It happened in July of 1956.
After graduation from the Moscow Textile Institute my best friend Yuri and I bought a very cheap two weeks tour from TEBERDA to SUKHUMI.
When we arrived in Teberda we understood why the tour was so cheap. It was arranged by a students sport society for brave people who wanted to get really hard experience of hiking in the mountains.
It was our first time in the Caucasus Mountains. When all members of the group arrived we were told that each of us would have 40 kg in a backpack.
“I wonder if we die the very first day”, said Yuri.
“You are an optimist! I wonder who will eat our first lunches”.
Three days passed and miraculously we were alive and had ravenous appetites.
On the fourth day our group stopped earlier than usually at a wonderful spot that had a crystal clear spring. We put up our tents, placed our heavy backpacks in them, gathered wood for fire and helped people responsible for cooking that day to start preparing dinner.
Then I suggested Yuri to go up the mountain and to enjoy sights from the top but he was more interested in staying near a girl who was busy cooking.
I went up alone.
It was a gorgeous summer day. The air was fresh and sweet. Trees, bushes and grass were in their best green dresses. As I went higher and higher I saw some flowers.
Gradually ascent became more difficult and instead of walking I had to crawl.
It became clear that the top of the mountain was still far away. So I decided to move to my right to see our camp below. There were trees and bushes on my right and I used them as my support to move closer to the side of the mountain.
Finally I reached a point with a perfect view. It was terrific!
I saw a circle of our five white tents in the rays of the Sun and the spring near it. The dinner was ready and the fire was dying. Everybody was preparing for dinner. I saw Yuri sitting with the girl on the blanket near our tent.
“Yuri, look up!”, shouted I. “Can you see me?”
Nobody moved. Apparently, nobody heard me. It was time to go back and to have dinner.
All of a sudden I realized that I was in a very difficult position. I was clinging to the steep slope. Two small bushes on my left were gone. There was nothing I could use as support to move in any direction.
Fear paralyzed me! I did not know what to do. It seemed to me that any my movement will bring a fall and fast death.
On the other hand, i could not stay long in this place. What for? Nobody was coming to help me anyway. I needed to act fast! There was no time for fear!
I looked around very, very carefully.
There was something that looked as a flat outcrop on the level of my boots to my right. There was also a tree on the ground above it.
“Can I move my feet to that outcrop? Will it support me? Will I then be able to catch the tree with my hands? Will it support me? Is there a chance then to move to a flat place or not so steep slope of the mountain?”
It took a second or less for all these questions to run in my mind but no answers came.
I was not ready or willing to die but I had no choice. I had to take a risk!
I gathered everything I had and moved to the outcrop. Unfortunately, it was farther away than I thought. I could not reach it. It was my last step!
All of a sudden a strong gust of wind appeared from nowhere! It picked me up and brought on the outcrop. I caught the tree and the next moment another gust of wind brought me to the flat ground.
I dropped there. I was sweating and at the same time I felt very, very cold.
Some time passed. I started slowly and very carefully my descent to the camp.
In about an hour I heard voices. Somebody was calling my name.
I responded and in several minutes Yuri and nine other members of the group gathered around me.
“Do you want a drink?”, asked Yuri. Sure, I wanted it.
“Do you want hot soup?”, asked one girl. “I brought it and here are a cup and a spoon”.
Oh, how I wanted the soup! I wolfed it down.
“We were very worried!”, said Yuri. “What happened?”
PAINTING by JF