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We began the ascent to the stunning gorge Irikchat that is the route to Elbrus from the east. The gorge begins with a sharp ascend near the village of Elbrus and then turns into a flat path along the mountain river through a beautiful coniferous forest. Here you feel yourself really far away from civilization. There are no roads, bridges, villages: only wildlife around. If we did the “traditional” acclimatization on Cheget and the Observatory, we would meet crowds of tourists, see the ski lifts, buildings, roads. The feeling of adventure and trekking would definitely disappear. And here, there were only a couple of tourists with large backpacks and no one else. Silence, interrupted by the roar of a furious mountain river and the soft clatter of our mountaineering sticks.

When the forest was already behind us, a view of two mountain valleys was revealed: the lower one was covered with bright green grass, the upper one with dry yellow. We turned to the upper valley where some wild horses were grazing. One curious horse quietly and nervously approached us, although we were rather nervous than it. The horse ate something from my hand and began to look for something tastier from others. Other horses anxiously stood in the distance and quietly watched either us or something far off in front of them, as if they were listening to the murmur of the river. Only one stallion did not flow into this picture of idyll and tranquility: he had a huge hardon and it was better not to approach him, I guess.

After an hour of walking, we found a suitable place for camping. A turbulent night waited ahead of us: some wild animal was trying to break into our tent …

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