Safety and Security
Mount Elbrus is in the Republic of Kabardino Balkyrie which is part of the Russian Federation territory. It lies at the head of the Baksan Valley which is in a very mountainous area of the Caucasus Range, bordering Georgia and 400 kms from Chechnya. The nearest airport to Elbrus is Mineralnye Vody and from there you can drive to the south side of Elbrus in about four hours which is a road journey via Tyrnauz and then along the Baksan Valley to the villages of Terskol and Cheget. Or you can drive to Pyatigorsk and continue off road to the reach the north side of Elbrus which has no villages nearby.
Other cities which are entry points to the area are Pyatigorsk and Nalchik. The road from Mineralynye Vody to Nalchik is controlled by policy and military posts and is safe; a stop is made at the town of Tyrnauz for local registration but much of the journey is a long winding road going up the Baksan Valley if you are on a south side trip. There are a few villages along the way, and the villages at the base of Elbrus itself are orientated towards tourism and skiing. There are hotels, cafes, saunas and shops. There are cable cars and in the peak season many people on holiday.
The road to the north side quickly becomes an offroad track which then crosses open territory and eventually a river to reach the campsite at the bottom of the mountain.
The area round Elbrus (Prielbrusie) is a subject of much debate regarding safety in the context of the wider politics of the region. Seen in this wide context the region is noted by the Foreign Office as a place not to visit unless for express reason. However Chechnya is far away and seperated from this area by many mountains, and it is in a very different situation to Kabardino Balkyrie; it has independance from Russia and operates an almost feudal system of state. What happens in Chechnya does not impact on life in the Baksan Valley.
Elbrus represents a region of strong economic growth because of tourism and there is certainly a black market and local mafioso style of leadership. There is local crime as in any other place, and there is poverty and definitely quite a wild feel to the place. But thousands of people go there every year to ski and climb without any danger. It is also fair to say that your safety from commonplace crime is much lessened by the presence of our local guides.
The situation in the area is definitely fluid and it is worth always checking the FCO Know Before You Go website which gives up to date information on the region. The FCO obviously cannot go into any granularity on their assessments of a region, but it is worth mentioning that their current recommendations may render insurance policies null and void. Do check your policy to see if it is affected by FCO warnings.