Preparing for Mount Elbrus
This page gives more information on the mountain itself, some comments on weather, clothing, accommodation and summit day expectations, plus a list of common issues to think about on Elbrus.
After booking your trip, make sure you first of all get travel insurance and then look at buying your flights. You will need to send us your passport details for the visa invitation which comes about five weeks before the trip.
You might also want to stay in Russia for a bit longer and spend a few days in Moscow which is a great experience. We can help with hotels, transfers and city guides, and also booking events like concerts or shows or visiting the Kremlin.
Where is Mount Elbrus?
Elbrus is in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia which extend for 1200 km between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The mountain range has Russia to the north and mostly Georgia to the south. Mount Elbrus is situated closer to the Black Sea and is reached by driving from the nearest airport at Mineralnye Vody.
Mount Elbrus is in the small republic of Kabardino Balkaria, just 12,500 square kilometres in the north Caucasus with a population of just under one million, made up of Kabardanians in the lowlands and Balkarians in the mountainous area.
Prielbrusie is the national park around Mt. Elbrus and is the most frequented area in the Central Caucasus and Elbrus itself is a popular ski resort for Russians.
How do I get to Elbrus?
The easiest way is to fly in Mineralyne Vody airport and then take road transport to the Baksan Valley and the village of Terskol where there are plenty of hotels and restaurants. The journey takes about four hours and a taxi will cost around USD$220.00.
From the village walk up the valley to the small settlement at Azau where there is a cable car station to go up onto the mountain, or you can walk. In winter this is a popular ski resort with 23kms of ski runs and several uplifts to 3800 metres.
Having booked your place on an Elbrus trip we will be in touch with you to advise what flights to arrive on. Generally speaking we try to ensure that everyone arrives into Mineralynye Vody around mid to late morning on day one, so that the whole team can travel together to the mountain. On the return, it's a good idea to take an early afternoon flight out of Mineralnye Vody.
What is Elbrus like?
Mount Elbrus dominates the Central Caucasus like a twin-peaked icy giant. A circular lava massif, it has a diameter of 18 kilometres and more than 70 large and small glaciers flow from its slopes. The entire mountain is covered by an immense sheet of ice that takes up 145 square kilometres and in some places is 400 meters thick.
The two peaks correspond to two different volcano vents: the western peak (Zapadnaya) is the tallest one, while the eastern peak (Vostochnaya), 5621 meters high, still has a gigantic crater 250 meters in diameter. The mountain is quite symmetrical so the contours for climbing the north and south side are very similar.
What is the weather like on Elbrus?
Elbrus is at a latitude of 42 degrees North, similar to that of Rome. However, due to its altitude and its surrounding mountain range, it can produce some extreme weather conditions and very low temperatures.
You can see 6-day weather forecasts and temperatures for the mountain at different altitudes on Mountain Forecast.
During the climbing season from June to August expect warm sunny days with little precipitation in the valleys and progressively colder days and nights as you go higher on the mountain, with lows of minus 20 Celsius on the summit with windchill. Prepare for a wide diurnal temperature range which is tiring, and rapid change in weather conditions and especially visibility on the mountain.
What are the main kit items I will need for Elbrus?
There is a full kit list on the South route web page, but the main items to think about are as follows:
Feet - this climb requires plastic mountaineering boots but a high quality hybrid boot will be adequate. Take normal hiking boots for the acclimatisation treks but once on snow you will need to have good quality warm 'double' mountain boots. Also take hut shoes or sandals. Heavy wool socks for the top and trekking socks for lower sections.
Hands - a good pair of waterproof, lined mountain mitts, fleece gloves and liner gloves.
Head and face - warm hat with ears covered if possible, and a sunhat. A buff or balaclava, high quality mountain sunglasses or glacier glasses, and goggles.
Body - You need good quality waterproofs, good quality down jacket with a hood and preferably long enough to cover the backside. Layering with fleece and normally a single thermal layer is enough for summit day.
Rucksack - on the north route you will be doing some carries of kit from base camp to high camp so a 75 litre sack is necessary plus you will need to use the larger rucksack to carry gear up like tents, food and stoves. On the south route a 40 litre day pack for the summit day is all you need, since your main kit will go up to the hut in the cable car.
Sleeping bag - on the north route it's best to opt for a four season bag since there is much more camping, whereas the warmer huts on the south side mean a 3 season bag will probably be enough.
Climbing equipment - for both routes on Elbrus you will need a pair of crampons, a walking axe, harness, slings and karabiners, trekking poles and a climbing helmet. All these can be rented from us.
Low visibility on the lower slopes of the mountain.
Summit Day Expectations
Leaving the hut in the dark on summit morning we are likely to be in warm boots and crampons, soft-shell or mountain trousers or base-layer tights and walking trousers, probably with hard-shell over-trousers, long-sleeved base-layer, a couple of fleece mid-layers and a down jacket plus a shell jacket for protection. Balaclava/buff, warm hat covering ears, liner gloves and thick windproof insulated gloves or mitts are necessary. In the bag carry goggles, sunglasses, flask of hot drink, water bottle, snacks and harness/sling/karabiners which you might use for tying into the fixed line or into a man rope.
Clothing needs to be adaptable to a variation in conditions and levels of exertion. The best way to achieve this is through a layering system and a good knowledge of being efficient with what you wear and knowing how to regulate your personal climate on a mountain. This means testing your clothing beforehand so you are familiar with what works for you.
Icy ground on the open slopes up to the Saddle require sharp points on your crampons and a walking axe.
A clear beautiful morning on Elbrus, every person has the right kit and clothing and enough to cope with significant changes throughout the day.
Toilets on Mount Elbrus
All the huts have outside latrines which are wooden huts with a floor and a long drop. Some latrines are worse than others, and it is not the job of the Rangers to clean them. Company staff can do this job, but under duress, since many of the problems are caused by people who miss the hole and don’t clean up afterwards. Sometimes a visit to a latrine can be a dispiriting experience. It is important to take a torch with you at night and take a responsibility to keep the huts clean. Going to the toilet behind a rock is strictly forbidden and the authorities have the power to send people off the mountain if they are caught, and fine the company.
Rubbish Disposal on Elbrus
All rubbish is collected by the staff and carried down the mountain. Do not throw rubbish down the long drop (toilet paper is fine) and make a habit of picking up litter that you see on the trail. The responsibility for keeping the mountain clean is on the shoulders of every visitor.
Accommodation on Mount Elbrus
On the south side all of the accommodation is in huts on the mountain, and the new National Park huts are heated and comfortable with bunks and mattresses in small dormitories. There is wi-fi and phone signal. A communal area for eating and relaxing is next to the kitchen. We would recommend a 3 or 4 season sleeping bag. We have an expedition cook who will prepare all the food for everyone throughout the trip but do bring some snacks and sweets from home.
On the north side the accommodation is in tents at base camp and in a fairly rudimentary hut at the snowline. Sometimes the team camp at the high Lenz Rocks before summit day, but only if the weather allows it. We would recommend 4 season sleeping bags and you will need a good quality sleeping mat.
Water Supply on Mount Elbrus
We do not bring bottled water on the mountain; we boil all water which comes from the rivers and glacial streams. The staff will fill your water bottles every evening. Feel free to bring some water purification tablets for yourself if you would like the extra reassurance (iodine is fine). You could also bring a Steripen which will also kill all germs.