The highest mountain range of Europe (seven summits over 5000m) is definitely not the Alps, but the Caucasus which goes from the Black to Caspian seas for nearly 1200km, rises at its center part to 5200m and reaches its highest at Mt.Elbrus (5642m).
Seven Summits peak.
Nowadays some climbers have reduced climbing into a highly technical “hi-end” profession, thus getting farther and farther away from modest lovers of mountains. But Nature has more sense than that and has provided the globe with good old volcanoes where almost anyone can feel and be a Climber.
So, here is Mt.Elbrus, the highest summit of Europe.
Undoubtedly it is the most impressive and beautiful European peak. And easily accessible one.
The price for this climbing trip is far lower than for some of the famous Seven.
We feel these three points can outweight any doubt: to go or not.
Off the caravan ways.
Nowadays Elbrus sees dozens of hundreds of people each season from all over the world.
99% of them do the Classic route. We run this trip, it is our staple product, but also we have much more scenic and secluded alternatives to the Classic. It is Elbrus from north and the traverse from south to north.
The heart of the Greater Caucasus, the amazing cluster of five majestic peaks over 5000m called Bezengi is on our offering list as an acclimatising playground for an Elbrus climb.
For easier navigation can suggest the following ranging for our Caucasus trips:
1 easy technically with maximum comfort and crowds (the Classic)
2 easy technically with less comfort (no hotels and cafes, camping instead of huts), but with a lot of wilderness and fantastic scenery, no crowds (Elbrus from north)
3 mixed: easy technically with maximum comfort and crowds in the south and a lot of wilderness and fantastic scenery and no crowds in the north (Elbrus with traverse from south to north)
The northern and southern sides of Elbrus differ strikingly. Standing 11km north of the Main Range, the mountain juts out deep into flat green pastures bounded by dry low bare peaks. Above the vast grassy Irakhitsyrt plateau (2800-3000m) the silver-grey tongues of the glaciers descend into the fantastic green jungle of pristine moraines adorned with red and black volcanic outcrops of incredible shapes. Cosy alluvial cirques nestle among them and the largest one, called the “air strip” (2900m), is long and flat enough to take small planes. A hut taking 15-20 people, stands at 3800m, at the edge of the snow fields stretching to East summit. A big advantage of the route is, that being in the wind shadow of Elbrus, this place has the benefit of better weather.
Day by day description
Arrival in Mineralnye Vody. Climbers should arrive on a morning flight. From the airport we drive 3.5-4hr to Cheget village. Cheking into the hotel. Dinner in the hotel. This will be followed by a talking about tomorow plans. In a good weather you can see Elbrus.
In the morning, after a hearty breakfast we walk to the waterfall at 2750m and international astronomical observatory 'Pik Terskol" (3150m). On the approach, we'll walk through the green forest and then through the grassland. During the first half of the approach, our objective will remain hidden by the trees. However, at the end of the second part, the impressive north walls of Donguzorun (4400m) and Nakra (4200m) peaks will be dramatically revealed. Return to the hotel. Lunch in one of the many fine Cheget's cafes. After that - equipment chek. All missing is possible (if necessary) to rent. A dinner in the hotel.
We leave in the hotel our things not needed on the climb and go (20min) to Azau staion (2356m) of Elbrus cableway and its two runs take us to Mir station (3500m), from where a chair-lift brings us to Garabashi huts (3750m) called Bochki (“barrels”). We stay in a hut not far from the Bochki. In the afternoon we go for a walk to the old Refuge burnt down in 1998 (3hr). Hut.
Acclimatising outing to Pastukhov Rocks (4750m) on vast snow fields. Usually it takes 5-6 hr. During walking we have lunch stop, lunch includes sandwiches, fresh fruits, chocolate, nuts. Return to our hut, dinner.
On a rest day breakfast is late. Then its time to learn how to use all special equipment and have some practical trainning on a snow slope. Also Guide will tell you about ascent tactics. Lunch and dinner in the hut. After dinner there follows preparation of clothes and equipment for the climbing Elbrus.
Summit day begins early. We generaly leave camp at night or early in the morning. It depends on the weather and condition of participants. During ascension it is possible to use services of the ratrak to rise to different heights – it significantly saves forces and time when climbing Elbrus. Attention to participants!!! All questions connected with the ratrak can be discussed on the place, the day before ascension. The guide doesn't bear responsibility for the ratrak and its organization, and can help participants with this question only. Ascent on West Summit takes from 10 to 14hr. From the summit we descend to the saddle, traverse East summit and go down along Lents Rocks to the High Camp on the northern side. Overnight stay in the hat.
With success on Day 6: descent to Emmanuel Glade (2500m). Or another attempt with descent to "Emmanuel Meadow". Or in a case of feeble attempt of ascent - descent to the hotel in Cheget village on the south side of Elbrus.
Transfer to the hotel in Pyatigorsk.
Breakfast in the hotel. Departure to the airport. The group transfer goes in the morning, to the first flight which participants depart. Departure time is specified on the place.
- meeting and seeing off in the Mineralny Vody airport
- all group transfers according to the program
- accommodation in a hotel on the double room basis - 2 nights
- meals: no meals when in hotel, full board from dinner on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 8.
- staff: one english speaking guide for the mountain part and extra guides on summit day (3-4 clients to one guide), cook at hut;
- local police registration
- luggage storage (not needed on the mountain) when climbing
- ropes for climbing
- safety measures: radio, first aid kit, registration with Rescue Service
- cooking equipment and fuel
- visa support
- return air fare to Mineralny Vody
- single accommodation supplement
- individual car transfers
- personal equipment rentals
- extra (personal) guides and porters
- insurance (medical and other)
- National Park fees
- any changes in the program initiated by client(s) and entailing extra expenses
- work of extra guides on second attempt on reserve day
- snow Cat service
- extra nights in hotel and high camp
- meals when staying in hotel
- down jacket
- thick fleece jacket
- thermal underwear
- waterproof breathable outdoor jacket
- shirt with long sleeves (prevents sunburns)
- thick sweater (wool or synthetics)
- fleece pants with long side zips
- wind&waterproof breathable pants with long side zips
- wool or fleece hat
- liner gloves - 2 pairs
- medium weight fleece gloves
- wool or fleece mittens
- wind-stop shell overmittens
On this climb you will have to carry some of your things (your sleeping bag, some light clothes for warm down valleys etc) over the saddle (5300m), so please keep their amount and weight as low as possible. A very wise thing would be to keep it all to the unavoidable minimum. The main bulk of your traveling luggage will be brought from the hotel in Cheget to that in Pyatigorsk by one of our staff.
- thick socks - 2-3 pairs
- lighter socks - 3 pairs
- light weight trekking boots, or strong sheakers
- climbing boots, plastic or strong leather (must fit in snap-on crampons)
- crampons (must fit your climbing boots), snap-on type preferable
- ice-axe (glacier walking type, not a short "tool" for ice climbing!)
- collapsible ski poles
- glacier glasses
- sit harness
- two screwgate karabiners
- down or synthetic sleeping bag good for -10C
- sleeping pad
- rucksack (40-50liters)
- 1-1.5liters thermos
- personal first aid kit
- head torch
- water bottle
- lip balm (spf 25+) and glacier cream (spf 40)
- pocket knife
At all times while in Russia you should have the following documents: valid passport with Russian visa, immigration card and Voucher (part of our two invitation papers).
For land transfers we use comfortable private minivans. For the transfer from Emmanuel Glade to Pyatigorsk it is 4WD vehicle. To get to Garabashi huts we use Elbrus cable-ways, car and chair-lift.
Important. In case the Elbrus cable-ways do not work (does happens, but very seldom) and in case you would not want to carry up all the loads on your back, the extra expenditure (not listed in "price includes") on a four-weel truck to the Garabashi huts are to be divided between the clients. Then the cost of the cable-ways tickets will be taken into account.
The same if the group decides to descend after the climb, when the cable-ways will already not work.
On the day of the ascent a Snow Cat can bring you as high as 4600m, 4700m and even to 5000m. This service is highly recommended, for a lot of time on the ascent is spent on walking over vast and almost flat snow fields at lower altitudes. As a matter of fact these distances will be already covered on the acclimatizing outings.
The price per person for this lift depends greatly on the height you want to get to, on the machine's capacity and group size. It may be from 50USD up to 200USD and even more. Your guide will deel with this after discussing the point with the group.
Please plan your arriving to Mineralny Vody before 2pm: the group transfer from Airport to Terskol leaves at about 2pm. If you arrive more than half an hour later than that, please be ready to pay for an individual transfer to the hotel (from 50 USD). The group transfer on the way back leaves before noon and is aimed at the earliest client's flight.
Meals are the usual European type. Lunch-packets for outings are chocolate bars, apples, juice, nuts etc.
We will change the menu on demand (as always do for Indonesian, Korean clients etc) and for vegetarians of course. If you personally want something special we will see to it.
Lunches when in hotel are not included in the price. There is a lot of cafes around where you can choose from wide menues. The prices are pretty low (from 350 to 500 roubles for a good lunch=7-10USD)
In the Baksan valley we put our clients in the Jantamal Hotel on Cheget Glade. Double rooms, free Wi-fi in the hall.
Our high hut on Elbrus is at 3750m away from the Barrels. 5-6 people in a room. There is a canteen, electricity from a generator, toilet booth outside. On the northern side it is good double tents.
Health-care on the mountain is limited to the first-aid kit the guide carries. Down in the valley in case of serious health problems the local hospital and your medical insurance policy are to take over. Your policy must cover climbing to 6000m. We do not provide any insurance!
Take enough of your personal medicines if you know you might need them.
The English speaking head-guide will look after you while in the mountains. There will be lessons of belaying on snow and cramponning not far from the hut. He will get the forecast and discuss with the group the best time and tactics of the ascent. During the ascent the group will be accompanied by guides-assistants (3-4 clients to a guide), who will bring down the weakened members. A cook will listen to your specific wishes and cook for you.
In any high mountains the higher you go, the more difficult and uncomfortable the conditions. Elbrus is 5642m, so, on this trip the range of your clothes and footwear must comply with hot sunny day down in the valley and with snow blizzard at 0-5C on the mountain. For details see our gear list.
In the Caucasus a lot of things are much cheaper than in the West: you can have a decent meal in a cafe with meat and beer for 10USD and buy cheaply woolen socks, sweaters and suchlike in the wool bazaar. Souveniers may be more expensive, but there is neither casino nor any night life in Cheget village, so no need to change many euros or US dollars into roubles. 100USD or euros are more than enough.
Safety is of the highest priority for us. All the serious ourdoor activities, especially climbing, imply a certain amount of danger. The guides who will work with you on Elbrus are fully responsible for your safety, so their authority in the safety measures during the climbing is indisputable. Their decisions when climbing will be the last and decisive.
The guides will have all the necessary climbing gear, GPS navigators and radioes, mobile phones (they do work on the south side) and first-aid kits.