Terrorist attacks forces closure of Russian ski resort

A wave of terrorists attacks in Russia last weekend has left three dead and a burgeoning tourist region closed off to travelers. Those attacks prompted Russian officials to impose a a counter-terrorism regime in two areas of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria near Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

The first attack occurred last weekend when a bus carrying travelers to a ski resort was stopped on the road by five men claiming to be police officers. When the travelers asked to see their identification, the men opened fire on them, killing three and injuring two others.

Other attacks included blowing up a tower supporting a ski gondola, which plummeted to the ground with four passengers aboard. Fortunately they survived with only minor injuries. The leader of a local village wasn’t so lucky, as he was shot dead on the street. Hours later, the hotel at a nearby ski resort was evacuated when a car packed with explosives was discovered parked outside.

The attacks are believed to be the acts of Muslim separatists hoping to to build an Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Rebel activity in the region has been on the rise in recent weeks, and there have been a number of clashes with local police and military. Five suspected rebels were killed over the weekend in a response to the latest wave of terrorism.

Because of the recent terrorist activity, the Russian government has enacted the counter-terrorism regime in an attempt to crack down on the rebels. That means that local resorts are closed for the time being, and travelers are being discouraged from visiting the region.

This move comes as a major blow to Russian tourism efforts. The Mt. Elbrus region is being marketed as a major ski area and with the 2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place there, the last thing the need is instability and security issues. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they have for now.

If you were planning a spring break escape to the Northern Caucasus mountains, you may want to rethink those plans for now.

[Photo credit: Reuters]

17-year old climber nabs Seven Summits

17-year old mountaineer Johnny Collinson of Snowbird, Utah has become the youngest person to climb all the Seven Summits by topping out on Mt. Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. The teenager reached the summit, which stands at 16,067 feet, on Monday, completing a quest to reach the top of the highest peaks on all seven continents.

Collinson is still in Antarctica and hasn’t posted to his website yet, but he was climbing with a team led by guide service Mountain Madness who updated their own blog with the news of the team’s success. Johnny was joined on the summit by three other climbers as well as well known guide Willie Benegas. And as if reaching the summit wasn’t enough, the young man elected to ski back down the mountain to their campsite.

The Seven Summits have become one of the top goals for climbers and adventurers around the planet. Besides Vinson, the peaks consist of Kilimanjaro in Africa (19,340 feet), Elbrus in Europe (18,510 feet), Denali in North America (20,320 feet), Aconcagua in South America (22,841 feet), Carstenz Pyramid in Oceana (16,023 feet), and of course Everest in Asia (29,029 feet). That tallest mountain in Australia is Kosciusko, but that peak is just 7310 feet in height and is a simple walk-up, so the list was expanded to include the taller and more technically challenging Carstenz Pyramid, located in Indonesia. Most of the climbers who complete the Seven Summits actually go for all eight peaks just to cover their bases.

Collinson may not hold on to this record for long. 13-year old Jordan Romero will be going to Everest this spring to make his bid on that mountain, and if successful there, he’ll head to Vinson in the fall as well. If he nabs both summits, he’ll be just 14-years old when he is done.