Mount Elbrus (Russia)

Mount Elbrus is located in the spectacular Caucasus Mountains of Russia and, at 5643 metres, is the highest mountain is Europe and one of the fabled 7 summits. Oh, and it’s also a superb mountain for intrepid mountaineers.

  • Cost: £1795
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Maximum Group Size: 12
  • Type: Residential
  • Location: Caucasus Mountains, Russia
  • Dates 2021: 13th - 22nd Aug 2021
  • Dates 2022: 12th - 21st Aug 2022
  • Booking: Please use our Contact Form to make an enquiry
SKU: Mount Elbrus Category:
  • Low instructor/client ratios
  • Qualified UK leader (supported by local guides)
  • All technical equipment included
  • 15% discount voucher from Cotswold Outdoor

Description

At 5642m, Mount Elbrus is a huge double-domed dormant volcano located in the spectacular Caucasus Mountains of Russia.  The west summit is the highest peak in Europe, making it one of the famous 7 summits.  It also has the advantage that an ascent can fit into a 10 day trip which makes it ideal for those with limited holiday (it could also be tied easily into a longer trip to Russia).

Elbrus offers a technically straight-forward ascent line making it a great objective for anyone keen to develop altitude experience.  An ascent requires basic mountaineering skills which can be learnt as part of the trip. Alternatively, one of our Scottish Winter Skills courses would  prepare you perfectly.  Good hill fitness is essential as the trip does involve multiple consecutive days on the hill and summit day is a long one, but otherwise this trip offers all mountaineers an exciting challenge.

Itinerary

This is a great itinerary as it gives teams plenty of acclimatization time and maximum chance to summit.  There are plenty of providers offering shorter itineraries but we stand by our decision to leave plenty of time and an extra possible summit day – you have come a long way so want to have as much chance of success as possible.

Day 1 – International travel to Mineralnye Vody via Moscow airport. From here we will make a 4 hr transfer to our comfortable valley hotel.
Day 2 – Day hike to Peak Cheget.  Today we operate from the valley base and take a day hike up to a possible height of 3461m on nearby Peak Cheget.  This will be the beginning of our acclimatisation programme and hopefully offer us views across to Elbrus.
Day 3 – Transfer to mountain hut.  Today we head up to the mountain huts that sit under Elbrus.  We can transfer some equipment and take a walk above the huts to aid acclimatisation.  It will also offer the opportunity to brush up the essential skill of walking in crampons.  We will then return to the valley to rest.
Day 4 – Move to mountain refuge.  Today we move to our mountain refuge at 3800m. We will use the ski lift infrastructure to transport ourselves and our kit to the refuge. This will be our home for the next few days, so we will take some time to settle in before taking an afternoon wall to approximately 4100 metres for ongoing acclimatisation and a chance to further practice our mountaineering skills.
Day 5 – Ascent to Pastuckhov Rocks.  From the hut we will climb to the top of Pastuckhov rocks, a prominent rocky ridge that sits high above the mountain huts.  This will allow us to ascend to approximately 4700m. Along the way we’ll practice our crampon and ice axe skills on the icy slopes.
Day 6 – Rest and preparation day.  Following yesterday’s acclimatisation we will have an easier day allowing for our bodies to recover and prepare for our summit attempt.
Day 7/8 – These days are allocated for our summit attempts. Starting at around 3am a snow cat can take us the first part of the way to Pastuchov’s Rock (the cat is an optional choice). We will then continue on foot towards Sedlowina Saddle, the col between the two peaks of Elbrus and then on to the summit, the highest point in Europe. This will be a very long day taking up to 12 hours, but so very worth the effort.
Day 9 – Descent to valley. Having spent our final night in our mountain refuge, all that remains today is to descend to the valley, settle back into our hotel and enjoy the luxuries of a hot shower, celebratory meal and maybe even a well earned alcoholic drink!

PLEASE NOTE – We allocate 2 potential summit days due to the potential for bad weather or other problems.  If we can summit on the first of these days we might prefer to descend to the valley a day earlier.  This will incur an additional cost of approximately £35 for the valley hotel.

Day 10.  A morning transfer will take us back to Mineralyne Vody airport to begin our journey home.

 

 

Challenge Level

Any multi-day mountaineering trip into a mountain area requires a good fitness level and an ascent of Mount Elbrus is particularly challenging because of the long summit day and relatively short total duration of the trip. The technical difficulty level is moderate meaning that the walking isn’t too challenging and the peak is non-technical. The main criteria are the ability to walk in crampons and to have the hill fitness for continuous days in the mountains carrying a light pack and at altitude.  We will be able to train you in the necessary skills to use an ice axe and crampons during the trip (or attendance on one of our Scottish Winter Skills courses would be perfect preparation) and the hill fitness can be gained in advance providing enough time is left before departure.  As a benchmark, you should be able to walk in hilly terrain for up to 10 hours at a moderate pace.  If in doubt about your fitness level, please do get in touch with us to discuss before booking.

FAQ's

Here are a list of questions clients frequently ask about our Mount Elbrus expeditions.  We hope you’ll find the info you need but, if there’s something you want to know that we haven’t covered, please call or email us and we’ll be more than happy to help.  In fact, if you’ve thought of it then the chances are other people have too – so we’ll add it to the list!

What is Mount Elbrus like?
At 5642 metres Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe and one of the fabled 7 summits (the 7 summits comprises the highest mountain on each continent).  The mountain is a huge double domed volcano with the west summit being the highest.

Location – Elbrus sits in the mighty Caucasus mountain range.  This spectacular stretch of mountains links the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and the Greater Caucasus range is often said to create a natural boundary between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Geography – Of course Elbrus sits in Russia and that’s a country that probably needs little introduction.  Russia, or the Russian Federation, is the largest country in the world by area covering a vast 17,125,200 square kilometres.  The population is around 146,000,000.

The weather varies considerably across the country as a whole, but in the Caucasus Mountains the main factors are both the altitude and the exposure of the range to the prevailing westerly winds.  Our expeditions are timed to enjoy the warmer summer days although it is important to note that Elbrus is prone to very extreme weather.

What is the currency of Russia and how much money will I need?
The currency is Russian Roubles and these can only be obtained in the resort where our valley hotel is based.  We will send advice on how much to bring for each itinerary with your Joining Instructions but generally about £300 should be plenty for most trips – this will cover a few meals, drinks tips for local staff and other minor expenses such as laundry and toiletries.  It will also cover you if you wish to use the snowcat for uplift on summit day.  We suggest bringing this as US dollars or a mixture of dollars and pounds sterling.

What equipment is provided and do I have to pay to use it?
We supply all the technical equipment you’ll need for your trip completely free of charge.  This includes ice axes, crampons, helmets, harnesses, climbing hardware and ropes.    We just ask trip participants to bring along a length of dynamic climbing rope which we will use to attach to a line of fixed rope on summit day (we will explain this fully in the pre expedition information).

You will need to supply suitable clothing, a rucksack and sleeping bag,  but detailed information on exactly what you will need is available by following the kit list tab and further guidance will be sent with your Joining Instructions.

We are always keen to minimise your expenditure wherever possible and often there are cheaper options to some of the more expensive items needed.  Some items can also be hired. Please don’t let the cost of equipment be a barrier to you coming along.

Who is looking after me?
Most of our overseas trips are led by Peak Mountaineering director Paul Lewis and he will be leading our Mount Elbrus expedition.  Paul is a holder of the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor Award (WMCI) which is the highest mountain instructing qualification available under the UK qualifications framework. Paul also has extensive experience of guiding overseas altitude expeditions and he has visited Nepal many times.  Paul will be supported on the trip by local guides and our in-country agent.

How safe are these trips?
Any trip carries risk.  Add to this the additional hazards of travelling in a foreign country and journeying into mountainous terrain and the risks obviously multiply.  So, it would be impossible and irresponsible for us to claim that any of our expeditions can ever be completely safe.  Infact, we’d argue that an element of risk is an integral part of any adventure – our job is to try and minimise and control the risk with careful planning and ongoing risk management.

Peak Mountaineering has an unblemished safety record and we make client safety our top priority. As well as using the best guides and in-country support we also run a UK based incident management system during all overseas expeditions. This means we can always seek help if needed and we also engage a third party crisis management company who can help if needed.

Our team will carry a comprehensive medical kit and Paul is a holder of the Wilderness Medical Training Advanced Medicine Certificate.  Our teams to Russia are able to enjoy reliable communications as a good mobile phone signal is available on Elbrus.  Team members are also welcome to attend one of our scheduled Outdoor First Aid courses for only 50% of the full course fee (we’ll send you the dates and further details when you book).  As well as making you a qualified first aider you’ll also feel better prepared for the unexpected.

What standard of living will I experience?
Our expeditions are competitively priced but we also want you to have a good standard of living during your expedition.  The mountaineering phase is fully catered, the hotels and mountain hut will be simple yet comfortable and the food will be plentiful local fare.

Having said that, this is a mountaineering expedition to a high peak and so you’ll need to be willing to go without a few luxuries along the way.

Do I need insurance?
We have professional indemnity insurance but it is essential for you to purchase specialist rescue, medical and repatriation insurance and details of your insurance policy must be sent to us before departure.  The following companies provide appropriate insurance:

British Mountaineering Council www.thebmc.co.uk 0870 010 4878
Snowcard Insurance Services www.snowcard.co.uk 01327 262 805

What age do you need to be?
We can only offer this trip to anyone over 18 but we don’t specify an upper age limit – anyone over 18 who can cope with both the physical aspects of the trip and the basic living conditions is welcome to join us.  Please contact us to discuss if you aren’t sure.

Will you give my details to other people?
All information supplied to us remains completely confidential and we will never pass it on to third parties.

How big will the group be?
We always have to work out the minimum number of people needed to make a trip viable and for this trip the minimum required is 5 people.  We also cap the trip numbers at a maximum of 12 as we believe groups over this size are more difficult to manage and also lose their sense of cohesion.  As a guide, we usually end up with group numbers of around 8-10 on most of our trips.

What happens if I become sick and I’m unable to continue with the trip, can’t make the summit or there is an incident requiring emergency assistance?
We try to take as many steps to keep team members healthy (such as careful preparation of food and ensuring all consumed water is purified) but unfortunately there is always the risk that you may be come unwell. Similarly, even with a good acclimatisation profile some people do struggle to adapt to the altitude. Your expedition leader will be constantly assessing the health of team members and if someone does become unwell they will discuss options with you.

Sometimes the situation can be managed and the team member is able to simply wait at a lower altitude or rest until their condition has improved sufficiently to continue. Sometimes the only option is descent. If a participant does have to descend or leave the group they will be accompanied by a local staff member. As this falls outside the itinerary the costs for this would need to be met by the individual.

Descent from the lower part of Elbrus is quite efficient as team members can make use of the ski lift infrastructure, snow cats or skidoos.  For evacuation higher up the mountain it may not be possible for a team member to walk themselves out of the mountains and we might then need to consider helicopter evacuation. Again, the cost for this would fall to the individual and so it is essential that any insurance policy covers helicopter evacuation (please do be aware that some insurance companies do charge an excess for helicopter evacuation). Do bear in mind that helicopter services are limited in Russia and their operation may not be limited in some circumstances (such as poor weather and darkness) and so it may be a considerable period before a helicopter rescue is possible.

Medical facilities in the mountains are very limited and so the team do carry equipment to try and help team members with medical problems or medical emergencies. These include a range of prescription medications and drugs to assist with altitude related issues.

What if I need to cancel a course booking?
If you cancel over 26 weeks in advance of a course start date we refund all the money you have paid us so far.  If you cancel within 26 weeks of a course start date, you forfeit the deposit, but we refund any other money you may have paid.  If you cancel within 8 weeks of the course start date you forfeit the full amount unless we are able to resell your place. Please do check our Terms and Conditions page for more detailed information.  To cover this eventuality we recommend you take out an insurance policy that includes cancellation of your trip or holiday.

How do I book?
All our courses can be booked online or we are always available to deal with your booking via phone or email if preferred. If you’d like to arrange a private guided option please contact us directly and we’ll be able to help.

Can you guarantee good weather?
Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. However, we do always try to plan our expeditions for the best time of year for each area and we add an extra summit day incase bad weather delays our first attempt.  Of course the mountains are the mountains and conditions do vary year to year and so we do aim to follow our itinerary as closely as possible but reserve the right to change it for safety reasons if required.

Can you cater for specific dietary requirements?
Certainly.  Please let us know beforehand and we will be able to help.

Will I have to carry a heavy rucksack?
Our Elbrus expeditions operate from a mountain base and so your main luggage will be left in the hut during our mountain phase.  This is a great help as it means all you have to carry each day is a rucksack containing the essentials for that day.  Sometimes you might also be asked to carry an item on the team’s emergency equipment but this won’t be more than the size of something like a sandwich box and weighing no more than a kilo.

Is the water safe to drink?
It isn’t safe to drink untreated water anywhere in Russia. We issue our team members with water purification solution and will teach each team member how to manage the treatment of their drinking water. This is an easy process and soon becomes a part of the everyday routine. In some places purified water is available and bottled water is also an option sometimes – we do try to discourage the overuse of bottled water wherever possible though to help minimise plastic waste.

How do you try to reduce your environmental impact?
We are passionate about protecting the natural environment.  Please take the time to read our Environment Page to discover more about our ethos.

Do you need to know about medical conditions?
It is essential that you let us know about any medical condition or injury when booking and you will also be asked to complete a detailed Medical Questionaire in the lead up to the trip.  The information provided will remain completely confidential but it is essential that we have a full picture of each team members health to ensure the safety of yourself and to protect other group members.  Depending on the information given we may ask for additional details or may ask that you consult your doctor to get their permission to join the trip.  We try to be as inclusive as possible but hope you understand why this is so important.

Trip Costs

The cost for our Mount Elbrus expedition is £1495. This includes all accommodation, internal land transfers and all food during the trekking phase. This is a land only trip and so we do ask clients to book their own flights. Often our teams make arrangements to fly out from a certain airport together and we can help to coordinate this.

The main additional costs will be flights to and from Mineralyne Vody and general expenses such as tips for local staff and souvenirs.  We provide hot drinks with meals but soft drinks or alcohol will also need to be paid by team members. One other consideration the extra hotel cost mentioned in the itinerary incase we descend to the valley early.

Finally, the only other potential cost is for any team members wanting to use the snow cat option on summit day. This is completely optional but is a popular choice as it will about 3 hours of ascent and, as it covers ground we have already ascended during acclimatisation walks, doesn’t feel like it is allowing you to skip some of the ascent. We will discuss this in detail in your pre departure information but it costs about £100 per person for an uplift.

Please refers to the lists below for a full list of inclusions and exclusions.

What’s provided?

  • Experienced UK leader with in-country guiding staff support
  • All valley accommodation is based on 2 people sharing (single rooms are available in most cases but a single person supplement will be payable). In the case of the mountain lodge we will usually be housed in bunk rooms sleeping around 6 to 8 people and we can’t often provision for individual rooms.
  • In-country transport to and from airport
  • All meals excluding celebratory last nigh meal and lunch on the final day
  • All drinking water
  • Mountain fees and permits
  • 2 x ascent and descent on ski lifts
  • Use of technical equipment

 

What isn’t provided?

  • UK transport to and from airport
  • International and domestic flights and taxes
  • Personal equipment and boots (with the exception of technical equipment such as crampons, ice axes, harnesses and helmets)
  • Travel insurance
  • Any unscheduled hotels and restaurant meals
  • Entry visas
  • Tips for local staff (this is a discretionary payment but most team members are happy to contribute and typically this will cost about £60 per person)
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, room service or laundry
  • Any costs associated with an early departure from the expedition
  • Vaccinations
  • Transport to/from airport due to different departure times.  Private transfers are available at about £70

Kit List

Below is a comprehensive kit list and we’re sure, as you read it, it will look rather daunting! But don’t worry – most of the kit you’ll need is just standard outdoor kit so you won’t have to spend loads. There are a few specialist items but some can be hired from our recommended hire service if needed.  Details on this service are at the bottom of the page.

We have also included some additional information about boots at the bottom too.   Having correct footwear for this trip is essential for comfort and safety and we do ask that you read that carefully.  Boots are another item that can be hired if needed.

If there are items on the list that you aren’t sure about please do ask.  We are always just on the end of an email or phone call if you need advice.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that it will also be possible to leave some items in the valley hotel so it is worth bringing a spare lockable bag for this.

  • 35-40 litre rucksack – as well as the personal items you need to carry each day, we will ask team members to carry an item or two of safety equipment each day and so please ensure your rucksack has room for that too These safety items will typically be about 5 litres in size
  • Mountaineering boots – it can be extremely cold on Elbrus so good boot choice is essential. Double skinned mountaineering boots such as Boreal G1 Lite’s or La Sportiva G5’s make good choices. Please ask if you need more advice and also consider the hire option detailed below if you don’t have anything suitable
  • Comfortable trekking shoes or walking boots – approach shoes are ideal as they can also be used for lower level acclimatisation walks
  • Waterproof jacket – made from light and breathable fabric
  • Waterproof trousers – made from light and breathable fabric
  • Gaiters – essential for keeping snow out of boots
  • Expedition weight insulated jacket – you will really appreciate it when you head out in the evenings to watch the stars or nip to the loo! It is also an essential safety item in case we get delayed on summit day. Down makes a great choice in the cold dry conditions and it does need to be an expedition weight jacket
  • Fleece x 2 – midweight fleeces that can be layered together are the best option. These can be picked up very cheaply and don’t need to be a branded make. Alternatively, a combination of midweight fleece and synthetic insulated jacket work well
  • Thermal/wicking tops x 3 – 2 long sleeve and 1 short sleeve option is best
  • Thermal leggings – great to wear under your mountain trousers on chilly days or as cosy pyjamas in your sleeping bag
  • Trekking trousers – Lightweight trekking pants made from a lightweight synthetic material
  • Underwear – synthetic fabrics work best
  • T-shirts – a couple of cotton T’s for general wear
  • Trekking socks x 3 pairs – you really do get what you pay for with trekking socks and they make a huge difference to your comfort. It is worth having a thicker pair for summit day
  • Liner socks x 3 pairs – these are a lightweight sock that should be worn under your trekking socks. They will help prevent rubbing and really improve your comfort
  • Lightweight insulated gloves
  • Waterproof insulated gloves
  • Insulated mittens – cold hands could stop your summit attempt. Please overdo the gloves! Synthetic insulation is best but down works well too
  • Warm hat – Fleece or wool
  • Neck gaiter or Buff
  • Sunhat
  • 2 x 1L Water bottles – Nalgene brand are brilliant. Hydration bladders are not recommended in the cold conditions as the drink tube will freeze
  • 3 season sleeping bag and compression storage sack – it can chilly at night but we will be staying in heated huts and so you don’t need to choose a sleeping bag that is too warmly rated
  • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – good for keeping your sleeping bag clean and can be used on its own if you get too hot. Silk feels like luxury if you can afford it!
  • Pillowcase – pillows are provided but probably don’t get washed very often.  Another worthwhile consideration is an inflatable pillow
  • Headtorch and spare batteries – LED preferred due to excellent battery life, no spare bulbs required and very light weight. You will use your torch a lot both for summit day and for night time use in the hut.
  • Sunglasses – good quality glasses rated to at least category 3 (4 is ideal) are vital. Ensure they offer 100% UVA/UVB protection and wrap around style is preferred
  • Sunglasses hard case
  • Ski goggles – 100% UVA/UVB protection
  • Sun cream – factor 50 or above
  • Lip salve with high sun protection factor
  • Personal toiletries
  • Towel – lightweight trekking towels are ideal
  • Small personal 1st aid kit – We will have a comprehensive first aid kit but please bring along a small personal kit with plasters, blister patches (Compeed are great), painkillers, diarrhoea tablets, anti-inflammatories, throat lozenges (your throat can get very sore at altitude) and re-hydration salts. You may also want to discuss any other recommendations with your medical practitioner
  • Other personal medication – bring plenty, spares and more spares as it is very hard to sort these out in country.  It is useful to split these between hand luggage and hold baggage for travel
  • Travel wash – a bottle of multipurpose travel wash will help keep you and your clothes clean
  • Foot powder – helps to keep feet dry and fresh
  • Wet wipes – for a quick clean up when you can’t get to a water source.  Washing facilities are very limited in the mountain hut
  • Antibacterial hand gel – essential for preventing the spread of germs. Please bring more than you think you will need
  • Penknife / multitool
  • Watch with alarm
  • Extra snacks – bring a couple of lightweight and high energy snacks for each mountain day
  • Trekking Poles – optional but very useful
  • Camera – don’t forget spare memory cards and batteries
  • Waterproof rucksack liner – or dry bags to use inside your rucksack
  • Small storage bags or dry bags – to help organise equipment in duffle bag
  • Reading book/Kindle – you will have a lot of downtime so please come prepared to keep yourself entertained
  • Charging cables and adapters
  • Pen
  • Kitbag (90L) – the best way to get your equipment around is to use a duffel style bag. They are simple, durable and relatively inexpensive.
  • Small padlock to fit kitbag zippers
  • Small repair kit – containing sewing kit and some duct tape
  • Travel battery – limited facilities are available to charge electronic items in the huts
  • Selection of Ziploc bags – you will find a million uses for these!
  • Contact lenses and storage/cleaning equipment – please bring spares as well
  • Glasses
  • Feminine hygiene products – bring more than you think you will need
  • Toilet paper
  • Earplugs – very useful in noisy accommodation
  • Crampons – we can lend this to you but please let us know in advance
  • Mountaineering ice axe – we can lend this to you but please let us know in advance
  • Climbing helmet – we can lend this to you but please let us know in advance
  • Climbing harness – we can lend this to you but please let us know in advance
  • 2 screwgate carabiners – we can lend these to you but please let us know in advance
  • 4 metres of dynamic 9mm climbing rope – available to buy by the metre in most good climbing shops
  • Documentation and money – we will send a separate information sheet about these

Equipment Hire
Hopefully many of the items on this kit list will be general use outdoor items that you already own, but we also appreciate that there are some specialist items that you are both less likely to own and that cost a lot to purchase.

In particular, this might include a suitable sleeping bag, mountaineering boots and duvet. It is essential that participants don’t take short cuts with these items as they are essential for comfort, success and safety. Fortunately, there are companies that will hire out specialist equipment at a reasonable price and our preferred provider is Outdoor Kit Hire. They have an easy to navigate website, are great at giving advice, have good quality equipment available and their prices are reasonable.

Please do consider this option if you see this trip as a one off and you are unlikely to do something similar in the future. Of course, we hope you’ll be hooked and a lifetime of high altitude adventure awaits – in which case it may be worth purchasing some or all of the specialist items.