Mt Elbrus Bona Killik

The Russian Revitalisation – Climbing Mt.Elbrus

There are some of us born with a restlessness that is so infused within our being it can never be quenched.

A yearning for new:
New horizons.
New experiences.
New challenges.

A yearning to relieve ourselves from a fear of nothingness. That empty void where conformity, boredom and time threaten our sense of self. We try to fit within the structures that surround us, using careers, relationships and responsibilities to camouflage our true nature. We battle silently with these two selves, giving just enough oxygen to both that we may conquer another day.

But so much time is consumed by the requirements of our lives, we must carve out moments where we can leave. Escape. Pretend for a few short days that all the emails, phone calls, bills and routine have not dampened the dreams we had. We leave for the mountains, with a singular desire to live unfettered. Our only pursuit—laughter, challenge, connection, beauty—and revisiting all the emotional debris we’ve picked up since our last adventure.

Russia was calling.
And I answered.

I spend a lot of time travelling to the wild, but there is something different about planning for big mountains. By necessity, one needs months of organisation, a physical and admin-filled preparation that requires you to spend a lot of thought on your expectations and motives.

I was excited to recapture the camaraderie and freedom that only isolation can bring. Like-minded people from around the globe coming together to give voice to their restless spirits, and in so doing, lay some demons to rest.

Although I never thought to feel secure within her borders or feel the love that I did, I understood Russia well. I felt as if I walked through a brick and mortar construction of my own life. Well maintained facades that cover a past dredged in Cold War subservience. Yet despite the alleyways hinting at extant poverty, there were unbelievably vibrant splashes of creativity and uniqueness. Broken chains celebrated in colour and music. This was a nation flirting with freedom and revelling in expression.

The Caucasus mountains were as unforgiving as the country that housed them. Jagged peaks reaching continuously through shifting clouds and a war-torn past. And there sat Elbrus; soft, alluring, and entirely misleading in its gentleness and rounded crest. Steep slopes that once housed a German-occupied vantage point, alone in its vigil, challenging those who wished to summit it.

Again I was aware of how my current mindset was reflected in the scenery surrounding me. I have spent the last six months slowing down, freeing myself from emotional garments I have outgrown and stopped desiring. Trying to come to terms with a new, softer, gentler me. Yet still fully aware that beneath my eroded shell, lives a tall and lonely peak.

It was a realisation that found its validity when I decided to turn back before the summit. I wanted to fail. I wanted to see if I could honour my newly formed self. A self that didn’t rely on achievement to define my right to exist. A self that placed self-love before ego. A self that could glide past failure and still smile and feel joy.

Every step I take in my life, whether it be the small act of preparing food for my daughter or treading on mountain paths, is a way for me to see. See who I am. Explore my soul from new angles. Contemplate the deeply beautiful mystery that is humanity. Uncover buried layers and say goodbye to others.

And above all, step further into love.

My third big mountain did not bring me the summit photo and (admittedly awesome) bragging rights, but it did bring me peace. A contentment that needed finality away from predefined roles and beliefs. It was the progenitor for my next chapter.

As I write this, a smile lifts my face, I feel profound gratitude for all the different threads that have interlaced my existence. I freely admit there have been heart-destroying anguish punctuating my life, sometimes these memories raise their heads and threaten my ability to recognise all the equally heart-breaking majesty that our world holds. It is for this reason that I move towards the new.

Our perspective shifts and changes as we come to know and love the gloriously complex tapestry that is us. Sometimes, we need to deliberately seek out new ingredients in order for our perspective to welcome in new possibilities.

It was only a few short days, but my Russian adventure scored its indelible mark on my soul. Thank you Vitaly, Kate, Jason, Gabriel, Solveiga, Antony, Katrina, Cameron, Chris and Mark for sharing with me your lives, insights, laughter and wisdom. The Buff lives!