Elbrus – 5642 m
Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe and is perfectly suited for expedition style mountaineering from late June until end of August or an exhilarating ski touring trip in May and early June. Elbrus stands incredibly tall at 5642m altitude, rising high above its neighbouring peaks, located in the Caucasus mountains of Russia between the Caspian and Black Sea.
Our primary choice of ascent is by the North route for mountaineering and on skis we ascend via the south route.
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- All accommodation
- All Guides expenses
- All Guiding fees
- All transport
- Group transfers as per itinerary
- Mountain hut accommodation full board
- All the necessary permits
- All food according with program
- OVIR registration
- Russian entry visa support
What's not included
- Flights to/from Mineralnye Vody Airport
- Equipment rental
- Travel insurance
- Visa Fee
- Snacks and drinks in the huts
Who is this for?
Ideally you will have some previous experience mountaineering using crampons. It is a relatively straight forward climb but we will be using axe, crampons and ropes for glacier and slope security.
Our Mont Blanc, Alpine Essentials or Swiss 4000ers courses are ideal preparation for climbing Elbrus.
As a skier joining our ski touring Elbrus departures in May and June, you should be an experienced multi-day ski tourer with previous experience on a multi-day hut to hut ski tour such as the Haute Route.
Accommodation and huts
What to expect from mountain huts
They are basic but comfortable. At the 2500m-camp the accommodation is double camping tents set onto a wooden platform. At 3800m-camp the accommodation is normally in twin bungalows.
Arrival at Mineralnye Vody airport ideally on a morning flight. Meet the rest of the expedition team and guides outside the arrival hall. Once everyone has arrived, the bus leaves from the airport heading to the city of Kislovodsk (1hr). When we arrive at the hotel we will have a guides meeting and check all the equipment. When necessary, you can hire missing items from a rental shop the next morning. After sorting out equipment, you will have free time to explore the town and have dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in our hotel in Kislovodsk.
After breakfast we load the backpacks onto our off-road vehicle and head towards the north side of Elbrus, having visited the rental shop on the way for any last minute needs. The journey takes around 2.5 hours as we leave the town behind and head into the wilderness. Upon arrival at the base camp (2500 m), there will be lunch and a walk around the surroundings, which include waterfalls and mineral springs. Dinner and briefing at the camp.
Acclimatization hike to the valley of stone mushrooms (3100 m). This is a foggy mystic place where the first symptoms of altitude sickness can already be felt. The way up and down will take approximately four hours. Lunch and dinner at camp.
Carry equipment to the High Camp (3800 m). Today we carry our climbing gear to the next camp – crampons, ice axes, high-mountain boots, etc. Altogether this will make up around 10 – 15 kilos. The hike will take four hours up and two hours down. We then overnight at the Base Camp feeling the positive effects of acclimatisation.
Time to move to the High Camp and reunite with our climbing equipment. Lunch at the High Camp and some free time to relax and enjoy the views of our new surroundings before dinner time.
Acclimatization hike up to the Lenz rocks (4800 m). This is a challenging day. The way up will take 5 – 6 hours and another two hours for the way down. We’ll reach the height of Mont Blanc today, with some amazing views. Back down for dinner and overnight at High Camp.
Day of rest. Today there will be no hikes as we rest and recover from yesterdays push. The guide team will refresh your knowledge how to use an ice axe when you are sliding down the slope and some other key skills. Dinner and overnight at High Camp.
The summit day. We normally start with an ‘Alpine Start’ at 02:00 am. We fuel up at breakfast before setting off for our objective. Climbing from the north side, the east summit (5621 m) is closer than the west one (5642 m). So, on the summit day a group can split, and those participants who are better acclimatized go to the west summit and others climb to the east one. The decision is made by the guide team. Descent to the hut by 4 – 5 p.m. and overnight there after a much needed dinner.
This is the reserve day for summit attempt if the weather was bad on the previous day. Otherwise, we will slowly make our descent to the base camp (2500 m).
Another reserve day for the summit attempt and to facilitate any slight changes in itinerary to maximise your chances of reaching the summit with us. Transfer back to Kislovodsk. In the evening there will be a celebration dinner at a restaurant with the guides and we can toast to our achievements.
Departure. Transfer to the airport after breakfast. Arrival at the airport by 09.30 in the morning for your flight home.
To maximise your chance of summiting Elbrus it is important to get as fit as you possibly can. So we have partnered with Uphill Athlete, specialists in strength and conditioning for peak mountain performance.
Mountaineering is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 12 hours) and your training should reflect this. Balance is important too as you will spend many hours walking in crampons. For this a good chore strength is important.
Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury.
We highly recommend looking at the various training plans offered by Uphill Athlete to get you in shape for the trip.
The Effects of Altitude
As one climbs higher the air gets thinner and so there is less oxygen in each breath we take. The higher we go the less oxygen there is. This makes exercising much harder work than at sea level and so we have to slow down to help compensate. Because we have slowed down, we may feel colder.
Because there is less oxygen in the air as we get higher, this can lead to ‘altitude sickness’ or Acute Mountain Sickness which is like the worst hangover you have ever had (headache, nausea, weakness, fatigue, dizziness) and can develop into a very serious and even fatal (in extreme cases) problem.
To avoid these problems, enjoy the climbing and increase our chances of reaching the summit of Elbrus we need to acclimatise by spending several days and nights at progressively higher altitudes, so our bodies can adapt. This is a very important part of our preparation and is all factored in to the way we design this course.
1. Ice axe – for general mountaineering (between 50 and 70cm depending on your height)
2. Standard steel mountaineering Crampons – 12 point crampons for general mountaineering with anti-balling plates. 3. Helmet – standard hard plastic climbing helmet.
4. Trekking Poles – Foldable
5. Mountaineering B3 Boots and Gaiters suitable for 6000m.
6. Rucksack – Mountaineering specific 30-40L
7. Water bottles up to 2L
8. Harness (adjustable so that it is comfortable over all your layers), with 2 screw gate carabiners.
9. Sun protection including: sunglasses (category 4), goggles, sun hat, Factor 30-50 High Mountain sunscreen, lip salve/block.
10. 3 sets of socks and thermal tops.
11. Lightweight (GORE-TEX® or similar) hardshell hooded top and bottoms
12. Warm hat and 2 pairs of gloves. One pair should be warm, thick mountaineering gloves suitable for conditions at 5000m. The second pair should be a thinner pair that is suitable for mid mountain conditions.
13. Insulating layers. We suggest a thin lightweight fleece and a synthetic or down jacket.
14. Mountaineering trousers
15. Personal first aid – blister kit, aspirin, or Paracetamol.
16. Head torch and spare batteries.
18. Sleeping bag silk liner (you don’t need a sleeping bag itself as blankets/duvets are provided in the huts)
19. Cash for extra drinks / snacks in huts as well as any costs not included in the course price
Please note this is a guide and you may be required to rent or purchase last minute equipment on arrival dependent on the weather and changes in itinerary.
To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, please get in touch through the website or by phone on +44 (0)845 527 58 12.
For expeditions we take a 20% deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the full balance to be paid 10 weeks before the course start date.
For trips of less than 6 participants we do not send one of our own guides but we will likely send an Adventure Base representative. We always use the guiding services of our trusted local experts who have been guiding on Elbrus for over 10 years.
We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue up to 6000m.
Getting to Elbrus
It is best to book flights and airport transfers in advance of your departure.
Flights are reasonably inexpensive from European airports like London and Geneva to Mineralye Vody Airport in Russia. Most flights run with a stop off in Moscow. If you need any assistance searching for flights please let us know.