Being relatively accessible, Elbrus is a great choice for your first high mountain and a good way to start the Seven Summits quest. The conventional route from the South, however, can get crowded, with people taking advantage of chair-lifts and snowcats.
Instead, we offer a completely different take on reaching the highest summit of Europe: a North-South traverse with ascending the Western summit at 5,642m! The Northern side is much less developed making acclimatisation hikes through serene landscapes truly enjoyable.
Staying in comfortable huts and stationary tents. Groups of no more than 9, with 1 guide per 3 participants.
Any personal gear can be rented. Assistance with the visa, the registration and permits.
Guided town walks give a first-hand account of modern Russia and traditional hospitality of the Caucasus.
Am I fit enough for the climb?
No previous high-altitude experience is required, thanks to a generous 11-days programme. The climb itself is non-technical but we may need to negotiate a few crevasses so a brief course in glacier travel is included.
Generous 11 days itinerary that enables milder acclimatization and increases your chances.
At least 1 experienced guide per 3 participants.
All accommodation throughout the program: a family guesthouse or hostel with twin rooms in Pyatigorsk and Azau, stationary tents or bunkhouses in the North Basecamp, bunkhouses/dorms in the North/South High Camps.
Private transfers throughout the program. If you are 1-3 participants we reserve the right to put you on a transfer together with another group. Ski lift ticket on the way down on the South slopes. Ski lift up to Cheget mountain.
All meals whilst on trek (packed lunches, cooked breakfasts and dinners). Breakfasts in towns.
Rental sleeping bags (please bring your liner).
Paperwork: national park permit, visa registration, visa invitation letter (you will need to apply for the visa yourself at your local embassy).
Bragging certificate of climbing the highest mountain in Europe.
International flights to/from Mineralnye Vody (MRV) airport.
Travel and mountaineering insurance that covers ascents of up to 5,642 m, helicopter rescue, medical treatment, hospitalization and repatriation. We will require your insurance details prior to the trip.
Snowcat to pick the group up on the descent, at the Pastukhov Rocks 4,600m or higher at 5,100m (about €80-100 per person) – in case you get too tired.
Extra summit attempts (an outing above Lenz rocks at 4,650m is considered an attempt).
Eating out in Pyatigorsk and Azau (2x lunch and 2x dinner). The guide will recommend a cafe or restaurant to match your tastes and appetite. Budget for €5-15 per meal, that is €25-60 total.
Transfer of any personal belongings that you might want to have at hand when you descend on the South side, for example, spare clothes. Alternatively, you may choose to carry them during the traverse, provided you pack light. It will be possible to leave a small bag in your hotel in Pyatigorsk and pick it up on the way to the airport.
Hire of personal equipment, if needed – please enquire.
Optional hire of porters, available for a small fee.
Any additional costs associated with leaving the trip early.
Any third-party excursions and entertainment in Pyatigorsk and Azau.
Single accommodation in Pyatigorsk and Azau (extra 2x €30 if needed).
Internet connection at the base camp and high camp (about 4€ per day).
We meet you at Mineralnye Vody airport (MRV) and drive to a hotel in Pyatigorsk. Then we go for a guided walk around the town centre of this historical spa resort, built during the Tsar times. Unlimited mineral water included!
Drive to Emmanuel Meadow (2,500m). It is a 100Km, 4-hour drive to the base camp. The area is a well-kept grassy meadow by the river, scattered with stationary tents. There is a comfortable canteen, hot shower (included) and even a steam bath (at extra cost).
For the rest of the day, we ramble around the area, breeding our red blood cells. For the more determined, we offer a short hike to the mighty ‘Sultan’ waterfall with some hot mineral springs en-route.
Acclimatisation walk to Stone Mushroom meadow (3,450m). The meadow features dozens of bizarre wind-eroded volcanic outcrops. The picturesque trail weaves above the river, then passes a former WWII Nazi airstrip (a local legend) and finally traverses a lush volcanic plateau, eating the altitude quite quickly. We reach the meadow in about 3 hours, marvel at the scenery, enjoy our packed lunches and descend into the base camp.
Climb to ‘Northern Hut’ high camp (3,760m). Today we carry our stuff to the high camp. It takes about 5 hours and we partially follow our yesterday’s familiar hike.
The camp is located at a rocky outcrop midstream of the glacier and provides a variety of bunkhouse-style accommodation. At this altitude, a hot shower is something to hope for but the canteen is still great.
Introduction course into safe glacier travel (4,000m). On a convenient spot above the hut, we recall the basics of crampon use, self-arrest and safe glacier travel.
Acclimatisation climb to Lenz Rocks (4,650m). There are a few small crevasses to negotiate and the slope is up to 30° steep in places. The ascent normally takes 4-5 hours, followed by 1.5 hours of descent. Most likely we will not have to break the trail. Provided our acclimatisation goes well, it is possible to climb higher to the site of a helicopter crash at 4,820m.
Rest day in the camp before the summit bid.
That’s the day you came for – the ascent of Mount Elbrus (5,642m) West summit. The normal “alpine start” has to be adjusted to the scale of the Caucasus – I prefer to start at 1 or 2 o’clock, sometimes earlier. Sure enough, we always monitor the forecast.
The ascent takes approximately 9-12 hours. The latest turnaround time is 2 PM. Depending on the conditions, the main guide decides which way we descend – the North or the South.
On the South side it is possible to arrange a snowcat down from circa 5,100m, just below “the ramp” (extra fee), in case you get too tired.
Night at 3,700m-3,900m at the famous ‘barrel’ huts or another hut – panoramic views but the shower still to come!
Reserve day that we can use in case of bad weather.
We descend to Baksan Valley using a ski lift and stay in a hotel in a nearby village of Azau. During the day we can shop for souvenirs in the local market, visit mineral springs and enjoy well-deserved traditional cuisine.
Those wishing to view the climb they have just completed from a different perspective can take a chairlift up Cheget mountain. From this vantage point, we take in panoramic views of Elbrus and other mountains of the Great Caucasian Range.
Transfer to Mineralnye Vody airport. Some people decide to stay one extra night in Pyatigorsk, which has to be requested in advance.
Anna Drozhzhina, an experienced trek leader and an aspiring mountain/ski guide, a student of Kyrgyzstan Mountain Guides Association (KMGA/IFMGA), based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Considerable experience working as a lead guide on Elbrus (over 30 climbs from South, North and West), Kazbek and Kamchatka. Certified first-aider. Speaks English and French.
Andrew Golovachev, an experienced trek leader, avid alpine climber, devoted adventure photographer, aspiring mountain/ski guide and a student of Kyrgyzstan Mountain Guides Association (KMGA/IFMGA), based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
Meticulously organised and participated in treks, climbs, ski tours and expeditions to Tajikistan Pamirs, Patagonia, Peru, Morocco, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Georgian and Russian Caucasus and Kamchatka. A full member of the British Alpine Club. Personal mission: to maintain informal connections between the outdoor communities of Russia and the rest of the world.
Visited over 40 countries, lived in the UK for four years. Certified first-aider.
Sounds exciting? It truly is! We love the place and would be happy to share it with you. Should you have any questions, please check out our FAQ section below. Alternatively, don’t hesitate to send us your inquiry using the contact form or WhatsApp.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult for travellers to commit to a trip in advance. Appreciating that, we have introduced ZERO DEPOSIT to book your place on a trip. You will only be required to make a reduced partial payment of €360 just two months before the trip via bank transfer or Paypal, so we could pre-book the logistics with the local operators. The remaining amount is paid in cash upon arrival.
We will fully refund your trip if you cannot attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Tough times! 😉
We also promise a 7-day risk-free booking window: you can cancel at any point within a week after you put down a deposit. This buys you time to sort out vacation and flights, to bring in your friends, etc. and not have to worry about someone else taking your spot on the trip.
Furthermore, if you cancel for any reason more than 20 days before the trip, your deposit remains good for any trip with us, this year or the next year. You can also pass your deposit to a friend!
The minimum group size for this trip is 2 participants plus the guide. Should there be less, the trip will be cancelled and all deposits made will be returned in full.
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