North RouteMount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus North route
The North route of Mount Elbrus is more remote and more committing than the South route as it has less in the way of infrastructure on the lower reaches of the mountain. However, this reduction in facilties is balanced by the lack of human intrusion onto the landscape. There is little in the way of mechanical support, and the trip is mostly camping, and the summit route is harder than the south side, being longer and involving an interim camp at 4600 metres (if the weather allows) which requires winter camping skills and good teamwork.
With an elevation of 5642 metres, Mount Elbrus is a fine ascent which requires mountaineering skills, although altitude and unpredictable weather make for a challenging and adventurous trip. It is perfect for people who wish to gain ice and snow experience as full training is given, for those wishing to climb the Seven Summits and for people who have aspirations of going on to climb higher peaks in the Himalayas and S. America.
This expedition lasts thirteen days including travel and allows for travel days, several days of acclimatisation hikes in the stunning valleys and a five day climbing period on Europe’s highest peak. Climbs of Mount Elbrus on the northern side are more challenging and deemed a purer mountaineering experience compared to the traditional southern route. This is due to the climb being more remote and a greater need of self sufficiency.
Mount Elbrus stands between the great masses of Europe and Asia, dynamic in both region and terrain. It presents a strenuous and rewarding climb, but also includes a full experience of Russian culture, history and character. The ascent of Mt Elbrus by the north route is a long climb over a moderate incline (average 35 degrees, with some sections on the summit day increasing to 40 degrees) that requires good acclimatization but present few technical difficulties. However, despite the apparent simplicity of this route, it can be dangerous. The altitude, variable weather, and often low temperatures can transform the ascent into a real mountain adventure!
Groups are normally around ten in number, and on this route we use a ratio of 1 guide to three members, plus some porters to help move gear up to the high camp ( a hut) and then onto the final camp at Lenz Rocks (if the weather allows; if not, then the summit bid starts from the hut, which means a very long summit day of around ten hours).
Mount Elbrus Accommodation
Om arrival we stay at the Intourist hotel in Pyatigorsk which is about half an hour from the airport. On the mountain we sleep in tents at base camp and stay in a hut at the high camp and then camp again on the snow at Lenz Rocks. At base camp there is water nearby, tented toilets, a mess tent and some good facilities. The drive is partly on road and part off road with the last section involving crossing a river. We use two man tents but you will need to bring your own sleeping mats.
At the high camp there are two huts, one for eating and one for sleeping. They are quite basic but dry enough, and again you will need your sleeping mat. There are some drop toilets and a glacial lake for water nearby.
The highest camp at Lenz Rocks is snow covered and quite exposed (see video below), although we look for a spot behind a cluster of rocks which provides some protection from the wind. The tents need to be put up by yourselves and everyone is responsible for their own meals. We provide the food items and stoves with some gas but each tent team much prepare their own soup, tea and main meals. This will be important to ensure good energy for summit day.
Food on the Elbrus trip
In the hotel and cafes you can sample traditional soups and stews like Borscht (meat or vegetable) or Salyanka, home made breads or hichiny (cheese bread), salads, and delicacies such as shashlyk (skewered lamb roasted on a charcoal fire), fried sturgeon, pancakes made with different fillings, fruit and vegetables. It is very wholesome and accompanied of course with vodka, local wines, beer or soft drinks.
On the mountain we provide a cook who prepares all the food for our groups and we carry our food with us and cook on a large gas stove. Tinned meat is best and we prepare stews, salads, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, bread, hot drinks, porridge (kasha), eggs, dried meats like salami and dried fruits with sweets, fresh milk, juice and local produce.
If you have any dietary restrictions do let us know so we can cater for your needs.
Mount Elbrus Adventure Alternative support
The expedition is fully catered for you. We also provide lessons and practical training in the safe use of ice axes and crampons and personal movement skills on snow and ice. Our trip organiser will provide all logistical preparation during the trip, from hotels to meals and booking of all facilities. He will also be your translator and help you with local knowledge of flora and fauna.
Before the trip you will have access to experienced guides in the office who have climbed Elbrus many times and can offer practical advice on everything, such as kit which you might want to use for future trips to the Greater Ranges. We guide all of the Seven Summits so this expertise is invaluable.
We provide full support prior to the trip for your visa application and flight process, and we ensure that you will be met and picked up in Mineralnye Vody for the journey to the mountain. Our staff in Russia have many years of experience working with foreign groups and in 13 years we have never had to cancel a trip. Safety is our number one priority.
We provide financial protection for your money.
Is Mount Elbrus Right for Me?
Climbing Mount Elbrus is a rewarding experience and with that experience comes a few surprises. Russia can be an unpredictable space. Our Guide Sasha an Andrey in Moscow will be our points of contact when it comes to dealing with the authorities. It's a delicate dance, that often leaves you feeling like nothing is happening. However, there is an unspoken process that our guides are very familiar with when it comes to dealing with Russian authorities. It is not uncommon for authorities in tiny towns to ask for papers and this process can seem tedious to those not familiar with the situation. We ask you to let our experts handle the situation and please be patient if and when things need to get sorted out.
For more information about life on a mountain, check out our mountain preparation page.
Mount Elbrus North route itinerary
|1||320m||2.5 hrs||Arrive into Mineralnye Vody, arriving in the morning or lunchtime. On arrival at MRV you will meet the Adventure Alternative team and transfer to a hotel in the local town of Pyatigorsk. We use the Intourist Hotel. Pick up any rented gear, and sightseeing in the city.|
|2||2250m||6 hrs||Early departure for a four hour drive to base camp at the foot of Elbrus. The first part is by asphalt road then the second by dirt track in all-terrain vehicles. Camping. In afternoon possibility of acclimatisation walk to Mushroom Rocks (3500m).|
|3, 4, 5,||2500m - 3800m||4 hrs||Acclimatisation walks in the area of basecamp exploring the volcanic landscape of lava sculptures, and making carries up to the high camp (hut) at 3800 metres. There should be time here for a rest day to visit the energising springs which are famous in this area and see some amazing waterfalls. Every night camping at base camp, where there is a mess tent for eating.|
|6, 7||3800m - 4600m||5 hrs||Move to the high camp (hut) and make an acclimatisation hike up to Lenz Rocks (4600m) and deposit gear (tents, food, gas, stoves and pots). Sleep at the hut.|
|8, 9||3800m - 5642m||6 - 12 hours||Move to Lenz Rocks for overnight and next morning go to summit and come back to a) Lenz Rocks for another overnight, or b) all the way back to the hut (this depends on timing and weather. The other option, if the weather does not allow a camp at Lenz Rocks, is to use these two days to summit the West Peak all the way from the hut. This is a longer option and undeniably harder in terms of strength required, but it is possible. If you leave from Lenz Rocks, the start time is about 6am, if you leave from the hut the start time is about 1am.|
|10||3800m - 2500m||3 hours||Move everybody and all gear back to base camp for rest and celebration dinner|
|11||4 hours||Drive to Pyatigorsk to hotel. Sightseeing and dinner.|
|12||Travel day. Drive to Min Vody airport (45 minutes), fly to Moscow and then home, or stay in Moscow for a few days.|
Dates: Aim to arrive in Mineralnye Vody on the morning of Day 1 (the advertised date hence you will depart from home the day before the advertised date). Most flights go via Moscow, enabling you to catch an overnight flight to Moscow and then a morning flight from Moscow to MRV. For the return, book a flight from Min Vody around lunchtime or early afternoon in order to make the link with the international flight back home.
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. Have a look at Moscow Weekend for further details.
Climbing Period: The itinerary below allows a five day climbing period on the mountain above base camp. If the weather is favourable, there may be two summit attempts but the decision will be made by the guides, depending on normal mountaineering decisions and the ability of the group. In reality the summit day on the north side is much harder than on the south side and therefore in all likelihood only one attempt is possible because the first attempt would be exhausting.
Good times for climbing Mt Elbrus are from June through to August, with perhaps the best month for stable weather being July. Each trip is 12 days unless you have opted for the 8 day trip and we can also organise a stopover in Moscow if you wish. We provide all the accommodation, food and logistics for this trip, and there are no kitties or hidden extras. You only need money for some drinks in the hotel and souvenirs.
Please see the Route tab for a lot more information on the terrain and what to expect on this climb.
Mount Elbrus North Route cost £1,895.00
- Visa application papers (please note that some nationalities are charged an additional amount for travel papers)
- Municipal registration
- Intourist hotel in Pyatigrosk - twin room for two nights
- Road transfer to basecamp
- National Park fees
- All meals on the mountain and our own cook
- Staff: Sasha Lebedev and other local guides, cook and administrator in Moscow.
- Accommodation in the top hut
- Camping equipment
- Flights - to Mineralnye Vody
- Russian Visa - £50 - £85 (depends on speed of delivery, nationality & postage return option)
- 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
- Personal expenses estimate £50/65 for drinks and souvenirs
- Equipment hire
- Single room supplement - £80
Cost of Mount Elbrus equipment hire
- Crampons: £20.00 per trip
Black Diamond Contact Strap lightweight crampons - C1 articulated and flexible attached with simple straps. These Crampons have 10 points, two front and 8 at the backside.
- Walking Axe: £20.00 per trip
60 cm walking axes with basic adze and a straight pick predominantly used to arrest a fall in the event of a slip.
Visa & Visa support papers:
The visa process is relatively easy and generally 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 your papers and a guideline for applying for your visa
3) You apply for your visa through your local Russian Visa office
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.
A deposit of £250 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 4 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. We make payments as flexible as possible and you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.
Not all about money
Our prices are competitive and good value, and we offer quality, professional service and security. We know that many people hate to arrive into a country and be surprised by hidden costs or find that essential trip elements have not been included in the expedition fee , so we offer a comprehensive expedition with no hidden fees or kitties. All food, land travel, accommodation, park fees, staff fees are included. The only thing you need to pay for on the ground is items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and drinks.
Additionally our itinerary is long enough to give excellent acclimatisation and two summit attempts, less days are dangerous for a peak just short of 6000 metres (equivalent to Camp 1 on Mount Everest). Reducing the number of days may make the price cheaper but the chances of summiting reduce to around 25% and it is potentially dangerous. We also aim to camp at 4600 metres, which involves the use of more staff and local porters, because trying to summit from the hut involves a 2000m ascent in one day, which brings the success rate down and is very difficult. This camp at Lenz Rocks essentially splits the summit journey into two, and is a great experience in itself.
We are well aware of other companies which offer Elbrus at a cheaper price, but we cannot condone paying our guides less than what they deserve and in accordance with European rates of pay for International Mountain Leaders. The north side of Elbrus is a challenging expedition and requires good mountain decision-making, determination and experience; we believe these are skills worth paying for, and this is borne out by the quality of our staff and the enjoyment of the trip. Additionally we train our staff in risk assessment procedures common to mountain trips assessed by the British Standards 8848 criteria, and we work hard to invest in this standard.
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.
Mount Elbrus north route - experience and terrain
The summit route is a long ascent over a moderate incline that requires good acclimatization but has no technical difficulties. However, despite the apparent simplicity of this route, it can be dangerous. The altitude, variable weather, frequent violent storms and low temperature transforms the ascent into a high altitude mountain challenge.
The average time can be twelve hours for the summit day from the top hut and about six hours ascent from the camp at Lenz Rocks. The route heads towards the Saddle between the two peaks and then follows the normal route on a rising traverse with an average gradient of 38 degrees (occasionally exposed) and then across the large summit plateau to the summit. The descent is about about four hours to the Lenz Rocks camp, and a further hour and half to the top hut. Crampons and poles (or walking axes) are necessary for this climb.
There are a few crevasses around the Lenz Rocks which can be quite wide depending on the time of season and local conditions, but they are largely visible. Other objective dangers on the route are the exposure to cold and wind, and the weather is very temperamental and visibility can drop rapidly. It is important to be well equipped and experienced in the use of your equipment, and to be confident in the prevention of cold weather injuries.
Camps used on Mount Elbrus north route
Elevation of main huts and points
Base Camp 2250m (camping near a river)
High Camp 3800m (there are several huts)
Lenz Rocks 4600m (exposed camping)
West Summit 5642m
Experience needed for Mount Elbrus north route
It is highly beneficial to have experience of moving on snow and ice for this trip to the north route of Mount Elbrus but we do provide on-site training in basic alpine skills such as moving on crampons and self arrest before the summit day. This trip tends to attract a wide range of abilities, from people with Seven Summits aspirations, to experienced hill walkers wanting to try a snow covered mountain. It is not suitable for people with no experience on snow or camping on snow or camping at altitude.
Predominantly the experience which is useful include personal confidence moving on snow wearing crampons, understanding of layering and personal climate, handling a slip, being familiar with all the equipment and working in a team. For the north side, where there is less infrastructure and a higher reliance on self-management, we prefer that the people who apply have experience in alpine walking and winter camping.
Elbrus is often sold as a walking holiday, but it is a big mountain that requires a mountaineering approach to ensure safety and success and enjoyment. A good preparation would be to do a winter hillwalking course in Scotland or an alpine skills course in the Alps, but this is not mandatory to join the trip. We would ask that people apply common sense to their decision to climb the mountain and not make any comparisons to Kilimanjaro. This is a lower peak but it is colder and it requires more care moving over permanent snow covered slopes which are glaciated and occasionally crevassed, and it is therefore more tiring mentally and physically. Even though the normal route is clear and safe, the mentality towards experience has to be focused on winter skills.
Our trip to Mt Elbrus promotes good mountaineering practises for an enjoyable trip, a memorable holiday and one that may lead in the future to more mountain adventures. Our programme is safety-conscious and our staff purposeful in teaching you about issues like altitude sickness, and what it actually means. Most worries are borne of ignorance; but with knowledge comes calm, and with that calm comes the ability to prepare mentally and to prevent unnecessary stress.
Mount Elbrus north side route tips
Mount Elbrus North route kit list
The clothing and equipment that you take on a climb of Mt Elbrus can make a huge difference to your entire mountain experience and also ensure your safety and enjoyment of the climb. We run climbs from early June through to early September, which is the most stable time of year, however at any time of year Elbrus can have challenging and extreme climatic events that require you to have good and proper mountain clothing at hand. It is very possible to summit in a fleece jacket and hat, however it's also just as possible to summit in full down jacket, goggles and mitts! Therefore you need to be prepared for the worst possible conditions and especially if you are tackling the summit from the North route.
If you were to go out and buy all of this kit it would be expensive but an investment if you plan on more peaks in the future. Most people aren't sure of future plans as yet so it's cheaper to hire the kit and equipment needed either from us, or from local shops when you're in Russia, or from home (down jacket, boots, axe, crampons, harness etc).
Kit lists can be ambiguous - what one person regards as a 'mountain' mitt, another wouldn't. If you have any questions about kit please do email or call us. You will find lot's of information below and also under the 'More Information' section, which can be found on the lower right hand side of this page. In the 'More Information' you will also find guides to boots, crampons and sleeping bags.
- Thermal base layer - top and bottom
- Fleece pants or warm trousers
- Midlayer fleece tops (polartec 200)
- Fleece jacket (heavy pile, or good quality soft shell with hood)
- Down jacket with hood (good quality climbing down jacket, not a fashion model)
- Shell trousers and jacket with hood
- Trekking clothes (shirts, trousers, shorts, jumpers)
- Sunhat and warm hat (good quality warm hat for summit day)
- Balaclava or neckwarmer/buff
- Headtorch, with spare batteries for the summit morning
- Sunglasses (100% UV)
- Goggles or sunglasses with protective edges
- Walking boots
- Plastic mountain boots or good quality hybrids. These must be of good quality 'double boot' standard which take crampons
- Harness, 120cm sling and 2 karabiners (screwgate)
- Socks - trekking socks and several pairs of heavy duty mountain socks
- Crampons - 10 or 12 point
- Fleece gloves, several pairs
- Mitts - waterproof and windproof and warm
- Main bag - rucksack of about 75 litres
- Day sack for treks and summit (35-45 litre is adequate)
- Sleeping bag - 4 season is best for high camp and Lenz Rocks, but it will be hot to sleep in at base camp, so bring a liner!
- Sleeping mat for camping at Lenz Rocks - inflatable one or closed cell mat are both fine
- Water bottles and flask. Bottles for low levels, flask for hot drinks at high levels.
- Sun and lipscreen (SPF 30)
- Personal first aid
- Trekking poles
- Dry bags
- Travel Clothes - you can leave these at base camp in a bag
Additional Kit Information
Boots - this climb requires plastic mountaineering boots but a high quality hybrid boot will be adequate. If you are renting then make sure there is some movement for your foot since it will swell slightly at altitude. You can take normal hiking boots for the acclimatisation treks but once on snow you will need to have good quality warm 'double' mountain boots. Please call us to discuss options if you are planning to buy a new pair, and take into account what you will be using the boots for in the future.
Mitts - a good pair of waterproof, lined mountain mitts will protect against cold hands, and it is a good idea to wear a pair of liner gloves inside.
Down jacket - You need a good quality warm jacket. Ski jackets are not really acceptable since they do not breathe. Down jackets should be mountain quality with a hood and preferably long enough to cover the backside.
Warm hat - should have ear flaps if possible and be fleece lined or woollen. You might want to take a lightweight beanie and a thicker fleece hat to put on top if it gets cold.
Socks - take heavy socks for the summit days and trekking socks for the walks.
Rucksack - you will be doing some carries of kit from base camp to high camp/hut so a 75 litre sack will be useful. If the weather allows you to camp at Lenz Rocks then you will need to use the larger rucksack to carry gear up like tents, food and stoves. In which case it is possible to do the carry of heavy gear the day before and then take the large rucksack the next day with the day packed lashed to the outside. Leave the big pack in the tent on summit day and use the day pack. When you come down you can put everything back in the big rucksack.
Day sack - this should be around 40 litres for day hikes and the summit day.
Water bottles and a thermos flask for summit day, note that the bladders tend to freeze up easily. If you don't have a thermos then take insulated covers for your water bottle, since you will want to put hot liquid in it. The bladders can't be used early in the morning on summit day but sometimes they have melted enough to use on the descent. You will need to carry up to two litres of liquid with you. Liquid intake should increase to at least 3 litres per day, which includes soups, tea/coffee, water, juice.
Trekking poles are very useful although more experienced people may prefer to use one pole and a walking axe. We like people to take a walking axe if only to spend time learning how to use it properly for future trips. A big part of this trip is learning skills. Furthermore, if there is a section of icy ground then an axe will be of more benefit than a pole.
Sleeping bag - tents at base camp are normally quite warm while at the top hut and camping on the snow it can be cold. It is best to opt for warmth - 4 season bag - and put up with being warm at base camp. You could lay the sleeping bag over you at base camp or take a lightweight liner and use your sleeping bag as a blanket.
You can buy a climbing map of Elbrus from Climbing-map.com
Rental Items locally
If you need to hire any equipment then we can offer crampons, harnesses and walking axes through Adventure Alternative when you book or by adding it to your booking section. The local shop in Pyatigorsk (where you are staying for your first night) also rents plastic boots, poles, goggles, jackets but availability can't be guaranteed as they come from a third party source, though we've never had a problem before. The shop will ask for a cash deposit to secure any rental and if the equipment is new this can be the full purchase price. A pair of plastic boots can cost USD$700.00, which is a lot of cash to carry with you just for a deposit. If the kit is older the deposit is a lot more realistic.
A guideline to local prices are below. Other items are available and do email us with any specific requests.
Plastic boots - £5 - £8 per day depending on quality
Down jacket - £3 - £6 per day depending on quality
Mitts - £2 per day
Gaiters - £1 per day
Goggles - £2 per day
Thermos - £1 per day
You can also hire from home and bring kit with you. If you are based in the UK or Ireland then our clients receive a discount from the Outdoor Hire shop. If you would like to visually compare your own kit you'll see what kit we refer to on the Outdoor Hire site.
Equipment and weather – July and August are normally hot in the valley and it is likely you will be wearing shorts and T-shirt at the bottom with a fleece for the evening. However trekking up to the hut on the snowline will show you the difference in temperature on ascent. You will need to be equipped for cold and wind. Make sure boots are double boots (plastic or hybrid), down jackets have hoods, fleeces are heavy, and mitts are really warm and waterproof. Don’t skimp on sunglasses either, take ones which cover around the eyes because the reflected glare off the snow can be intense. For people going on north side climbs it is more important to be particular about the warmth value of your equipment, especially jackets, hats, gloves and mitts and good quality socks in your boots. Summit day will be a long and challenging day so prepare for it by taking good quality warm clothing, and any summit day snacks you particularly like. Do contact us if you have any questions about kit!
The photos below are all taken around the same time of year but notice the difference in clothing - here you can see that you must be prepared for all conditions!
Conditions vary day by day!
Full Down gear in windy conditions and full down when it clears. But it can also be sunny and cold / warm!
Frost Nip! Regulating temperature
Acclimatisation Section - clothing needs to be versatile!
Important that clothing keeps you warm and dry and also, when required, cool!
Why Climb Mount Elbrus with Adventure Alternative?
- We provide excellent guides who we pay well and who will look after you well.
- We offer the option of camping at Lenz Rocks, which makes the summit day easier.
- We have our own company in Russia with guides who have worked with us for over ten years.
- We have an excellent network of contacts in the Elbrus area, from drivers to mountain rescue personnel.
- Our price is all-inclusive, with no kitties or hidden extras.
- We provide training on the mountain on the use of walking axe and crampons.
- Our trip allows for good acclimatisation and adequate climbing period including multiple summit days.
- We can combine your climb with a holiday in Moscow.
- AA guide Sasha Lebedev is an author of many books, including one on Elbrus, and is a recognised authority.
- We have experienced people in the UK who can advise you before the trip on what to buy and what to expect.
- We have never cancelled a trip.
- Adventure Alternative is financially protected and bonded and we have all the correct insurances as a tour operator, which in turn means you are protected.
- Our booking pages allows you to create your own booking page into which you can put all the information regarding your trip, which you can change at any time.
- We guide the Seven Summits and have experience of how to manage the challenge from start to finish.
Here's an article from adventure film maker Elia Saikaly giving some advice on climbing Mount Elbrus in which he mentions Adventure Alternative
With our low deposit service, you can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or private itinerary.
- Duration 12 days
- Numbers 5 - 15
- Altitude 5642
- Challenge Strenuous