It all began in the spring of 2016 when Andrey Ostanin, a seasoned traveller and mountain climber from the Urals, adopted a one-month-old kitten.
At the time, Andrey was already planning his Mount Elbrus climb and didn’t feel like leaving his newfound friend he’d named Graf – Russian for ‘Count’ – to stay with relatives.
Graf’s training for the big ascent started with daily walks on a leash and easy treks. By September 2017, they’ve already explored the Ural ranges, including Konzhakovskiy ridge, hiked in the Crimea, cycled on ice across Lake Baikal and even climbed 5,000 metres (16,404 feet) up Europe’s highest mountain.
The adventurous cat seems to share his owner’s wanderlust, doesn’t mind having to wear winter apparel and willingly poses for photos. Graf has an Instagram account where his exciting adventures get documented: from stalking doves in the Crimea to ice-walking on Lake Baikal to rock climbing and sitting in his owner’s backpack.
According to Andrey, travelling with a pet can be extremely rewarding but requires patience, training and some extra preparations, such as thoroughly planning your mealtimes and overnight stops.
He advises not to take your animal off leash, unless necessary, as he once spent two hours in the forest by the Arakul Rocks looking for Graf, who had been hiding 10 meters (32.8 feet) away from the tent. Andrey also confessed to smuggling his cat into hotels, where no pets are allowed, and having to put up with some hygiene issues.
Now, Andrey is mapping out their next Elbrus climb – only this time he hopes to go above 5,000 meters (16,404 ft), while Graf is competing to be Russia’s favourite cat on national television.