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  Annabelle Bond is back with Elbrus 2004


AUGUST 7TH - LONDON - MOSCOW INTRODUCTION AND DIARY
 
I cant actually believe that I am on the flight to Russia with all my bags hopefully safely below. This time last year when I was heading to Ecuador to meet the Chilean team, the airline managed to loose one of my bags. It didn't look so organized on my part showing up for a mountain climb with a bag full of bikinis and shorts!
To say that the past few weeks have been hectic is an understatement. Two weeks ago I was not sponsored trying to organize a years worth of climbing - seven mountains in total, with the help of the amazingly patient and supportive Guy Cotter from Adventure Consultants.
Because of the limited time between making my decision to try and be the fastest woman to complete the seven summits and catching the correct season with which to start climbing the first mountain ( Elbrus), sponsorship was extremely difficult to obtain. It needed a quick decision from a very senior executive who could waiver the corporate beaurocracy to give me the green light. As I fly to Russia today to climb Mt Elbrus I have the support of three incredible companies. From my asian roots and my hometown Hong Kong, I have the support of Li and Fung Group, and from the USA I am backed by BlackRock and Tudor Capital.  I couldn't wish for higher quality sponsorship and I pray I can fulfill my side of the deal by taking their flags to the remaining seven highest peaks on each continent.
Generating media interest in the UK about my proposed goal has been extremely hard, especially when ur up against big brother!! My persistently hard work has paid off and im now having some success with the press here. I want people to be able to see what a hugely physical and mentally challenging task I have undertaken that is 50% reliant on weather. I have handled everything myself from organizing flights, hotels and liaising almost daily on logistics with Guy Cotter, to doing interviews and trying to find representation.
I have unsuccessfully tried to recruit my mother to act as my assistant!! I am an unfit wreck as I sit here on the plane headed for Moscow.
I couldn't have done all this without the help of Rob Montague at RKMPR who has been handling my media here in the UK. He has patiently sat with me on interviews and been a great friend and supporter of my climbing exploits since I met him a few days prior to my Everest departure this spring!
Richard Lewis from Summit Hotels has tied his appropriately named brand to my quest and is providing accommodation for myself, Guy Cotter and Luis Benitez for the duration of the Seven summit climb. It will be a great luxury for us whilst not roughing it in tents and Summit Hotels are located in nearly all of my scheduled destinations from Alaska to South America. I want to thank Richard Lewis and the Summit Hotel group for their support and hope to do justice to their name!
Whilst on Everest this spring Dave from Discovery channel suggested I contact a "hot production" guy in London to help me out with advice with the filming of my seven summit speed challenge. James Brabazon has been extremely helpful to me. When not filming in a war zone which is his specialty, he has taken the time to give me some great advice, contacts and endured an inundation of phone and text messages over the purchase of my camera equipment. My camera with Mikes, headphones etc was purchased at 6.00pm before departing the following morning at 9.00am - talk about cutting it fine!!
The North Face have provided my equipment for the year ahead and are fully behind me and my goal and have given me everything from down jackets, backpacks to duffel bags which has been great.
I have been a ball of nervous energy - having spent 10 years in real estate trying to start a career in the outdoors entertainment industry has been almost as challenging as climbing the mountains! The legal side of things, sponsorship, agents promoting and organizing events for the Eve Appeal have kept me chained to my computer until 2.00am most nights - im just hoping ive maintained a level of fitness that will enable me to perform on Elbrus.
I also have to make a special mention to Guy Cotter of Adventure Consultants. They not only are the top guiding company specializing in the Seven Summits but he was extremely flexible in helping me pursue this opportunity. If you read my Everest Diary you will have read that I did a "quality control" assessment of all the groups at basecamp from their mess tent, tents and food to the safety measures of their guides on the mountain and Adventure Consultants came out far and away the most superior. Guy and Luis Benitez ( one of the best guides out there) will between the two of them divide the arduous task of guiding me on the seven mountains that I would like to climb within a year. I want to thank Guy for all his help with my challenge.
 
 As well as climbing on behalf of the Eve Appeal, I have been busy promoting awareness for The Eve Appeal in all interviews, TV appearances and radio talks that I have done since being back in the UK. It has all paid off and between my family and myself we have raised more than one million pounds to the cause. I hope to raise the same again over the course of the next year. Thank you to everyone who has supported me by making a donation to The Eve Appeal.
I couldn't have done all this without the love and support of my family who are fully behind me on this next challenge. My mother has carefully monitored my diet and health and through which has enabled me to feel fit enough for this climb despite the lack of exercise I have done.
Im sitting on the plane to Russia and we a crew of people whom are all connected through living in Hong Kong. I have my great friend Sean Diffley with me, he's trying to climb the Seven Summits also. Its great that we are finally doing a mountain together having been talking about it for 2 years since I went and stayed with him when he was living in Rio de Janerio in Brazil.  Sissel Smaller is a new friend whom my sister knows from Hong Kong. She is a pretty blonde Norwegian, amazing athlete and is climbing Everest next Spring with Russ Brice, the king of the North side of Everest.  We also have the Benetars from South Africa, who used to spend a lot of time in Hong Kong whilst owning a garment business.  Tony and his wife Lisa and Gregor. I haven't met them before although we all have a ton of mutual friends. Luis Benitez is guiding all of us and we will meet him in Moscow.  Seanie has Moscow wired having spent a lot of time there through his work and has arranged dinner for us in a hot new restaurant. I hadn't planned on going out to dinner in Moscow wearing my trainers but I guess that is what's going to happen!
We all met at my house in London this morning at 10.30am. I was nervous that my luggage was going to be overweight ( definitely the camera equipment) We had a great guy checking us in and all our luggage was surprisingly enough not overweight - nothing gets my blood boiling more than having to pay excess baggage on boots, crampons etc...
We have a serious prima donna sitting in front of us, she has told Sean to move his legs from pushing her seat and has just told Sissel and I to keep our voices down. She makes me look like an angel! We are now in a death stare war.. We are just starting our descent into Moscow, ive never been before so im very excited about visiting a new country and being exposed to their culture. Im already nervous about our internal flight to Mineral Vody tomorrow. We fly on a dodgy internal flight just over 2 hours to the South to the mountainous borders of where Georgia and Armenia meet Russia near the Black Sea ( hence the varied weather on Elbrus brought in by its proximity to the coast)
I didn't really anticipate being back in the snow and ice so soon after Everest but here I am on the beginning of another climb and climbing without the Chilean team for the first time in a year. Im always nervous prior to an expedition and I hope I can perform to the best of my ability and do justice to the amazing sponsors that have put their faith in me.
 
The first drama started when poor Lisa Benetars bag didn't show up in Moscow. The Africans had all collected luggage off their flight from South Africa in order to try and prevent a situation like this. Our dinner plans were almost blown out the window after a 2 hour wait at the airport but finally we tried to get the bag sent directly to Mineral Vody ( seeing would be believing) and headed to dinner at midnight. We had a great meal and got back to our hotel around 2.00am. Sissel and I were sharing a room and it was suffocating hot. We had 3 hours of sleep before we were dute to be up and ready for the flight to Mineryl Vody.
8th AUGUST
 
I tried to ignore the sound of Sissels alarm going off at 6.45 am. I was exhausted, the previous night I had worked until 3.00am so this was my second consecutive night with a serious lack of sleep. Not conjuicive to an imminent mountain climb where sleep on a mountain generally eludes you.  We did a fly by visit to Red Square and the Kremlin which was amazing, I wish we could have spent longer there to learn more about Russia's fascinating history.
The domestic airport was a shambles, there were no trolleys anywhere so we had to carry our 14 huge duffel bags from the carpark to the check in. I could feel my arms growing under the weight of lugging numerous bags around. All of us sweating profusely we had to sort our overweight fees as you are only allowed 23kg per person ( practically my hand luggage!! The plane was positively prehistoric I would estimate at least 50 years old. I almost started crying when I went to the bathroom prior to take off and saw duck tape on the walls. I haven't been on a plane this old since my ex fiance, kipp and I were involved in a plane crash down in Fiji in 2001. I was terrified.  The take off had me shaking in a ball when part of the ceiling fell down combined with the collapse of my tray, which Luis stuck back up with duck tape to stop it falling onto me constantly.
Amazingly enough we landed safely in Mineral Vody and once again had to drag our huge duffel bags to the carpark - my only work out in about a week! We now have a 3 hour bus journey to the valley where Elbrus is located. The weather looks pretty ominous. Sure enough as we approach the valley where we are staying the black clouds develop into rain, thunder and lightening not a good sign for our climb I think to myself... especially with a target summit attempt on Friday 13th!
Our hotel was a small pretty hotel surrounded by pine trees and once again we lugged our 14 bags up to our rooms. We are all in our own rooms tonight and its way more civilized than our hotel in Moscow. We all headed down to the sauna where the boys cranked it up to about 100degrees, it was unbearable. We had dinner, im not overly impressed with the food here I have to confess - I was even missing Nepals dahl baht!! I had the boniest most anorexic fish you could wish for and almost killed myself choking on one of the bones!!
Luis gave us our briefing for tomorrow and im now about to fall into a much needed sleep!!

10th AUGUST

 
We were woken again at 7.00am and by 9.00am we were doing the duffel shuffle up the mountain.. we were getting two cable cars and then one of the dodgy single seater chairlifts to "barrel land" where we would be spending the next few nights. We formed a daisy chain to pass the huge bags between us, I was trying to figure out the part of the chain that required the least work but it was all pretty strenuous! We arrived at the barrels by midday and they are exactly as they are pronounced - old silver and red rusting barrels. Its a fairly panoramic view from here, noticeably cooler and a distinct aroma of urine! The six of us are settling into our barrel, all very cozy.
we had lunch in the mess barrel, for every meal they add dill which is one of the few things I completely hate! We sat next to Tom Milne and 2 of his clients at lunch, they had just made the summit - I was most envious! The climbing community is so small, Tom had met Andronico, Misail and co down in Antarctica in 2002 whilst at Patriot Hills.
After lunch we went on an acclimatisation hike to 4,200 meters which is the highest Lisa Benetar has been. The weather varies from sun to big black clouds bringing with them small hail stones which were painfully pelting us in the face. Sissel is the most organized in terms of gear and equipment - I have the heaviest bag and am always the least prepared, ive received a lecture from Luis about what I bring to Vinson already..

11th AUGUST

 
We all had a fairly sleepless night, sean and Shoure ( my nickname for gregor) were like elephants as they went past sissel and I to go to the loo in the middle of the night waking us both up - we are in the front of the barrel so hear all traffic. We all tossed and turned and felt awful when Luis woke us at 7.15am. We had breakfast and I chatted to Tom and his crew before we set off for our next acclimatisation hike. This was everyone's first time in crampons with the exception of Myself and Sissel and they all did great. Everyone was strong and we made a decision to go and touch Pastakova rocks today instead of tomorrow as the weather forecast wasn't great. When we arrived at Pastokova rocks the visibility was zero, it was really cold, windy and starting to hail - nothing scenic at all. We went back to the barrels for a late lunch and it started to pour with rain. Luis is trying to negotiate for us to stay an extra couple of nights at the barrels opposed to heading up to a dingier hut 1,000ft higher up the mountain. We are now all in the barrel taking a siesta and reading books. we have a rest day planned for tomorrow. Our summit day attempt is scheduled for Friday 13th luckily I believe in the Chinese characters in terms of superstition whereby the number 4 is unlucky.
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing cards. Sean, shoure, sissel and myself played cards, I lost and was almost laughed out of the barrel when I offered the others some tips. Dinner was at 8.00pm and we had the same soup we have had the past few lunch and dinners. The ingredients don't really bode well with altitude  - kidney beans, onions and garlic and we are praying our barrel doesn't blow! " what are we all doing in a barrel in the middle of Russia" asked Sean as we all got ready for bed - u may well ask!
 
12TH AUGUST
 
We all slept really well thanks to a homeopathic sleep aid that we all took. Luis woke us up filming us all which was not a pretty sight - I hate getting filmed unprepared!! The bad news this morning is poor Seanie twisted his ankle falling off the barrel steps. His ankle looked hugely distorted as he reluctantly showed it to us all at breakfast. Sean held it together pretty well as Luis pointed out that unless it was better extremely soon ( like that night) sean would not be able to go for the summit. Luis did not want to divide the group with sean lagging behind on a bad ankle. Such bad luck for Sean that u cant even try for the summit. The weather continued to be awful, lots of snow alternating with rain and zero visibility - we were all a little disheartened. For me, its a whole new ball game being obligated to my sponsors, so the frustration when the weather is bad is hard to contain. We are definitely all barreled out that is for sure!  We spent the morning packing for our summit attempt in the unlikely chance of their being a break in the weather, and we are now back in the barrel after another lunch of dill soup!
Greg, sissel and I spent the afternoon out in the snow taking photos. all was going great until greg got water on the lenses of the camera which wound up our photo shoot rather imminently. Back into the barrel to wait for dinner.. we have phone reception in barrel land and we have all been texting friends to find out what the weather is going to do overnight... None of my friends responded surprise surprise - they are all in either st tropez or ibiza millions of miles away from a remote mountain in the middle of Russia! I spoke to my Mum on the phone and she was surprised when I said that bad weather may prevent us from making the summit - an indicator of the type of expectation level people have of my ability to pull off the next 7 mountains. No one can imagine how much weather can prevent you from climbing a mountain. We are all doing last minute preparations in the unlikely event we depart for the summit at 3.00am tomorrow morning.
AUGUST FRIDAY 13TH
 
Luis came in to our barrel at 3.00am and gave us 5 reasons why we would be not going for the summit today - we have a little more time, seans ankle would be able to rest for one more day, we wouldn't have to break trail etc etc.  I have to confess I didn't really listen beyond that. I feel a little more stressed out about obligations to sponsors so I really have to bite my lip and be patient when told good advice... patience is crucial in mountaineering and I really have to work on this aspect as I'm completely impatient in my day to day life, I expect everything to be done yesterday ( a trait that was generally fulfilled when I lived in Hong Kong)
We all went back to sleep having had to witness Gregor and Seanie do a mister universe, parading through our barrell flexing their muscles en route to the loo!  We woke up again at a much more sociable hour of 7.30am and it was a bluebird day... Its frustrating seeing other people going for the summit when u are hanging out in barrel land not doing much! however Luis's decision not to go for the summit today proved right when some really bad weather crept up the valley and soon we were all in a white out again and it began snowing heavily again. We packed up our barrel and prepared to move a thousand feet higher up the mountain to a hut where the accommodation was inevitably taking a sharp decline! A snow cat was meant to take our huge duffel shuffle up the mountain - once we had ferried the bags at least a little bit of the way - wouldn't be the same without lifting some of it ourselves! Luis has busted my ploy of going to the bathroom as soon as the bags need to be lifted, so I'm reluctantly fully involved in helping shift the bags to the snow cat. The snow cat was broken and we watched a hugely fat woman in a bikini posing around in front of the snow cat whilst her boyfriend tinkered away underneath it. Eventually the snow cat started up and we loaded all our gear and all the boys except Luis into the cat and they headed off up the mountain to the hut. Luis then took the 3 girls up to the hut, hopefully slow enough so all the bags would be all offloaded by the time we arrived!!  It was good to get some exercise as we made our way up the mountain,  the weather was still with very limited visibility.
We are now in two small dormitories in the hut, sissel, Luis and I are crammed in with Vladimir and Lena our cook in one room and the rest of the crew were across the other side of the hut. We packed and organized all our gear again in case we were going to go for the summit tonight which I'm really really hoping we do.
We had our usual lunch consisting of dill soup, stale bread and biscuits and Luis provided all sorts of other stuff from the states which went down really well! We are now taking a siesta, given that I didn't sleep a wink last night I am now quite tired and anxious to rest prior to tomorrow when I hope we are going to give it a go.

AUGUST 14TH - SUMMIT DAY!!

 
I was lucky if I slept an hour last night. Lena, our cook arrived in at 10.00pm ( we were all in bed at 8.30pm) with a candle in her hand that almost burnt down our whole dormitory as she whizzed it past all our down jackets and the wooden beams!! The hut above our hut had burnt down the previous year in about 5 mins flat, so sissel and I held our breath until Vladimir replaced the candle with a headlamp! Sleep completely eluded me and I woke up at 1.30am when Luis went and checked out the weather - we were on for it!! I was so tired at this point it wa almost difficult to rustle up the energy yet alone the excitement I normally feel prior to a summit attempt. I normally rely on the familiar rush of adrenalin that kicks in at the antisocial hours u leave for when u go for it! We all got up and were ready for our 3.00am breakfast. I'm always very unorganized getting ready to leave, but somehow last minute it all falls into place. While Sissel and I were waiting for the snow cat to take us to Pastakov rocks we saw 3 shooting stars and the planet Saturn in the night sky - it was really amazing and something I love to experience when I'm in the mountains. The snow cat ride was pretty hair raising as we were all thrown against each other trying to avoid falling out - u just knew the guy would probably keep going if that happened!
We started climbing at 4.45 am and it was a long way up. Gregor, sean and i started singing at one point and big mistake, suddenly we all fell into a big lull and each of us had to take a gu shot to recover. We continued upwards, all silent and collecting our own thoughts. Luis keeps a really great pace and is vigilant about water/snack breaks which I think makes him such a good guide. We all continued upwards, it seemed to go on forever and although the conditions were perfect, there was an icy wind and I really felt the cold. By the time we arrived at the traverse I was feeling lousy, no energy in my legs resulting from 2 nights of non existent sleep and I was freezing. We finally reached a sunny point on the saddle where we stopped for a break of about 20 minutes.  Elbrus is a volcano that split in two pieces when it last erupted, hence the saddle where we were sitting was in the middle of the two peaks.
The break here completely revived me and I started to feel really good. Sean had taken so much ibuprofen for his ankle that he was a little spaced out and not feeling so great at this point although was not complaining at all! He really made so little fuss about his ankle, he was really amazing and strong. We continued steeply upwards from the saddle, all walking like ducks so that our crampons were gripping firmly onto the sharp incline of the slope. We took about 1hr and 15 minutes to reach the summit from the saddle.. It was really exciting when we arrived, Tony ( Luis's main disciple!) went to the summit first with his wife Lisa - it was Lisa's first mountain and was seanie, greg and Tony's second of the seven summits. It was Sissel's first of the Seven summits and my third. We were all ecstatic to be on the summit and we spent ages hugging each other and taking photos. I'm afraid I took the most time with the photos getting all the summit pictures for all my sponsors and everyone was really patient with me!! Luis warned me that all the flags need to be smaller and I need to do this a lot quicker - his example was when he was on the summit of Vinson last year, he spent a total of 60 seconds on the summit and it was - 60!!!
We came down slowly, seans ankle hurt way more on the descent and he was really in pain now. The weather was very warm and it really was the perfect day to go for the summit. It took about 3 hours to come down and I was trying not to run to the snow cat once I saw it at Pasakov rocks - I definitely didn't want it to leave without us!
We got back to the hut, had a quick dill soup and all crashed, I now think I'm so overtired that I cant sleep - this is really not good.  Its now after dinner and I'm taking a homeopathic sleeping aid again to try and get some rest - I hope they work! I'm so happy that we all reached the summit, it was such a perfect day and it was great to do it all together especially with sean and his twisted ankle. Sean and I have been talking about doing one of the seven summits together for so long now , so its great to have done Elbrus with him.  Tomorrow we have the big duffel shuffle back down the mountain and we are all looking forward to being back in the ozone hotel!!!

AUGUST 15TH

 
I still couldn't sleep, I don't know what's going on! Poor Lena has a really bad cough and was coughing during the night which kept me awake. Luis decided that our room needed ventilating and opened the door of our dormitory. Every time a flash light goes on I would wake up.  Sissel and I eventually woke for good at 6.30am and my shin was so painful due to being kicked in the night. My boots have rubbed a big open wound on my shin which had been made even worse by our summit day. sissel and Luis helped me bandage it up and we were all very excited to be heading down valley! We had breakfast and were all packed up and ready about an hour before the snow cat arrived we were so keen to leave! We were all sitting on the porch in the sun outside the hut and taking photos when suddenly what looked what we thought was a flag flew past and landed between Luis and myself. We all freaked out when we realized that due to the high winds all the used toilet paper was being blown from the loos round to the front of the porch and onto our photo session! Yuk, we were saved from the inundation of used loo roll by the arrival of the snow cat and we were even more keen to leave at this point! We were giving a guy with a broken ankle a lift down to the barrels in our cat and we had soon loaded the huge mass of bags onto the snow cat and were headed down the mountain. Fourteen big bags onto the single seater chairlift, two cable car rides down to the valley floor was exhausting work especially as it got progressively warmer as we moved lower. If only you could feel the weight of some of these bags ( not mine of course!!) then you would empathize with how arduous the duffel shuffle is...
We grabbed some beers from the local shop and headed back to our hotel for a much needed shower and something different to eat than dill soup!
After lunch it was such a nice day that I decided to go for a run alongside the river and through the forest. It was truly beautiful looking at all the snowcapped peaks from the forest as I ran. I headed back after an hour or so and then went into the sauna with sissel and Luis. Not the best move for me as I think I was already dehydrated from the climb, made worse by my run and then finally the sauna! prune like I ran back up to my room feeling shaky!! Dinner was at 7.00pm and it was very relaxed, a delicious steak ( we had banned bony fish from our menu!) a few beers and seanies vodka..we then went and watched some of the movie that Luis had filmed from the climb. I'm trying to document all the climbs to show people what it takes to climb 7 mountains on 6 different continents in a year and in some cases with an eclectic bunch of people with me!
We went to bed at 11.00 as the good news delivered to us at supper was that we were getting up at 3.00am in order to catch our internal flight from Mineral Vody back to Moscow!!
AUGUST 16TH
 
I couldn't think where I was when I heard a vague ringing in the darkness of my room. I really felt like I had been drugged, 3 nights of nearly zero sleep and a shot or 2 of vodka will really do the trick. I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to leave the hotel by 4.00am. We had to settle our hotel bill which included trivialities like a sachet of butter and 6 people in the sauna!!
It was a 3 hour bus ride to the airport and I tried to fall back asleep but it was way too uncomfortable. Sean had his black eye shades on and managed to sleep the whole way - I was most envious.
The plane was the same decrapped antique that flew us out to Mineral Vody, I was already nervous. I was wedged between sissel and Luis on a seat that was permanently reclined much to the annoyance of the fat overly made up woman sitting behind me. She complained to 2 different air hostesses about my seat and kept giving me death stares every time I looked up from my reclined position and caught her eye. Sissel and I had the pleasant aroma of stale puke wafting between our seats so we both wrapped scarves around our faces and it just added to the horrific atmosphere and general careless demeanor of this plane. Amazingly enough it was a fairly smooth flight and I didn't dig my nails into sissel or Luis's arms too hard, and we arrived in Moscow to find the weather was freezing. For the first time I was the only person whom was prepared for this weather by still carrying my down jacket - this was purely by default as I was planning to use it as a pillow to sleep on, but all the others had packed theirs so I was nice and warm and looking organized for a change!
We said good bye to Luis at the airport, he was off back to the states from another airport. I next see Luis in November when he is guiding me on Vinson and Aconcagua.  That is the plan weather permitting, and will be a very tough 5 weeks for me.
The rest of us decided that we really needed to have pizza so sean got on his phone to make the arrangements and an hour later we were all eating giant pizzas and anything we could get our hands on after the dill soup diet! We stopped in a market on our way back to the airport and all brought KGs of caviar. Sean told me that it would last me about 2 weeks but iv just managed to eat most of it with sissel on the flight back to London and im now feeling very sick and extremely thirsty!!
We are now almost in London and I really had the most amazing trip. This group has been really fun to climb with and given the very strong personalities on the climb it was amazing that it was argument free - often quite unusual when it comes to mountain climbing!! Gregor, Tony and Lisa were so much fun to have with us on the climb and it was exciting to be part of Lisa's first mountain experience and hope she goes onto do many more!! Sean was such a superstar, continuing onto make the summit on a twisted ankle and of course organizing our social part of the trip in Moscow. Sissel was a great partner in crime and an extremely accomplished climber and I wish her all the best on her up and coming Everest trip next spring.  It was a great effort on Luis's part to get us all to the top and to choose a great summit day!!
I am so happy that I fulfilled my obligations to my sponsors and my own personal goal and im now back to finalize the rest of my sponsorship before departing to climb in Africa mid September.  It was a truly great climb and a bonding experience and Russia will always be a very happy memory for me.

This past Spring Annabelle Annabelle Bond Summited Everest!

 
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