South Route Climb of Mount Elbrus
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Climbing Mount Elbrus on the South route
We offer an eleven day guided climb of Mount Elbrus by the easier south route with five or six trips every season from May to August. The nearest airport is Mineralnye Vody (normally via Moscow) and the minibus journey to the Baksan Valley is about four hours. Elbrus is at the head of the valley and there are three villages, Terskol, Cheget and Azau.
Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in the Caucasus and in Europe, and one of the famous Seven Summits. The South route is the most common ascent route offering more infrastructure and access to ski lifts and snow machines for carrying equipment and more developed mountain hut accommodation.
With an elevation of 5642 metres, Mt Elbrus is a volcanic mountain with rounded peaks and no steep gradients, but it is permanently snow covered and requires simple mountaineering skills such as using a walking on crampons and using a walking axe and clipping into a fixed line. These are skills we teach on the mountain and it is perfect for people who wish to gain ice and snow experience on a non-technical peak in a very interesting part of the world.
Accommodation is in a local hotel in the village of Cheget called Hotel Nakra. We acclimatise for three days hiking in the surrounding hills before going on the mountain for a total of six days staying in mountain huts (rooms sleep up to six). This allows for excellent acclimatisation and two possible summit days.
The ratio of guide to client is 1:4 for mountain days and 1:6 for valley days and our average summit success rate is 85% on those days when the weather allows a summit attempt. The main reason people fail is because of tiredness, as it is a long route with an elevation gain of around 1000 metres.
There are various ways to prepare for climbing Elbrus in terms of training, visa invitation letters and having the right kit, but it's probably not necessary to do a winter climbing course or alpine skills course unless you plan to do more alpine climbing after this trip. We provide training for the basic skills needed, and in a way Elbrus is a good mountain to attempt if you are thinking of doing more climbing in your life and investing in the courses to become competent on harder routes elsewhere.
Map of Elbrus south route
This older map shows the older hut points which have become famously associated with the south side of Elbrus: Mir Station is the top of the cable car, Garabashi is also known as the Barrels and Priut-11 is the highest. Nowadays there are more huts above Garabashi. The black dotted line is the route and is still the same. Most climbers take a snow machine up to Pastukhov Rocks on summit morning.
What altitude are the camps on Elbrus south route?
Azau Valley: 2350m - this is the height of the towns of Terskol and Cheget where we spend a few days.
Glacier Lake: 3300m - this is a lake we sometimes visit on acclimatisation days
Bockha (Barrels): 3750m - top of the chair lift and the summer snow line, also known as Garabashi
National Park Huts: 3900m - these are seven new huts which we use as the mountain base
Priut–11 Hut: 4050m - the famous old hut which was burnt down and is now not used
Pastukhov Rocks: 4670m - the high point of the acclimatisation before summit day
Saddle: 5300m - between the two peaks of the mountain
West Summit: 5642m - 50 metres higher than the east peak
Read our blog Huts on Elbrus for pictures of all the huts on the south side of the mountain.
Adventure Alternative mountain guides on Elbrus
We are very proud of our Russian staff who have been working with us since 1999 and are highly experienced and safe. Sasha Lebedev is our lead guide and organiser; he is also an award-winning author and photographer. Our other main guides are Jura Lutsak and Sasha Schukin and Dima Schukin, plus we access a pool of local guides and mountain rescue personnel who are very well known to us.
Mount Elbrus reviews
Our Elbrus feedback page has many reviews, below are two positive comments from people who summitted the south route.
"Adventure Alternative were brilliant from the word go. Their communication and personal touch from the outset made this an adventure that will live long in the memory. Everything was planned brilliantly, making sure that everyone felt safe and most importantly summitted Mt Elbrus.
We had a guide who was vastly experienced and always made sure you were safe while enjoying the whole experience. It was a very friendly atmosphere with enough variation in the acclimatization climbs to keep everyone motivated and enthralled by the amazing place we were in. Seeing other groups form other companies rush the experience confirmed that I really had made the right choice." (S.Butler, 2016)
"Adventure Alternative offer three options to climb Mount Elbrus and their programs are well planned with a good balance between preparation, acclimatization and rest. This is combined with world-class in-country, English-speaking guides who have decades of experience and are highly professional and skilled. Overall I highly recommend Adventure Alternative. If you are planning to climb Mount Elbrus, go with them!" (Julian M, 2018)
What is the best way to climb Mount Elbrus on the south route?
The first three days of acclimatisation in the valleys to a height of around 11,000 feet are very enjoyable and important and they give a taste of the region and the beauty of trekking in Russia. Some people say it is like the Alps fifty years ago, the local food and drink is excellent and there is lots to see and do, including having a Russian sauna (banya) after a days Alpine walking.
The time on the mountain should be around six days to allow for further acclimatisation and two opportunities to go to the summit. One of these days should involve some practise work with crampons and an ice axe, and another day should be spent ascending to the Pastukhov Rocks at around 4600 metres (16,000'). This is also an opportunity to try out your new skills, think about how you will pack for the summit day and also try out the equipment and clothing and boots.
From the final National Park Hut to the summit is completed in one day but most people use a snow machine at about 4am to take you back to the Pastukhov rocks which reduces the days ascent by about 500 metres and several hours. This can be an important advantage of course, especially with timing for the descent in the afternoon when often the cloud comes in and visibility drops.
For an entertaining read here is an article on climbing Mount Elbrus, and the summit days on Elbrus. Also adventure film maker Elia Saikaly offers salutary advice on climbing Mount Elbrus and mentions Adventure Alternative.
What is the summit day route like on Elbrus south?
The ascent of the West Peak (Standard Route, South Face) is a long ascent over a moderate incline that requires good acclimatization but has few technical difficulties or objective dangers such as crevasses. However, despite the apparent simplicity of this route, it can be dangerous. The altitude, variable weather and low temperature transforms the ascent into a real high altitude adventure.
It follows the broad slope as far as the small rock islands known as Pastukhov Rocks and continues straight up for 400 metres towards the East Peak, gradually bearing left until reaching the saddle or col which is a good place to rest and eat. Head west and to the left side of the saddle, ascending the steeper snow slope on a rising traverse to the shoulder of the West Peak and a short distance directly up to the plateau. After crossing the broad and largely featureless plateau there is a short ascent to gain the small summit pinnacle.
The average time is from eight to ten hours for the ascent and about four hours for the descent. Crampons, ski poles and a walking axe are necessary, as well as a helmet, harness, slings and karabiners for safety, especially on the rising traverse above the Saddle where there is a fixed line to clip into.
Skills needed to climb Mount Elbrus
It is certainly beneficial to have experience of moving on snow and ice for this trip to Mt Elbrus although we provide on-site training in alpine skills such as moving on crampons and self-arrest with a walking axe. This trip tends to attract a wide range of abilities, from people with Seven Summits aspirations who have climbed Kilimanjaro, to experienced hill walkers. This does mean that we have to be sure that everybody has the necessary skills for safety on the hill such as personal movement, understanding of layering and personal climate, handling a slip, being familiar with all the equipment and working in a team.
Elbrus is often sold as a walking holiday, but the weather means it can often turn out to be a proper winter mountaineering experience even in the height of the summer season. Comparisons to Kilimanjaro don't work really; this is a lower peak but much colder and requiring movement over permanent snow-covered slopes. Even though the normal route is clear and safe, the mentality towards experience has to be focussed on winter skills.
Fitness training for Elbrus
We recommend you work towards this trip with the aim of being capable of multiple days out on the hill carrying a pack up to 10kgs. People who are active in the hills generally have few problems on Mount Elbrus, but extra work on the calf muscles and thigh muscles will help. Cardio-vascular fitness can be assisted by swimming, circuit training and working on a HIIT programme.
Altitude is not such a problem on Elbrus because of our acclimatisation programme but summit day is still a big jump in altitude and a long day on the hill in the cold. Eating, drinking and sleeping well and keeping healthy at altitude are equally as important. Our programme allows everyone to build their 'mountain fitness' before going high and acclimatising not just to the height but also the climate and new surroundings. Fitness is mental as well as physical, so we like to promote a happy and positive team spirit before rushing to the top!
Equipment for Elbrus
July and August are normally quite hot in the valley so you could be wearing shorts and T-shirts with a fleece for the hikes. However you should prepare for winter conditions on the mountain itself. It can be extremely cold and windy with either hard pack, ice or soft snow on the trail.
Make sure boots are double boots (plastic or hybrid), down jackets are mountain quality with hoods, mitts and gloves are warm and waterproof for the snow. Take sunglasses which cover around the eyes because the reflected glare off the snow can be intense, and goggles can either be full UV or yellow tinted for whiteout conditions. Good layering is essential and your daysack should be big enough to accommodate the bulky clothes when you are not wearing them.
For the colder June trips it is important to be particular about the warmth value of your equipment, especially jackets, hats, gloves and mitts and good quality socks in your boots. The slopes are more likely to be hard pack and ice so crampons should be sharp.
For the climbing equipment we recommend a straight walking axe for use on easy slopes and for self arrest, and lightweight is best. Crampons can be 10 point since there is no front pointing, either strap on or clip on depending on your boot. An alpine harness with a 120cm sling and two locking karabiners in case of needing to rope up and also for tying into the fixed line are also necessary. Helmets are optional, there is no danger of rockfall from above but head injuries can be caused in a fall.
Frequently Asked Questions
What permits do you need for Elbrus?
- Border Zone Permit, needed for any area south of the Baksan and obtained in Nalchik. Required is a stamped letter of application from an organisation approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, passport and a route sheet.
- Climbers should also be registered at the Alpine Base Baksan; in the Adyrsu valley near the Alpine Camp Ullutau.
- Prielbrusie National Park Permit. Park offices are located in Elbrus village but the system is managed privately rather than through a park office.
- OVIR Registration. Foreigners have to be registered in the Visa and Registration department in Tyrnyauz. Hotels or tour companies can arrange registration. Unregistered climbers face a fine and being sent back home.
What are the huts on Elbrus like?
The newer National Park huts have electricity and wi-fi, with rooms that accommodate up to six people in bunks that have mattresses. You need to bring your own sleeping bag. There is electricity and some heating. The older huts like Barrels (Bochka or Garabashi) are more basic, and Priut-11 is currently not being used.
There is an opportunity to get some hot water to wash your face and hands but no showers. In the new huts the toilets are good but still long drops, but much better than the old infamous ones at Priut-11 hut. Bring some toilet paper of your own and hand gel.
Do any of the huts have bottles of oxygen or Gamow bags? - No, because there is very quick descent access with the snowcats and on the chair lifts and cable cars. It is very easy to get a sick person down to low altitude very quickly.
What type of food is there on Elbrus?
We bring our own cook and fresh supplies, and there is a kitchen area where meals are prepared. Soups, stews, pasta, chicken, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Mostly meals high in carbs, plus hot drinks with sweets and biscuits. For breakfast mostly porridge and bread with preserves. In the villages there is a wide range of tasty recipes from the region (including lamb shashlyk the national specialty) and Georgian wine or Russian beer.
All water is boiled from the ice and filtered into thermos flasks or used for hot drinks. Feel free to bring your own water purification methods as well.
Is there helicopter evacuation on Elbrus?
On the south side of Elbrus helicopters are used on Elbrus during the ski season for heli-skiing but not for mountain rescues.The helicopters are large ex-military types that cannot easily go to high altitude because they are so heavy (for example to the Saddle) and there are few flat areas near the huts which are suitable for a helicopter to land.
Evacuations are generally handled by a combination of the mountain rescue team and snow cats or snow machines (ratracks) to the top of the chair lift and cable car.
How are the snowcats managed on Elbrus and how much do they cost?
Snowcats or ratracks are owned by individuals who are contactable by mobile phone. They generally try to fill a vehicle with up to 11 people plus kit on a summit morning to take them up to Pastukhov Rocks, and this is organised amongst the Russian guides.They are also used for descents and can reach an elevation of 5000 metres. Above this points it is possible to get a skidoo, but much would depend on the weather and snow conditions.
Prices do vary according to the number on board but an average is 90 euro per person for a one-way trip. For descents the price will be higher depending on group size.
What happens if there is an accident on Elbrus?
All mountain situations on the south side are handled by the guides and mountain rescue personnel, who liaise with the snow cat drivers to manage the best rescue scenario. Any emergency descent due to health risk or extreme weather is paid for by the company. In cases relating to AMS, a fall or slip, exhaustion and/or exposure, the aim is to use people to get the casualty as quickly and safely down to the nearest point where a snow machine can come up and descend directly to the cable car and then down to the valley floor.
There are some Doctors in the villages but the nearest hospital is Nalchik which is couple of hours drive. Again, helicopters should not be relied on for this journey, it is normally a road drive.
In some cases, there is an emergency shelter in the Saddle which can be used temporarily (or overnight in extreme cases). It takes about 4 people comfortably but there is no mobile signal from inside.
There is mobile signal on the south side all the way near to the entrance to the saddle, where the line of sight disappears to the valley.
How many summit days are there on Elbrus?
We provide two potential summit days, but note the difference between a summit day and a summit attempt. The right summit day is a question of weather, visibility, wind and conditions. A summit attempt happens on the right summit day, and it is highly unlikely that if you have tried once and reached, for example, the Saddle, you will get another chance the next day. The simple reason for this is that you will be too tired and it would be a risk to try again so soon.
How much does it cost to climb Mount Elbrus?
The south side guided trip for 11 days costs £1595.00 which includes all the land costs like transport, paperwork, guides, hotels and meals. The full trip allows for proper acclimatisation and a much better chance to summit safely and enjoy the experience of being in the Caucasus.
Climbing with an experienced tour operator on the south side of Elbrus
- We have our own registered guiding company in Russia with guides who have worked with us since 1999 and a reputable network of support staff. Organising trekking trips in Russia is not easy and we take care of all the bureaucracy.
- Our price has no kitties or hidden extras. We include snow machine and cable car costs for the ascent, all meals, a cook with every group providing fresh food, and the correct ratio of guides.
- We provide training in alpine skills on the mountain including self-arrest, crampon movement, using a walking axe correctly. We also provide a comprehensive personalised pre-trip advice service with our head guide.
- We do not attempt the summit in too short a time, our trip allows for good acclimatisation and adequate climbing period with two possible summit windows if the weather and the group capability allows.
- We guide you through all the preparation for the trip to Elbrus including providing the letter of invitation for the Russian visa which allows you to climb the mountain. Safety is our number one priority.
Is it safe to go to Elbrus south?
There are occasional reports of instability in the region and we advise all clients to read the FCO website. We make our decision to run our trips based on continual fact-finding from many different sources.
Sasha, our Russian Director, is always in touch with local people in the region and every year before the season begins he will visit and assess the local situation. We carry out our threat analyses and risk assessments and make our decisions.
In 20 years we have not yet cancelled a trip, and none of our groups have ever run into any problems. Clearly however the decision about whether to go or not is yours, and all we can do is assure you that we have many years of comparison and experience to draw on.
Other Mount Elbrus Routes
Elbrus south itinerary
The trip is eleven days in total, with optional Moscow tours before or after.
- Arrival at Mineralnye Vody in Russia and travel by minibus to mountains- 1 day
- Acclimatisation walks up to 3500 metres and staying in hotel in valley - 3 days
- Ascend to National Park Hut at 3900 metres, acclimatisation and summit days, return to valley hotel - 6 days
- Return to airport and depart- 1 day
Aim to arrive at Mineralynye Vody in the morning of the start date. If you arrive into Moscow the day before then you can stay in an airport hotel before catching the morning flight to Mineralnye Vody.
At the end of the trip book an afternoon flight out of Mineralnye Vody, in order to give yourself enough time to get to the airport.
Please be aware that there are two main airports in Moscow: Domodedovo (code DME, Cyrillic: Домоде́дово) or Sheremetyevo (code SVO (Cyrillic : Шереме́тьево). Try to make sure your flight to Mineralnye Vody uses the same airport as the international leg.
Trip Extension: Since most flights go via Moscow it is possible to spend some time in the city before or after the trip. Andrey Panin in Moscow can organise airport pick-ups, hotel bookings, local tours or bookings for any shows you may like to see.
|1||2000m||4 hrs||Arrive into Mineralyne Vody (MRV) airport in the morning and met by staff. Transfer by minibus to Terskol (4 hours). Accommodation in local Hotel Nakra, full board.|
|2||2125m - 3000m||6 - 8 hrs||Day hike to Cheget Mountain (3000m), lunch enroute and return to hotel where your guide will check your kit before our evening meal.|
|3||2125m - 3000m||5 hrs||Day hike to Terskol Observatory (3090m) with lunch enroute and return to hotel for evening meal and Russian sauna.|
|4||2125m - 3500m||6 hrs||Drive to the Azau Glade (2350m) and up to Mir station (3500m) - 4hrs up and 2hrs down. Lunch in the meadow and back to hotel. Collect any rental gear in town.|
|5||2125m - 3900m||5 hrs||Ascend on foot to National Park Hut (3900m) with equipment and bags going by cable car. Afternoon walk up to Priut Hut (4100m) and exercise at altitude, weather dependant. Dinner and overnight in National Park hut.|
|6||3900m||6 hrs||Hike to Pastukhov Rocks (4670m) for more acclimatisation and return to National Park Hut 3900m. Weather dependent, could be rest day as below.|
|7||3900m||3 hrs||Rest and training day in use of clothing and equipment such as crampons and ice axe, personal movement and dealing with cold and altitude. Back to hut for dinner and overnight.|
|8||3900m||12 hrs||1st possible summit day - awake at 3am. Snow machine to Pastukhov Rocks (this ground has already been covered on foot in previous days) and continue to summit. Return to National Park hut.|
|9||3900m - 5642m - 3900m||12 hrs||
Return to Terskol Hotel or 2nd summit attempt. (extra days in Terskol, in the case of an early summit allow for further hikes around Mt Elbrus)
|10||3900m - 2125m||12 hrs||
Return to Terskol if summit attempted on day 9. Or hikes and rent in valley.
|11||2125m||4 hrs||Early Breakfast in the hotel and transfer to Mineralnye Vody airport. Flight to Moscow and onward travel, or stopover in Moscow for trip extension.|
Mount Elbrus South route guided climb cost £1595.00
- Visa application papers (please note that some nationalities are charged an additional amount for travel papers)
- Municipal registration in the administrative centre of Tyrnauz which covers the Baksan Valley
- Minibus transfers to and from the Baksan Valley from the airport
- Hotel in Cheget with drying rooms, sauna, restaurant and twin rooms
- All hotel and restaurant meals and local taxis
- Mount Elbrus National Park fees
- All cable cars and chair lifts on the mountain
- Accommodation in the National Park hut
- All meals on the mountain and our own cook
- Snow cat to Pastukhov Rocks on the summit morning (to 4700m) and use of snow machine for transfer of equipment to / from the hut
- Staff: Sasha Lebedev Mountain guide and additional guides
- Andrey Panin - Moscow guide and translator, office administration
- Flights to Mineralnye Vody, Russia (usually via Moscow)
- Russian Visa. For UK nationals this £85 - £110 (depends on speed of delivery, nationality & postage return option). Please also note that nowadays if you are applying for your visa as a UK national you are required to appear in person at the visa office (located in London, Edinburgh or Manchester) in order to provide fingerprints, so there is an additional cost of travel to the visa office.
- Some consulates (usually Middle-Eastern & Eastern) require original visa travel papers. The cost of sending these by courier is not covered.
- Some nationalities are charged an additional premium for their travel papers which is not included (details below)
- Travel insurance estimate £75
- US $250 cash, local payment to our guide on arrival (this covers various cash payments made on your behalf, by our staff during the trip).
- Personal expenses estimate £50 for drinks and souvenirs
- Equipment hire - we have key items for rent on this website, there are also local shops in the village.
- Single room supplement in Cheget - £160 for all days in the village (single accommodation is not possible in the mountain hut)
- Use of the snow cat for a second group ascent to Pastukhov Rocks if a first ascent was already attempted and failed.
- Use of snowcat for any descent which is not related to safety or an accident
Kit hire from Adventure Alternative
- Crampons: £20.00 per trip - lightweight 10 point crampons - C1 and C2.
- Walking Axe: £20.00 per trip - 60cm walking axe with basic adze and a straight pick. Includes leash.
- Karabiners - 2 for £10
- Slings - 120cm for £5
- Harness - £15.00
A deposit of £100 is required on booking to secure your place and the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 6 weeks prior to your departure.
We advise you to take out your insurance as soon as possible to cover potential events that might cause you to cancel your trip. Because Elbrus is in a region which has an FCO warning against all but essential travel you may find that your normal policy is void.
We advise clients from Europe to buy their insurance for Mt Elbrus from Campbell Irvine Specialists. If you are outside of Europe you may need to research a local provider or contact us for details.
You need to ensure that you have a policy which covers trekking to high altitude, but it does not need to cover technical climbing. You should bring with you a copy of your policy and ensure that other people knows where you keep it. It is also worth bringing a photocopy of your passport and to keep it separate to your own documents just in case you lose your passport.
Visa process in Russia:
The visa process happens in 3 stages:
1) 6 weeks prior to entry we apply for your visa support papers (invitation letter and voucher) and to do so we need a photo of your passport ID page and your flight details
2) 5 1/2 weeks prior to entry we email you your papers and a guideline for applying for your visa
3) You apply for your visa through your local Russian Visa office
You will need to have had your visa issued prior to travel and it will consist of a full page insert into your passport. Please bring a couple of copies of this page and of the main page of your passport. Sasha may need to take at least one of these copies for official registrations at the various government checkpoints and you should also keep a copy with you somewhere safe. The visa is virtually impossible to alter or extend so make sure that it is correct well before you travel.
There is a section on our Russian country page with more information on obtaining the visa.
Visa Support Papers - possible extra costs:
The cost for producing the visa support papers is included in the trip fee, however for some nationalities the producers charge an extra premium, which is not included in the trip fee. This extra fee usually applies to Asian, African and Arabian passport holders and is currently $100.
The majority of Russian visa offices around the globe are happy to accept a digital pdf / print out of your visa support papers, however occasionally some will request the original copies. If this is the case then they will need to be sent by courier to you and this cost is not covered in the trip fee.
In 2016 it was made mandatory that tourists coming from the UK, Denmark, Myanmar or Namibia must visit the Visa application centre in person to apply for the Russian Visa as they have started to collect biometric data of foreign nationals (finger prints). If you are applying for your visa in the UK this means that you will need to go to the London, Manchester or Edinburgh Visa office in person. In other countries can usually do everything by post / mail.
The local currency in Russia is the Rouble. You can obtain roubles prior to travelling and this is probably the best option although there are ATMs in Moscow which takes Visa and Mastercard and banks with forex facilities.
If you bring currency do remember to have small denomination notes because many local places will not be able to offer change for large notes. You can change small quantities of sterling, euro or dollars at the hotel desk in Cheget but there are no proper facilities in the town.
If you are travelling from Northern Ireland or Scotland then remember to bring Bank of England sterling notes, as you will not be able to change regional notes.
Mount Elbrus Kit List
The Elbrus trip requires good quality winter mountain clothing for any month in the season. Scroll down to see a selection of pictures of summit day which show the variety of weather. The trekking section during acclimatisation is mountain walking in (hopefully) pleasant warm weather, but once on the mountain above the snow line you should be prepared for winter conditions at high altitude.
The list below details what you need to have with you to be safe on the mountain but some of the climbing items we offer for rent, and the shops in Terskol also offer a wide range of climbing gear, clothing and boots for rent or purchase.
Luggage and packs
- Duffle bag for carrying main gear. This will be carried to the hut on cable car, chair lift and on a ratrack snow machine so make sure it is durable.
- Light bag for leaving travel clothes at the hotel
- Assortment of dry bags for sleeping bag, clothes and kit, plus a bag for dirty clothes
- Day sack, minimum 40 litres. Make sure it has attachment for stowing an ice axe and pole, and enough space to store your down jacket as well as other summit day requirements.
- Travel clothes - you can leave these in the hotel when you are on the mountain
- Standard trekking clothes for the acclimatisation hikes (up to 2000m) for three days - T-shirts, shorts, trousers and shirts.
- Fleece or soft shell or lightweight down jacket (also used for the mountain)
- Waterproof jacket and trousers (also used for the mountain)
- Hiking boots with a stiff sole for mountain walking (B1)
- Trekking socks, several pairs
- Underwear - best to bring synthetic quick-dry material like merino or spandex/nylon rather than cotton
- Towel and shorts and crocs or sandals for the sauna
- Base layer/thermals - top and bottom
- Underwear - merino is the best material for pants and briefs. For women sports bras are best for comfort, and a synthetic material like spandex and nylon for briefs.
- Mid layer fleeces - 100 or 200 weight assists with layering and a few of these will allow versatility for warmth. Zip tops allow for controlling your temperature quickly and easily.
- Insulated or soft shell trousers which you can wear with your thermals and shell bottoms depending on conditions.
- Fleece jacket or soft shell jacket or lightweight down top for using on an moderate weather day.
- Mountain quality down jacket with hood for winter conditions (lightweight down jackets or ski jackets are not warm enough).
- Outer shell or goretex set - trousers and a jacket with hood
- Warm fleece hat or equivalent which covers the ears
- Balaclava or buff, it will be important to cover your face against the wind
- Liner gloves - thin gloves which can be worn under your fleece gloves or mitts
- Fleece gloves
- Mountain gloves which have a waterproof outer
- Mitts - mountain quality down quality
- Trekking socks - several pairs for the acclimatisation treks.
- Mountain socks - several pairs of good quality woollen mix for the mountain days
- Plastic mountain boots or good quality hybrids of 'double boot' standard (B3). If you are planning to buy a new pair do look at our High Altitude Boot Blog, and take into account what you will be using the boots for in the future.
- Hut shoes - sandals
- Gaiters - make sure they fit over the top of your mountain boot. Optional if wearing boots with an integrated gaiter.
- Sunglasses - high UV protection (for use on the mountain also) - preferably with side covers to prevent light getting in
- High UV protection sun cream and lip cream (at least 30 SPF), remembering that the UV rays at high altitude are very strong. Note that Dermatone has a product range which offers sun and wind protection and is particularly useful at high altitude.
- Moisturising cream to combat the dry cold air at altitude.
- Balaclava or buff (fleece buffs are better for summit day).
- Walking axe - a straight axe with leash and rubber end protectors. Make sure your axe hangs to just above the ground when you hold it in your hand by your side. For high altitude it's better to have lighter axes, for example the Petzl snowalker. There is no step cutting needed, the axe is for stopping you in the event of a fall.
- Crampons - 10 or points with anti-balling plates and point protectors or a bag for safety. Depending on your boot these can be strap-on (C1), hybrid (C2) or step-in (C3) but C1 and C2 are both adequate for this climb.
- Harness - preferably an alpine harness like the Black Diamond Alpine Bod with clips on the leg loops and a wide comfortable fleece waistband. Be aware that rock climbing harnesses are difficult to put on or take off over mountain boots and crampons.
- 1 x 60cm sling and 2 locking karabiners - for clipping into a fixed line. The karabiners allow you to attach the sling between your harness and the section of fixed line on the rising traverse above the Saddle, which is the steepest part of the climb.
- Climbing helmet - there is no danger of stone fall from above but head injuries can occur in the event of a fall, therefore we recommend bringing a helmet with you for safety, but it is not essential to wear every day. A low profile helmet like the Black Diamond Half Dome is a good choice. Make sure your warm hat fits comfortably underneath.
- Trekking poles with snow baskets. For trekking you can use two poles with no snow baskets, on the mountain you can use an axe in one hand and one pole with a snow basket in the other.
- Sleeping bag, 3 or 4 season - the huts can get quite warm and the beds have mattresses
- Flask for hot drinks.
- Headtorch with spare batteries
- Snacks from home, energy bars etc
- Water bottles. Platypus
- Map - you can buy a climbing map of Elbrus from Climbing-map.com
- Wash kit - on the mountan bring soap and flannel, wet wipes, talc for your feet, toothbrush and toothpaste. There are no showers but you may want to bring dry shampoo. Also moisturising cream, hand sanitiser and eye drops are useful. Razor, hairbrush, tweezers, nailbrush, and maybe a small mirror.
- First aid - bring a small kit for your own use such some plasters and headache tablets and general use painkillers.Also immodium, compeed or blister pads, and a roll of athletic tape.
- In case of altitude sickness you can bring some Diamox or acetazolamide (125mg x 14 tablets) but be aware of the side effects of this drug. Other altitude sickness drugs are Dexamethasone (4mg x 4 tablets) and nifedipine (2mg x 2 tablets). The guide will carry these drugs so it's not absolutely necessary you have them but it is important you understand what they are for, when to take them and what the side effects are.
Renting kit on Elbrus
We rent equipment on our website during the booking process, including strap on crampons, walking axe, harness, slings and karabiners.
You can also rent from one of the shops in Cheget or Terskol which have a wide range of clothing and equipment. A guideline to local prices of popular items are below:
- Plastic boots - £8 per day
- Down jacket - £7 per day
- Mitts - £2 per day
- Gaiters - £1 per day
- Goggles - £2 per day
- Thermos - £1 per day
Please clearly mark your luggage with your own contact details and the following for Adventure Alternative in Russia:
When you exit the airport at Mineralnye Vody you will need to show your baggage tag to match with the one on your bag.
Images of weather conditions on Elbrus in July and August
A typical change in weather on Elbrus with whiteout conditions, extreme cold and wind. Goggles, shell outer layer, mitts and mountain hats are mandatory.
News update 3 March 2022: due to the situation in Ukraine we are not taking any more bookings for our trips to Elbrus.