Elbrus (18,510 ft/5,642 m)
Our Elbrus program is open to any climber who has successfully completed a Mt. Rainier climb, or a similar program (prior climb on glaciers). This journey begins with acclimatization along well-traveled trails, which wind endlessly through the foothills of the Caucasus. En route, we interact with the local people as we wander through the villages and markets that pepper the mountain’s lower region. Once we have established High Camp, we prepare for an early morning departure to the West Summit (the higher of the twin peaks). The route ascends 1,000 m of moderate snow climbing to the saddle. From there, we turn west and head up 300 m of steeper terrain, finally reaching the summit plateau.
Elbrus is the near-perfect ascent for aspiring climbers who wish to test their skills at increasing altitude. Although only basic mountaineering skills are required, high altitude and unpredictable weather make this a challenging and enticing ascent.
Start: Moscow, Russia
Finish: St. Petersburg, Russia
Destination: Mount Elbrus
Physical Rating: 5
Prior Experience Required
Elbrus was first attempted in 1829. Akia Sottaev initially climbed the lower east peak. Almost 40 years later, in 1868, Sottaev was hired to be part of a summit attempt with British explorer, Douglas Freshfield. In 1874, six years after the unsuccessful attempt with Freshfield, Sottaev summited with the Grove expedition. He was the first person to summit both peaks and was 86 years old at the time.
The Caucasus Range
This mighty mountain range links the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and creates the natural boundary between the steppes of Russia and the southern states of Azerbaydzhani, Georgia, and Armenia. Mt. Elbrus, the pinnacle of this 700-mile stretch, has long been a distinguished climbing center for the European and Russian climbing communities. Elbrus can easily be seen from most of the high passes in the area and is a traditional climb for those looking to ascend above 18,500 ft. The Caucasus (or Kavkaz meaning “more than mountains”), offers excellent climbing and skiing terrain to the outdoor enthusiast.
Pre Start Information
The location of Elbrus provides a look into the cultures of the Turkish, Georgian, Azerbaydzhani, and Russian people. Our expedition begins in the city of Moscow, the focal point of commerce and politics in Russia. Moscow is ever-changing, with markets and state shops dominating street life. Depending on schedules, we’ll take time to visit the Kremlin, stroll Red Square along the Moscow River, visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Reedemer and tour the famous Novodevichy Cemetery . Following our climb, we return to St. Petersburg, a traditional vanguard of European culture. It is one of the few cities in the world that has retained its charm amid great change. Downtown sprawls with exquisite architecture that canopies streets of shops, small restaurants and an active nightlife scene.
Arrive in Moscow (DME or SVO). Climbers should arrive no later than 3 p.m. Given the nature of the Moscow Airport we
suggest using a Taxi or Uber to reach your hotel. In the evening, there will be an orientation and an introductory dinner.
Tour of Moscow and night is free for climbers. Our tour will include Sparrow Hills, Church of the Redeemer, and onward to Kremlin. We then visit Red Square, a viewing of St. Basil’s, and on to Gum Department Store. Time permitting, we visit the Novodevichy Cemetery.
Flight to Mineral Vody. After breakfast in Moscow, we’ll fly south to Mineral Vody (mineral water), and travel by bus to our hotel in the Baksan Valley. The Baksan is known for its Russian climbing camps. Mountaineers from all over the world come here to train and climb in the Caucasus. It is also a great location for them to develop the technical skills necessary to climb great peaks around the world. Full gear check.
Baksan Valley. The acclimatization process begins by hiking in the beautiful Baksan Valley as we tour the village of Cheget.
Acclimatization hike to Cheget observatory. This is a long day of walking with good altitude increases. By the end of this day, most climbers feel strong and accustomed to the altitude.
Move to the Heart of Elbrus Lodge where we’ll lodge at about 12,200 ft. We often use the tram and ski lift to help move our gear. Overnight in Lodge.
Hike to Pastukov rocks (15,416 ft.) and return to lodge.
Brief skills review and rest day before summit.
Summit day. We’ll leave camp via Sno-Cat at 3 a.m. and ride to the Pastukov Rocks area. From the rocks, we’ll begin our summit ascent. It is a long day; look for a 12-hour round-trip climb. From the summit, we’ll have excellent views of the Caucuses, including Ushba, the Matterhorn of the region.
Extra day at huts for inclement weather. We’ll take a glacier tour or return to the valley if we already have summited.
Hiking and barbecue and celebration (we can use it as summit day if needed).
Fly Mineral Vody to St. Petersburg.
Tour of St. Petersburg and night is free for climbers. Our tour features the Peter and Paul Fortress, the St Nicholas Naval Cathedral and the Rostrum Columns, among other sights. We spend the afternoon at the world-renowned Hermitage, considered one of Europe’s finest museums with vast collections of Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Rodin, and Picasso displayed amidst architectural splendor. Time permitting, we continue to the Aurora, the military ship which fired the first shot that started the Bolshevik revolution. We overnight in a St. Petersburg hotel.
Depart St. Petersburg (LED) for home country.