Elbrus Climbing

Elbrus Climbing


The thought of climbing the highest mountain of Europe anyway flashed more than once after we in February, 2013 climb to Kilimanjaro. It is also clear — Elbrus is included into those desired 7 Tops — 7 very best high points of Seven Parts of the world, being the highest point of Europe. And having risen once by such height and having looked at the world from height of several thousand meters, inevitably there is an impudent thought not to be satisfied with what has already been achieved and to set new goals. Doubts were dispelled by the sale of already nonexistent airline Transaero offering flight from SPb to Mineralnye Vody for ridiculous 5300 rubles (at a present course: $90 for flight there and back). It was solved — we buy tickets and start preparations. The company was selected unexpectedly. It was taken the whole 7 people interested to join this adventure. Further there were 2 months of preparations, search of necessary equipment and search of the guide for ours on the Internet. And here all issues were resolved and there came a day of a departure. So, on September 10 we arrived into the North Caucasus.

Mineralnye Vody, day 1

Mineralnye Vody is a very provincial Russian town. It is rather little foreign tourists here, and the tourism infrastructure is developed weakly in comparison with that of the world . It is possible to find about fifteen hotels on Agoda, the prices to world measures are low (from $15 for double room). Even the most expensive hotel will be not more expensive than 50 $ for room. It is also possible to find several options of cheap apartments at the price from $20 for double placement on the Airbnb. We reserved through Agoda guesthouse «Sofia» which apartments gave an opportunity to place a group of 7 people. Same guesthouse, by the way, is also on Airbnb. It is located on the suburbs of the city in rural zone, but generally presents a quite normal placement. That includes full-fledged bathroom, kitchen, the refrigerator, a microwave oven and a stove.

Meeting with the guide, day 2

Most of the tourists arriving to Mineralnye Vody for climbing Elbrus spend the night in the city and the next day they meet with guide. From this point the program planned directly by the guide begins. We were met by the guide and his assistant. We were loaded into two minibuses and moved in the direction of a Cheget Camp where we should spend the night in wooden lodges on a camp site «Reserved Fairy Tale». (height — a little more than 2000 m above sea level). The next morning we were waited by the first acclimatization trek towards peak Terskol.

First Acclimatization trek: Peak Terskol, day 3

Next morning we estimated the delightful beauty around for the first time! Yes, there was so much to look at! The recreation facility is located on the bank of the Baksan river. Beautiful views of unapproachable snow-covered peaks of the mountain Donguzorun opened directly from the bank of the river. We make for ourselves a simple breakfast, pack our day-bags and move forward in the direction of the «Maiden Braids» Falls and observatory «Peak Terskol».

The road on this site is absolutely simple for the person of average physical fitness. First — the serpentine among glades and pine groves. Above — trees disappear and the road goes on treeless slopes with tremendous sights around. A couple of hours later we reach falls with a purest glacial water. We fill flasks, take selfie and have a rest. After falls an hour more we go up. Actually, already to observatory. Magnificent views of Elbrus appear against the background of almost lunar stony landscapes. The sunset came nearer, and we had to think about the place for spending a night. Without hesitation we put the camp directly at observatory, having chosen the platform, convenient for setting the tents. Height — is slightly more than 3 thousand. The beauty is all around. Each sight like a postcard. The idyllic picture was slightly impaired by a gloomy staff of observatory who was strongly revolted by our impudent decision to put tents near the sign of prohibition. They have never seen so impudent during 20 years of working there. Well, never mind. Everything somewhen happens for the first time. 🙂

Back to Cheget Camp, day 4

Spending the night. Morning was given gloomy. Wind, fog and drizzle. There absolutely was no wish to get out of the tent. But there was a necessity. And not just to get out, but also to make a breakfast … Having had breakfast, we collect the camp and go down. We spend the night again in our «Reserved Fairy Tale» camsite.

Second acclimatization trek: Cheget Peak, day 5

Having got enough sleep, and having had breakfast, we move forward on the second exit — to Cheget. Cheget — one more top of Prielbrusye by which it is possible to rise and to go down in the mode of one-day walk. And the beauty is again around us! To the left of the rode we could see the glacier which slipped from Donguzorun, the river following directly from a glacier is visible. And lake Donguzorun-Kel. The gorge is by the way, is a border area with Georgia that was estimated by the warning signs which were coming across sometimes on the road.

Approximately in an hour and a half we reach the «Cheget 2» station (the other name is «The Cage Ai», height is about 2750). We come into «At Vizbor» cafe where we try the most tasty lamian and hychina (traditional dishes of Caucasian cuisine) that more tasty I have never tried in my life!

At this moment the weather begins to spoil, and a cloud falls on Cheget. We stay in some indecision concerning our further rise. Having a little waited, we decide not to rise highly, and to rise up for several tens of meters, having put the camp stations slightly higher. While we put the camp the weather is clearing up. We leave a part of group in the camp and rise up in the mode of easy walk to the «Cheget-3» station (3000 m), after that we go down to the camp. We spend the night at the height of 2800. It was decided to move to the peak since morning.

Cheget climbing, day 6

My alarm clock rang out at 5:30. All are sleeps. It is so cold to get out of the tent. The temperature falls up to 5 C at night. As compensation for cold and early rise the finest nature types were prepared to me. At the left — Elbrus, gradually turning pink in beams of a rising sun, on the right — filled in by the sun beams gorge Asau. Fantastic!! Having had porridge for breakfast we leave the camp and with light baggage start to move to the peak . Weather is magnificent. Dizzy types around! It is absolutely simply to rise with a light baggage. Vigorously we jump on stones taking pictures. Everybody in good condition and there was no headaches at all.

In general, the peak Cheget height is 3769, but a way here directly to very best of top — the action demanding some skills of mountaineering, with which our group did not possess at all therefore most of groups of our level drive to acertain intermediate point . It is also some kind of a top though not main, about 3400 m high. We were also limited to that. Having gone down to the camp we find out that one of our tents was blew off by squally wind from a small terrace where we set up the camp (while there were our things in it) and it remained to hang practically over a steep slope by a miracle on the unique peg. Still slightly and we would spend the rest of a day, packing our things on slopes of Cheget.

We make a lunch, we pack our things and we go down on base camp. We order a bath in the evening and even we afford a quantity of alcoholic excesses. Thanking to the fact that we had several additional days in a stock , the next day we decide to make a rest day.

Rest day: «Narzan Springs glade», day 7

In the afternoon guides took us away to the «Narzan Springs glade». We go along the river Baksan on the diecrt forest road, collecting mushrooms along the way , eating a sea-buckthorn. In about 40 minutes we come up to «Narzan Springs glade». Narzan — is a kind of mineral water, widely known in Russia, which is made nearby commercially and is on sale almost in every supermarket. This water is formed from thawing of the Elbrus glaciers and passing through cracks of rocks it is getting ionized and mineralized. The springs, to some regret are not so picturesque. There are several springs on the glade, some are brought outside through pipes, some of them — burst forth out of the earth. The water from different wells has different taste and smell. It is possible to choose, as they say, on the taste and even color. Right there on a clearing — locals grannies sell with what the local edge is rich: herbal tea, the Caucasian spices, honey, jam from cones. Having taken a walk we move towards our base — to try on and lease the equipment. On the way back we go to hire-point. Most of us need to take in hire 3 positions: plastic boots, crampons and ice axe. The most difficult for all was the situation with boots. It’s clear that the choice of sizes in hire is quite sufficient and even to assume a situation that in a certain moment there will be no your size, it is not a problem. In a radius of several minutes of walking there are some more points of rental centers. You will not be gone, so to speak. Another thing is that if you never went in to «plasticity», moreover, in general for the first time learned about existence of such boost just before a campaign, of course, fitting will be business difficult. Besides that a foot form all different, there are special features and nuances of the size selection, the correct lacing — so you will be told about that in a rental center + guides will help. Because «there», at the top any trifle, which below can seem to you insignificant, can lead to the fact that you will not climp to top and you will become a problem for all group, but also having gone down for a long time therefore, so to speak, you will lick wounds. That may be hematomas, and the strongest callosities and the got-down nails.

Therefore it is necessary to approach boots in the most thorough way, without hesitating to pay attention to the slightest details bringing discomfort and to ask guides questions. With an ice axe and crampons the situation is more simply. An ice axe you will be given more long if you high growth, and is shorter — if growth you did not leave. Before exit to a glacier be surely trained to use it on the safe site. First — it is simply cheerful, and secondly — it can save your life. On a steep ice slope nothing, except an ice axe will help you to stop if, God forbid, you stumbled or lost balance and swept downhill. Finally you can fall down at a huge speed in a glacier crack so it can become the finish of such sweeping. Such cracks are called “truposbornik«(corpses collector). The crampons to you will adjust in hire to your boots, so you will learn to put them on and remove quickly enough. It is also a certain science to learn how to go in them correctly. If there is an opportunity you should better study all these questions in theory before climbing. Everything will be more clear in practice.

From Cheget Camp to a «Mariya» huts, day 8

In the morning traditionally we make breakfast and pack backpacks. A rather disturbing occupation. All of us are nervous a little — you do not pack a backpacks every day where it is necessary to put the infinite quantity of things most of which you do not use in everyday life, and — generally deal with some of them for the first time. By noon the minibus comes to base where we are loaded by all team with backpacks and equipment and go to «Azau’s glade». It is possible to rise up to “Krugozor«station(3000 m) by a new ropeway, and then — to the Mir station (3500 m). And it is possible to rise by the old one. It just costs slightly less. By old ropeway — you will go by such retrotram, and on new — in a modern cabin. But it does not change an essence. From the Mir station further up there is a chair road to the station of Garabasha (3780 m). It did not work on the day of our arrival — the mountain was destroyed by bulldozers and excavators. Building was humming everywhere — new skiing runs and the third part of the new ropeway which according to the plan probably had to replace the old chair road over time were constructed and will lift even above — even up to the height of 3850 m. Its start-up it seems was outlined for a winter season of 2015/2016. Generally, on arrival on the Mir station we found out that the chair road does not work, but there were greedy drivers of trucks, who «kindly» suggested to overcome this site of a route in a body. 500 rubles per person «only». Not cheap to the Russian measures. There is nothing to do, it was necessary to be loaded — we had too many things and equipment to trifle forces on raising of all this to a shelter. We reach to Garabasha (another name — «The Barrels») by truck, and we go without hurrying under the own steam further. On the way for the first time we try to go in crampons on ice. Mood is at all excellent. Weather — too. In about 40 minutes we appear at «Shelter 11» («Priut 11») . Having risen is a little more higher — we stop in a shelter «Maria». In fact, it is conditionally possible to call all complex of the shelters located around the most «Shelter 11» — it will be more clear to all what there is a speech about. Actually, itself «the Shelter 11» in 1998 burned down. Now it is being restored, and in close proximity to it there are several other shelters with their own names. Actually, one of them is the shelter Maria. If to believe the Network, it is the highest on the Caucasus (its height — 4150 m) where there is an electricity (from the generator) and gas. Gas, by the way, can suddenly reach a limit, and new cannot be brought in time so to it is necessary to be ready too. And electricity joins only at urgent need and only in night-time. In general — such a normal place for spend a night. There are plank beds with mattresses and pillows, separate kitchen. Types around remarkable. I do not know how is here in February, but it seemed to me quite comfortable to spend a night here in September. A reservation for our group was made by guides in advance.

But at desire if you decided to rise by Elbrus independently, then it is possible to make a reservation by yourself. It cost about 600 rubles per bed. Having become populated, a half of our group lay to have a rest — in the same night the exit to Top was coming us. Most of us felt quite not bad, except for a slight headache at some. After all, 4150 meters — the height is already very serious. Remembering my Kilimanjaro climbing, I did not begin to wait for arrival of a mountain disease (there it came to me at the height of 4700, and rather suddenly) and took as prevention a couple tablet of aspirin right after rise on 4000 m. And then one more tablet before going to bed. Evening at the height of 4 kilometers presented one more fantastic decline and magnificent views.

The first climbing attempt: Fail, day 9

The alarm clock rang out at one o’clock in the morning. Darkness. Very cold outside. We wake up, make breakfast in a light of small lamps, in parallel gathering. In vain, you know, and nervously, touching in head a huge quantity of positions — what where to lay as to put on also what yet not to forget. This is actually very responsible action — any small detail missed or forgotten now on the way to top can create a serious problem up to impossibility of rise and need of descent back to the camp. Having gathered in the dark under a silent nervous exclamations and a scratch of wooden floor boards, in 2 hour we move forward. Quietly so, without hurrying, we move up in beams of small lamps. crampons with a ringing crunch stick into ice. Impenetrable darkness, frosty. The weather is ideal. The ratraks «fly by» above us for a few times, «throwing» to the Pastukhov’s Rocks those who decided to save time and forces for the main part of climbing.

The first hours we go quietly, having slightly stretched, everyone at the speed. Slowly brightens. Inexpressible beauty is all around. Few times we do halts. We reach the lower bound of the Pastukhov’s Rocks (4600 m) by the dawn. Wait for the rest. We look for hours. We go not quickly, but for the present in vigorous mood — with enthusiasm. By that moment when we reach to the upper bound of the Pastukhov’s Rocks the first suspicion creeps to me that there are we too slowly normally to rise and go down before darkness. Even more doubts install that, how strongly our group stretched. Even at this stage (and to top from here even more 800(!) meters down) the lag of the last going from our group from the first was made by not less than 30-40 minutes (that is for this purpose to continue to move at some point together, the first has to wait for 20 minutes that the last was made even to it and wait 15-20 minutes that the person properly has a rest and could move further at rather similar speed). It was also obvious that the higher — the more this gap will accrue. And long to wait — is a problem. First, it forces down from speed. Sat down, relaxed more, than it is necessary, «softened» — and after that it is very hard to rise and again to achieve of speed. And secondly — to sit without the movement it is simply cold. Having had a rest on the upper bound of «Pastuhov» we move further. Honor this site everything from us seemed to the heaviest. 200 more m up to the beginning of the site, called «Slanting Shelf». It is difficult to tell why this site to us seemed so heavy. Possibly, bad acclimatization affected, and also monotony and coolness of this site. All very strongly stretched onto slope again. If earlier I did till 20-30 steps and stopped that to flush the lungs with air, now to take more than 20 steps was already physically almost unreal. The head did not hurt (thanks to aspirin), but did not gasp very strongly. After each such «transition» — a stop to recover the breath and mini-rest in vertical position, having leaned on sticks. And so also went. By that moment when the first of us approached by the beginning of the Slanting Shelf, was already nearly a midday. Even minutes 30-40 left on waiting when all group gathers and also minutes 20 on a sound halt — so everyone could restore his forces. There was even more doubts that we will rise today. Especially began to guard the fact that in this place we began to meet those who already was going down at this time. It while height was already higher than 5000 m., that is very serious, and to top at the same time was 600 more meters up, and it was obvious that with each meter it will be heavier and heavier to go up. Generally, still feeding hopes (though thawing in the eyes) on successful rise we begin the movement on «Slanting shelf». But we leave not far. Towards to us there was a group of Resquers of Ministries of Emergency Situations which having looked at us was very surprised that with such worn-out faces and at such speed we have the nerve on this site of a route at this time to move up, but not down. The matter is that at storm of any mountain there are certain rules. Roughly speaking, there is certain critical time not later than which you have to appear at top in order that there were enough forces and time to go down to the camp before dark. I.e. if you in certain time weren’t at a certain end of the resources (especially — if didn’t reach much), then it is simply impossible to go further. It is necessary not only to rise by top, and from there it is necessary to find forces to go down. Generally, in our case presently and in that place to us forcibly was told to turn immediately back. Remembering this situation now (when I realize how much still we should pass up) I understand that they were absolutely right — we wouldn’t rise by top this day. Moreover, most likely, having tried to go further, we would get exhausted so that we thanks to it wouldn’t rise and next day. And at that moment, I remember, a part of group was glad to the beginning of descent, and a part — to put it mildly, is upset if not to tell more. Generally, we hobbled down, beginning to scroll options of further succession of events in the head. The moral spirit was undermined. Aroma of the turning-up fiasco soared in air. Upon return to the camp the situation was not very positive. Having hardly recovered the breath (though a part of group lay at this time horizontally, suffering wild fatigue and a headache) the spontaneous meeting gathered in so-called «dining room». It was necessary to make urgently the decision what to do. According to the plan today we had to rise, pack things in the late afternoon and go down. A part of our group already recognized defeat and completely to it was ready — to leave capture of top on the following time. But other part refused flatly to go down without achievement of top. Therefore, on a state close to despair, we after all had a small chance. The amateur climber who, having listened to our story, answered us unambiguously that if we a new leave tonight adjoined to us in a shelter, then unambiguously we will not come. Told that we need to take 2 more nights in a shelter — days to sleep off and every other day already, having gained strength, to make the second attempt. But in 3 days we had a plane to St. Petersburg therefore we just could not afford 2 additional nights in a shelter 2 options remained: to lower hands and to go down, or to collect will in a fist and today — to make a new attempt of storm of Top at night. Whether it is necessary to say that not everyone was able that hardly moving legs even to allow a thought that already tonight (that is in fact — in several hours) all this (to be exact — in two — three times more) should be overcome again. But as a result of a short debate it was solved — the Mountain should be stormed now and by all means. There was one cunning which existence gave hope to us — that ratrak. It was possible to save on this wonderful thingummy significantly time and forces — to throw all group to top of «Pastukhov», significantly having increased our chances to come on Top, despite strong exhaustion the day before. There was one nuance. Piece this, to put it mildly, not free. By hearsay, during a season the cost of this service for group costs 500 Euros. For our group of the sum of 15 thousand rubles was sounded. After the short bargaining we understood that less, than 12 thousand at us it will not turn out. We began to think what to do. We with ourselves, naturally, almost had no money. There are no what ATMs at such height, naturally. As a result from pockets and grists removed everything! By some miracle dug up with combined forces something about the required sum. Generally, having been left without kopek of money in pockets business was made — we remained for one night in a shelter and on 2 o’clock in the morning the ratrak was odered to us.

The Second attempt: Top of Elbrus, day 10

We woke up at one o’clock in the morning. It did not turn out to make a breakfast — ended gas. Having had a bite somehow we gather and exactly at 2 o’clock in the morning we are loaded into the car. In 2:30 in the night, in the dark, under the star sky, full of strength and enthusiasm we we begin ascension from «Pastukhov’s rocks». Dawn is met already on «the Slanting Shelf». This site is extremely dangerous — there is a chance to roll down downhill and to finish «way» in a glacier crack. But beauty which is developed around in beams of a rising sun haunt — constantly there is a wish to look around and click the camera. Group again stretches, but it is already obvious — forces at all more, than yesterday, all acclimatized much better. There was practically no doubts that today we will come on Top. Though to tell that it was heavy — not to tell anything. It was the real test of will and spirit. In process of advance on «the Slanting Shelf» in «Saddle» fantastic types replace each other. In «Saddle» we do a halt. The height is about 5300. It is cold to have a rest — without movement you freeze instantly, in addition to everything — the sun is still low and «Saddle» is in a shadow. It is even colder here because of that, especially on wind.

From «Saddle» towards east top the most abrupt begins and heavy site of rise. It is sure that each of our group on this site damned everything that could, and put about himself such abusive words what in a usual situation even will not come to mind. On two sites here even safety are laid ropes. Forces is absent, does not gasp, the head is turned, legs hardly move, and it is terrible to look down. But the passion of fast (now — already absolutely fast) finish added forces.

The last site of a route before the east top of Elbrus — is enough flat plateau. After just overcome hardest rise this site seems a weakened walk especially as soon as the Top becomes visible. It is a little more — and we are at the top. The words can not transfer the emotions we had — they literally overflow! We had tears under the sunglasses the tears of happiness from awareness of grandness of surrounding well up landscape. It is improbable — we stand on the top of Europe! At height 5642 meters! No photos can transfer the beauty opening with such height by 360 degrees around!

About half an hour we will see off at Top, we take pictures, do selfie, shoot video and we move down. Descent — is a difficult test too. The last hundreds of meters to a leg shelter already literally give away. During descent decided to be divided again. And correctly made — if the first went down to the camp about 14 hours, then the last hardly managed to go down to a decline. By the evening we went down on a glade Cheget, and by the night the last participants were brought up on the glade. Here, actually, and all. Next day we handed over rolling equipment and spent day behind collecting and purchasing of souvenirs. And in the morning we were waited by the minibus in mineral waters, and from there — the plane to St. Petersburg.


If you were interested in our report and you want to learn something concrete about Elbrus Climbing — write to us and we will glad to answer for any questions and will share our knowledge. We do not sell tours and we do not organize them. We can just give independent advice and recommendations.

Author: Vladimir

Traveler, photographer, author of the reports.

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