Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus is located in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It is one of the famous Seven Summits. The mountain has two summits, its higher western summit stands at 18,510 ft and the eastern summit slightly lower. Little known outside of Eastern Europe, the peaks, glaciers and valleys of the Caucasus are as beautiful as the Swiss Alps. The route ascends gentle snow slopes to a saddle between the two summits and gains over 6,000 feet before reaching the western summit. Although the climb requires no previous climbing experience the ascent is long requiring good physical conditioning and the use of crampons and ice axe.
Mount Elbrus Express • 7 Days
Our express climb begins in the city of Mineralnye Vody (meaning mineral waters) before heading to the small village of Azau located within the heart of the Baksan Valley near the base of Mount Elbrus. Our Southside express climb utilizes a series of chairlifts and a high mountain hut where you’ll enjoy delicious hot meals and comfortable accommodations prepared by our Russian cook. The Southside route allows us to climb Europe’s highest peak carrying only light daypacks. Our expedition also offers the option of using snow-cat support above Pastukhov Rocks to 16,000 feet on summit day.
Who can climb Mount Elbrus?
The Mount Elbrus climb is non-technical, though requires climbing at high altitude, above 18,000 feet. You will need basic crampon and ice axe skills, strength, endurance, and good physical conditioning. Mountain Gurus offers two different programs depending on prior experience and time commitment.
Both itineraries climb the less difficult Southside route which utilize a series of chairlifts, snowcats and a high mountain hut above 12,000 feet. During the expedition we overnight at a hotel in Azau each night, allowing us to rest and recover. During our acclimatization days we will cover and instruct basic mountaineering skills.
The 7-day express climb is better suited for those with previous mountaineering experience or a higher level of physical conditioning. You will be expected to keep a swifter guided pace.
The slightly longer Mount Elbrus Southside climb allows more time for rest and acclimatization, with an additional contingency day encase of bad weather. The expedition also offers the leadership and experience of an American mountain guide.
What are the risks and challenges of Mount Elbrus?
As with any of the Seven Summits, there are physical conditioning and safety concerns. Mountain Gurus schedules our Mount Elbrus express climbs for mid-summer when the weather is more stable. Once on the mountain, you can expect high winds and cold temperatures. Even in summer, weather in the Caucasus can be unpredictable.
With Elbrus’ summit at more than 18,510 feet, altitude illnesses are possible, and our expert guides monitor each team member. With over 5,000 feet gain on summit day adequate physical fitness prior to the climb is a must.
As a non-technical climb, Elbrus is one of the least physically demanding of the Seven Summits. On the Western summit, you will enjoy a view of the seemingly endless chain of mountains that stretches across the Caucasus range on the boarder of Russia and Georgia.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1 • Arrive Mineralnye Vody • Azau • 7,500 ft
Day 2 • Hike Mount Cheget • 11,000 ft
Day 3 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 14,000 ft
Day 4 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 16,000 ft
Day 5 • Summit Day • Mount Elbrus • 18,510 ft
Day 6 • Contingency Day
Day 7 • Depart
- Welcome dinner in Azau
- 6 nights hotels in Azau
- Comfortable mountain hut includes meals
- Hike Mount Cheget
- Ascent of Mount Elbrus
- Snowcat for acclimatization days
- Land transportation
- Friendly MG office staff will help prepare you for the adventure
“Mountain Gurus did an awesome job of planning a wonderful trip. Having a Russian mountain guide in addition to our guide was a bonus. We also got to experience the new mountain huts on Mt. Elbrus which was a pleasant surprise. The guides did a good job setting a good pace and going over the basic elements of what would help us all have a successful summit day. And as it is a rarity that everyone in the group summits, I can say that it was the extra time spent going over some basics, along with having the best guides in the business, which helped us all reach the summit! Thanks Mountain Gurus!” July 2015
Mount Elbrus • Express
Expedition begins and ends in Mineralnye Vody, Russia
Day 1 • Arrive Mineralyne Vody
Arrive Mineralnye Vody, Russia (MRV). Then continue by van (three hours) to the small village of Azau in the Baksan Valley. Expedition orientation and gear check in the afternoon. (B, D)
Day 2 • Hike to Mount Cheget • 11,000 ft
We take an acclimatization hike up Mount Cheget and enjoy the remarkable views of the Baksan Valley. Return to hotel. (B, L)
Day 3 • Acclimatization Hike • Mount Elbrus • 14,000 ft
After breakfast we take the cable car to 12,600 feet on Elbrus. We hike above 14,000 feet just below Pastukhov rocks for acclimatization and descend to 13,200 ft where we conduct a basic climbing school in preparation for summit day. Return to hotel. (B, L)
Day 4 • Acclimatization Hike • Mount Elbrus • 16,000 ft
Today we take the cable car to 12,600 feet. When by snowcat to 14,000 feet. We enjoy views of the mountain as well as the Caucasus Range as we climb above 16,000 feet to continue our acclimatization. We descend and overnight at a comfortable mountain hut. (B, L, D)
Day 5 • Summit Day • Mount Elbrus • 18,510 ft
The day starts early. After riding the snowcat above 16,000 feet. We climb open snow slopes to the saddle between the East and West summits. We gain nearly 6,000′ before reaching the summit. Mount Elbrus is the highest point in Europe and Russian and is one of the seven summits. (B, L)
Day 6 • Contingency Day
Descend to Azau or transport to Pyatigorsk (near Mineralnye Vody) and spend the afternoon exploring the Russian town. (B)
Day 7 • Depart Mineralnye Vody
Transport to Mineralnye Vody for flights home. (B)
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner
Additional Contingency Day: $300
Deposit and Payments
$700 deposit includes reservation fee, due with application
Balance due 90 days prior to departure
- Scheduled land transportation in Russia
- Scheduled meals during the expedition
- Hotels in Azau
- Mountain hut on Elbrus
- Park and lift fees
- Professional mountain guide
- All group equipment for the expedition
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare and meals during travel
- Domestic airfare (Moscow – Mineralnye Vody – Moscow)
- Visa fees
- Non-scheduled airport transfers
- Non-scheduled meals
- Snowcat transportation on summit day
- Alcoholic beverages
- Personal gear
- Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
- Single room supplement (hotels only) $300
- Medical and evacuation coverage
- Early departure fees
- Excess baggage fees
- Tips and gratuities
A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.
Head and Face
- Warm Hat: Wool/ synthetic, one that covers the ears.
- Buff or Balaclava
- Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
- Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields.
- Goggles: Dark lenses to help with snow and wind.
- Sunscreen: SPF 30+
- Lip Balm: SPF 30+
- Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.
- Baselayer Tops: One synthetic long-sleeve shirt.
- Mid-layer Top: This is a synthetic or fleece top.
- Softshell Jacket: This breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
- Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
- Light Insulated Jacket: Light synthetic insulated jacket
- Insulated Jacket: 700+ fill down.
- Lightweight Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
- Softshell Gloves: One pair. Leather palms offer durability and grip.
- Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.
- Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton
- Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated
- Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your Hardshell pants without removing your boots.
- Insulated Pants: One pair of synthetic insulated pants with full side zips.
- Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.
- Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible. Double plastic mountaineering boots or Heavy weight synthetic/ hybrid mountaineering boots are required.
- Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
- Heavyweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.
Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.
Packing and Backpack
- Backpack: One 35-45L pack with good support, adequate to carry personal.
- Duffel: One large duffel for transporting gear. Can be stored at hotel during summit day.
- Liner Bags: One large plastic contractor bags.
- Ice axe: 55-65cm mountaineering axe.
- Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
- Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
- Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
- Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
- Locking Carabiners: (2) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
- Non-locking Carabiners: (2) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
- Nylon Sling: (2) 60cm nylon slings
- Water Bottle: Two, 1L wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©
- Water Bottle Parkas: Two, fully insulated water bottle covers.
Personal Health and First Aid
- Snacks and drinks
- Small personal first-aid kit and medications
- Toilet paper, blue bag or wag bag
TRAVEL & FITNESS
Begins and ends in Mineralnye Vody, Russia
American citizens must obtain a visa prior to travel in Russia. You must obtain a Russian sponsor letter prior to applying for a Russian Visa. Russian Tourist Single Entry Visa $123 for US citizens.
Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Russia
Flight Travel Information:
Mineralnye Vody (MRV), Russia
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in the countries destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.
Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.
A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in the pre-departure packet upon reservation. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.
Mount Elbrus Express Fitness & Training
Climbing Grade: Beginner
Over the course of the trip we will make various forays to higher altitude, while descending back to town to recover each night. Even with the aid of a sno-cat on summit day this climb still requires stamina and endurance. Summit packs range between 25-30 lbs.
Prior to the expedition we recommend taking a mountaineering course to master the skills essential to reaching the summit.
Here’s a suggested progression of climbs before attempting Mount Elbrus Express:
- Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
- Glacier Mountaineering Course
- Mexico Volcanoes, Ecuador Volcanoes
Frequently Asked Questions
Most cell phone providers will work in Russia, check your provider for overseas rates before you leave. Wifi service is also available at our hotel accommodations.
The snowcat on summit day is not included in the price of the trip. This cost ranges from $250 – $400 USD per person depending group size and on mountain pricing.