WINTER ASCENT ON ELBRUS
THE HIGHEST PEAK IN EUROPE
AN INCREDIBLE CHALLENGE
WHICH WAS PART OF
AN AMAZING ROAD TRIP
When I imagined my journey to Elbrus, I didn’t set off East, where the mountain actually is, but West, then North. Why? Because I am born to explore.
The trip summed up 13,000 km (8,125 miles) throughout 15 countries, which touched down the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Rovaniemi, known as Santa Claus’s home.
The itinerary was: Bucharest – Vienna – Graz – Salzburg – Munich – Stuttgart –Strasbourg – Luxembourg – Brussels – Rotterdam – Amsterdam – Hamburg –Copenhagen – Oslo – Stockholm – Rovaniemi – Helsinki – Sankt Petersburg –Moscow – Elbrus – Odessa – Suceava – Bucharest.
A CLASSIC BMW DEFEATING THE WINTER
That’s not a car, it’s a legend. The fun part was when we had to decide upon the vehicle that would drive us to our destination. The idea to set off during the winter and go towards the Arctic Circle in a car that was 20 years old and had rear wheel drive was appealing to only one person: myself. My travel partners and the people who knew me were just as worried as I was confident and relaxed. The E34 is my first car, purchased when I was nineteen.
It’s the third generation of the 5 Series, a very reliable car, robust and with surprising sports performance, considering it’s a sedan. Although it’s equipped with most of the gadgets that can be seen in a modern car (computer, air conditioning, electric mirrors and windows) it is build rather in a “raw” manner, and this in a positive meaning. There are not many electronic devices, and the ones that exist are not sophisticated, but of the highest quality and, if any technical challenges had appeared, I could have solved them myself. And we should bear in mind that some sections of the road were in a remote area, where the cell phone signal was nonexistent.
The whole journey meant more than 13,000 km done in three weeks, with one week spent in the mountains. That would mean, on average, 600 km/day. From the outside it seems a bit puzzling, a lot of people are surprised to see the pictures and read about the touristic objectives we visited, because it seems impossible to go on the road in winter time for so many kilometers each day and still have time for sightseeing. The secret is that all four of us in the car were drivers and took turns driving it, and therefore traveled during the night as well.
We’re talking about a 525i, powered by the M50B25 engine, outputting 192hp. Before we left for the trip, the “legend” was well prepared by the specialists at BMW Automobile Bavaria (a local BMW dealership in Romania).
The E34 went smoothly throughout our entire journey. We encountered heavy snow, rain, storms, strong winds, driving constantly at -30 degrees Celsius, we drove on either dry asphalt, glaze, ice, snow, on highways, forest roads and bumpy roads in Eastern Europe and Russia. Zero technical issues.
The gasoline engine – I never had any trouble starting it up, and the average fuel consumption was 10 liters/km (23.52 mpg), with four adults in the car and more than 200 kg of equipments and food. Moreover, we didn’t have any issues with the air conditioning unit: although outside everything was frozen, in the car we were wearing T-shirts.
Regarding the rear wheel drive, opposite to what most of the people think, I consider a RWD car easier to handle than a FWD one, even when the roads are covered in glaze, and this gave me confidence. Winter tires of highest quality were essential. And let’s not forget the interior comfort: space, seats design, leather upholstery – because all of us spent a great deal of hours inside the car.
The ascent on Elbrus was really awesome, a true challenge because of the extreme temperatures – constantly -40° Celsius. We approached Elbrus in pure alpine style, a 100% self-sufficient manner, without guides, carrying our equipment, food and shelter, camping only in our tent and making our own decisions regarding acclimatization and orientation.
We visited BMW Museum in Munchen, Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, Fram and Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo. Fram Museum is is a museum telling the story of Norwegian polar exploration. The Kon Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl.
We spent Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s Eve in Sankt Petersburg. We reached The Arctic Circle and we visited Santa Claus Home in Rovaniemi, Lapland. We visited, in each city we’ve been through, some traditional tourist attractions and some hidden from tourists. Our trip was done during winter holidays and everywhere the people were celebrating and enjoying the snow. The entire adventure was like a fairytale.
It was so amazing that even Santa Claus and his reindeer Rudolph wanted to accompany us, so we take them with us, as you can see in the pictures below. I was Santa’s photographer during winter holidays and his guide on Mount Elbrus.
THE STORY IN THE OFFICIAL ROMANIAN BMW MAGAZINE
BMW MAGAZIN 1/2010