Russia – Mt Elbrus (South Route)
Mt Elbrus (5642m) is famed as one of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Which means it is also the highest mountain in Europe and Russia. An inactive volcano with the last eruption around 50A.D, it is located in the Caucasus Range in southern Russia near the border with Georgia.
Though Mt Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe and located in the rugged Caucasus Mountains, it is one of the easiest ice and snow peaks on the continent. The standard south route, supported by cable cars cum ski and snow cats, is said to have a high success rate of close to 90% each summer. However, there are still causalities each summer and the mountain is not to be taken lightly despite the high success rate.
The biggest danger of climbing Mt Elbrus can be said to be the weather, which can be particularly nasty on the mountain. Besides the standard south route and the more challenging northern route, there are a few more difficult routes that are hardly attempt with little information and not supported by any mountain huts.
About The Climb
Mt Elbrus has two summits. The west summit at 5642m slightly higher than the east summit at 5621m. We will only be climbing the west summit, which is the summit that is included as part of the Seven Summits.
We will spend one day acclimatizing in Terskol Peak (3100m) before taking a cable car cum ski lift ride up to the mountain huts area on Mt Elbrus. We will be staying either at Barrel Huts (3900m) or the National Park Huts (4100m) depending on availability. Participants are expected to help transport the team's food and drinking water onto the cable car and ski lift aside from each person's personal gear. There will be two days of acclimatization on Mt Elbrus before the summit attempt. Day 1 of acclimatization will bring us to Priutt 11 Refuge (4100m) and day 2 to to Pastukhov Rocks (4700m). The 2 days of acclimatization are also for mountaineering boots and crampons practice, in particular, for those who are wearing them for the first time. There will also be ice axe self arrest training session on either of the two acclimatization days or the rest day.
Our summit climb will begin from the mountain huts area. Some teams choose to take a snow cat up to a higher altitude to increase their summit success. The team can make a group decision on the use of the snow cat (to be paid separately) after the two days of acclimatization. The snowline general starts at or after the mountain huts area in summer. The summit route up to Pastukhov Rocks is the same route used for the acclimatization climb. This section is a wide vertical open snow terrain, hence, possible for snow cats. After Pastukhov Rocks, there is a long narrow traverse that gradually goes up to the saddle in between the east and west peaks peaks. Beyond the saddle is a 40 – 60 degree steep section (around 200m) where a fixed rope has been put in place to ensure safety, followed by a wide open plato before a snow slope up to the peak.
The descend from the summit to the mountain huts area is the same route as the ascend.
Mt Elbrus standard south route is a fairly straight forward climb, in good weather and is usually marked with wands. There are no crevasses provided that you do not wander off the established route. The climb, or any mountain climbing for the matter, can still be a trial in bad weather, and the extreme cold before sunrise is not to be trivialized.
The best time to climb Mt Elbrus is in summer, from June to September. July and August are warm and the weather is rather stable. Hence, they are the best and most popular two months.
Having said that, good weather for the summit day can never be guaranteed. Weather will always be an unpredictable element in the mountains. Due to its altitude and surrounding mountain range, Mt Elbrus can produce some extreme weather conditions with very low temperature and should not be underestimated by climbers. Its position between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea - two large bodies of water - have an impact on wind and precipitation too.
In summer, the weather is still brutally cold on Mt Elbrus with night temperature at an average minus 8 °C. Temperature above the snowline can fall to as low as minus 20° C. Winter ascent is also possible, but it can be very cold, up to -40 on the top.
Important to have 5000m peak climbing experiences. Good to have crampons skills but not essential. Mt Elbrus standard south route is an ideal first foray into peak climbing below 6000m that require ice and snow skills (mountaineering/double boots, crampons, ice axe and fixed rope skills etc).
For summit day, be prepared to trek for 12 – 16 hours in mountaineering/double boots with crampons starting at pre-dawn and in extreme cold temperature of -10°C to -20°C.
The support of cable cars cum ski lifts to the mountain huts areas, the direct and vertical route up to the summit and the option to take a snow cat to reach 4700m make it possible to scale a 5000er ice and snow peak in a short duration without having to spend many days in the mountains. This has largely contributed to a high summit success rate. However, at the same time, for many people, especially those new to ice and snow peak climbing, to under estimate the climb.
A pair of mountaineering/ double boots with crampons can easily weigh 2kg on each foot. Aside from the weight, mountaineering/double boots often feel rigid and difficult to walk in because of the structure. Add in a backpack load of 5-6kg, the ice and snow terrain and the altitude, the climb can be a tough challenge, demanding a high level of fitness, endurance and strength.
Equipment and Gear
You can wear a lightweight base layer or a quick dry t-shirt and long trekking pants for Terskol Peak. For Mt Elbrus, a light weight base layer and water and wind proof pants are needed. An outer shell is essential to protect from the weather elements. When at the mountain huts and after sundown, a basic layer of thermal, fleece jacket and down jacket are needed to keep warm. For the summit attempt, you will need the basic 3 layers, a down jacket, water and wind proof pants and down mittens. A down sleeping bag is also needed and can be rented at Terskol.
The following climbing equipment are required for the summit attempt and can be rented at Terskol:
- Mountaineering or double boots
- Climbing harness
- Walking ice axe
- Sewn slings
- Locking karabiners
A packing list will be provided for all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page to read about the layering system to be better prepared and choose the right gear/equipment for your climb.
- Dates listed are for open international group
- Group size: 3 - 12 people
- You can also form a private group. For enquiry, send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Day||Description||Meals||Altitude At Rest Point|
|Day 1||Arrive in Mineralyn Vody. Transfer to Terskol Village.||-/-/D||2100m|
|Day 2||Acclimatization trek to Tersok Peak (3100m)||B/L/D||2100m|
|Day 3-4||Transfer to Mt Elbrus. 2 days of acclimatization to 4100m and 4700m respectively.||B/L/D||3900m|
|Day 5||Rest day. Training on the glacier.||B/L/D||3900m|
|Day 6||Summit day||B/L/D||3900m|
|Day 7||Descend or buffer day||B/L/D||3900m or 2100m|
|Day 8||Day hike in the Baksan valley.||B/L/D||2100m|
|Day 9||Depart Mineralyn Vody.||B/-/-||-|
- Return airport transfer in Mineralyn Vody
- All land transfer as indicated in itinerary
- Meals as indicated in itinerary
- Twin/triple sharing accommodation in Terskol
- Mixed dormitory (non heated) in mountain huts on Mt Elbrus
- Trek/climb support: Mountain climbing guide (1 guide : 3 climbers)
- Return cable car cum ski lift transfer to mountain huts (1 transfer per way)
- Entry visa invitation letter & voucher
- International air tickets, airline taxes and fuel surcharge
- Visa Fee
- Mt Elbrus National Park permit fee
- Single Supplement
- Meals not indicated in itinerary
- All tipping
- Personal guide
- Snow cat or mobile service on Mt Elbrus
- Back up day expenses on Mt Elbrus
- Personal travel insurance (mandatory to cover travel agent insolvency and trekking up to 6000m)
- Personal expenses like shopping, laundry etc
- Personal travel & trekking gear – warm clothing, shoes, backpacks etc
- Emergency evacuation and medical expenses
- Compensation for damaged or lost of personal items (eg: climbing/trekking gear and equipment, cameras and any valuable items etc)
- Any expenses including accommodation, meals & transfer outside the stipulated trek/climb itinerary – i.e. any person leaving the group for personal travel, illness/injury or any form of extension of stay
Notes on the Inclusions and Exclusions
Airport transfer: You should arrive in Mineralyn Vody no later than 3pm on Day 1 to take the group bus. If your flight arrived later than 4pm, you will need to arrange for a private transfer from the airport to Terskol. The group bus leaves Terskol for Mineralyn Vody at 730am on Day 9. If your flight is earlier than 1130am, you will also need to arrange for a private transfer from Terskol to the airport. All private transfer will incur extra cost.
Mt Elbrus national park permit fee: Estimated €25 (subject to changes). Fee to be paid directly to the national park office in Terskol.
Back up day: If you use the back up day and have to stay at mountain hut, there's an extra charge of €40 per night/person (full board for a group of 5 people or more)
Snow cat service: From the mountain huts to the Pastukhov Rocks €500 to 4600m and €600 to 4700m per drive/ group of 2-10 people
Support from Ace Adventure Expeditions
We provide pre-trip support to prepare you for the climb:
1. Trip briefing and information kit
2. Gear list and gear discount from selected Singapore outdoor outfitters
3. Training guideline kit
4. Rope skill workshop (For climbs that require rope up and/or fixed rope skill)
We carefully select and establish strong working relationship with our local trek operator to ensure a high standard of service and safe participation by everyone.
Our local climbing guides have extensive experience in guiding treks in Mt Elbrus, possess intimate knowledge of the local surroundings, conditions and culture. They are mostly trained in mountain rescue and/or basic and advance mountaineering skills.