little slope, and our last few practice runs were done on the bare (and HARD!) glacier ice. By the end of the day we all had impressive bruises to compare!
Dinner came early, at 5pm, and we were all encouraged to get as much rest as possible before our 1:00am wake-up for summit day. I was able to get about 6 hours of sleep in that window, thanks to some strategic earplugs.