MINERALNYE VODY, RUSSIA – Two down, five to go. As Tommy Locklin, aka Tommy Danger, continues to take on the world’s summits one continent at a time, his mission to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis and those affected by it has now spread to another corner of the planet.
Locklin and climbing mate, Mark Nolan, ascended upon Russia and specifically Mount Elbrus to conquer the second of seven summits as part of the More Than Just Mountains campaign to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis. The crew arrived in Russia earlier this month and spent 12 total days in Vladimir Putin’s homeland. The climb itself took just one day, with the rest of the time spent sightseeing and efforting the MTJM campaign within Moscow, St. Petersburg and a few neighboring towns.
“There were really no breaks, it was a constant incline,” Locklin said of the terrain of Elbrus. “Base camp was at 13,500 feet, and we scaled the final 5,000 feet. It doesn’t sound that bad, but it was freezing.
“We left at 3 a.m. and the whole mountain was just soft snow. We hit some tough spots that really made it tough to continue on. Mark was really struggling. He was going through some hypothermia, but when the sun came out we got some calories in us and the sun helped warm us up a little.”
Locklin and Nolan reached the summit after a grueling nine-hour trek at roughly noon. While at the summit, Locklin called a few people as part of his mission promises and spread the ashes of a pair of friends – Wes Telsrow and Robert Schwartzman – that lost their lives to cystic fibrosis. Telsrow’s family gave Locklin seven packs of ashes to spread over the seven summits as a way to celebrate Wes’ life.
Mt. Elbrus’ summit stands at 18,510 feet and overlooks the southwestern edge of Russia, a short distance from the Georgian border, one just a few years ago that was extremely hostile. Given the state of affairs in Russia today with Ukraine and international pressure, Locklin found the reception in the towns, especially Moscow, rather surprising.
“Russia right now is a media creation of fear, that certainly is bought by the American media,” offered Locklin from his experiences with the locals. “We met only amazing people who were super helpful. Yeah, a lot of the taxi drivers were those stoic former boxer-looking dudes that looked all upset. But we would mess with them a little and get them to laugh. It really wasn’t hostile. People were really just more interested in us and what we were up to.”
It wouldn’t be a Tommy Danger adventure, however, without a little mania. The climb, according to Locklin, was “totally difficult”. Going into the towns as an American and not knowing any Russian other than ‘spaseeba’ and ‘nyet’, or ‘thank you’ and ‘no’, was also a trip. Locklin said a beer in Moscow was equivalent to $12 and the crew didn’t know what they were ordering from any menu. As for Elbrus herself, the MTJM climb had good weather given two days later one of his climbing friends took on the facade in white-out conditions with 40 miles-per-hour winds.
“It was definitely an adventure, but we were glad to pack up and get out,” Locklin said of the base camp.
The next summit climb will take place in five months in Argentina as the MTJM crew, this time with John Burkett back in tow, will head to the Andes mountain chain and Mt. Aconcagua. It’s summit is 22,841 feet, which is the tallest in the western and southern hemispheres.
“Mt. Aconcagua is going to be a new type of challenge,” Locklin said. “We are spending two weeks on the mountain and three weeks total in travel. We are going to climb 6,000 feet with heavy packs. With that type of elevation and the weight of the packs, it should be a trip.”
More Than Just Mountains, which began with the scaling of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, has raised thousands of dollars worldwide in its fight against cystic fibrosis. For more information on MTJM, visit mtjm.org or find mtjme initiatives on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo.