You are looking to do your Mount Elbrus Climb? If you are looking to do the Seven Summits or want to climb the Roof of Europe, then you have will have to go to the Russian Caucasus. Climbing Mount Elbrus is not a walk in the park but with the right preparation and some tips from one of Mount Elbrus most famous guides, you will make it to the top safely and soon you will be looking at other Seven Summits and thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro or you will do the Everest Base Camp trek to prepare for your ascent of Sagarmatha. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Read this blog post first if you are looking to climb Mount Elbrus and would like some tips from a pro about the summit, the weather, the elevation, and more!
Last updated in December 2021
When thinking of high peaks, your mind might automatically focus on the Alps. After all, isn't the Mont Blanc the highest peak in Europe? No, it's not. The continent of Europe isn't divided by political borders. A small part of Russia and also Georgia is also part of Europe. And that is where we can find the Caucasus. And anyone who has gone trekking in Georgia before will know that the Caucasus is home to many peaks. One of those peaks is Mount Elbrus, with 5,642 meters the highest peak of Russia, the Caucasus, and Europe. If it's the highest of Europe, then it's also one of the Seven Summits. If you are looking to tag all Seven Summits, it is likely that Elbrus is one of your first ones. Also, it likely that you will come across Vitaly Lazo, one of the top guides on Mount Elbrus.
Location: Where is Mount Elbrus?
You can find Mount Elbrus in the Northern Caucasus in Russia, about two hours from the town of Mineralnye Vody, literally translated as Mineral Waters. As with a lot of mountains, Mount Elbrus is fairly remote and you need to make some travel arrangements to get there. You can see Elbrus from space and if you look at the maps it appears to make sense to approach Mount Elbrus from Georgia. There is however still a lot of the Caucasus in between Georgia and Elbrus. It is best to fly on Mineralnye Vody (MRV) via or from one of the bigger airports in Russia like Saint Petersburg or Moscow. Your airport transfer from Mineralnye Vody to the base camp on the Northern Side or your hotel on the Southern side is included in your trekking package.
Do you want to climb the Roof of Europe? Compare our Mount Elbrus climbing offers here.
Mount Elbrus Map
This is a map of Mount Elbrus detailing the ascent on the southern face of this stunning massif.
How high is Mount Elbrus and when was it conquered for the first time?
The lower summit at an altitude of 5,621 meters, was first ascended in 1829 by Khillar Khachirov, a guide for a scientific expedition led by General Georgi Emmanuel for the Russian Imperial Army. In 1874 an English expedition led by F. Crauvord Grove reached the higher summit for the first time, at5,642 m. The Roof of Europe was officially climbed. Ever since Elbrus has drawn a lot of mountaineers and alpinists alike. In Soviet times it was climbed by 400 mountaineers at the same to mark the 400th anniversary of the incorporation of Kabardino-Balkaria, the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic where Elbrus was located.
Who is Mount Elbrus climbing guide Vitaly Lazo?
Vitaly Lazo isn't the first one to climb Mount Elbrus and not the last. He has climbed the mountain around 50 times and as we are writing he is also on his way to the summit. Vitaly Lazo doesn't just climb Mount Elbrus, he likes to spend his time in the Death Zone of some of the biggest mountains in the world. Regularly he travels to Nepal or Pakistan to climb peaks of 7000m+ and then do freeride skiing from the summit down. He has climbed the following peaks and has done freeride skiing down most of them:
- Lenin Peak (7134m)
- Korzhenevskaya Peak (7105 m)
- Communism Peak (Ismoil Somono Peak) (7495m)
- Kan Tengri Peak (7010m)
- Vicotry Peak (7439m)
- Manaslu (8163m)
- Annapurna (8091m)
- Nanga Parbat (8080m)
Ascending the first five mountains on the list make him a holder of the Snow Leopard Badge. The Snow Leopard award was a Soviet mountaineering award, given to very experienced climbers. It is still recognised in the Commonwealth of Independent States. To receive this award, a climber must summit all five peaks of 7000m and above located in the former Soviet Union. Vitaly Lazo gained a lot of attention by freeriding down Nanga Parbat. The documentary he made for this received awards on numerous mountain film festivals. See the Russian trailer below:
How often has Vitaly Lazo climbed Elbrus?
"I have a love-hate relationship with Mount Elbrus", jokes Vitaly. "I have climbed Elbrus so many times that I've lost count. I don't know, maybe 45 or 50 times? I know every corner of the route, both on the Northern and the Southern side of Mount Elbrus." Vitaly comes back a few to Mount Elbrus a few times a year to lead climbing expeditions. If it would be for him, he would rather be ascending the next 8000m+ peak, but he has a special bond with Mount Elbrus. "I keep coming back to Mount Elbrus, not just because it is my bread and butter. I like leading people to the peak of Elbrus. Mount Elbrus offers people such a good opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and reach our goals. Standing on the Roof of Europe is always special. I am definitely not done climbing Elbrus."
Can I reach Mount Elbrus' summit?
Climbing Mount Elbrus is not for everyone but with good physical and mental preparation, it can be for you. "Mentally you need to be stronger than physically," Vitaly agrees. "If you really want to climb Mount Elbrus, you will make it to the summit. If you just want to climb Elbrus and you don't really mind what happens, you will not summit Elbrus. It is as simple as that. You have to be really mentally strong. The physical part is also important, but in the end, it's all a mental game. It is the main principle of success, not just in mountain climbing." Your success can also depend on which route you choose for climbing Mount Elbrus.
From which side should I climb Mount Elbrus?
This is one of the best questions to ask yourself and others when you want to climb Elbrus. However, as with many questions in life it is nice to have an answer from someone who has an answer to both options. Vitaly has climbed Elbrus dozens of times from both sides and he earns his bread and butter by guiding others to the summit of Elbrus. "This is a difficult question, but you can make it an easy one. You must just realize that the Northern Route and the Southern Route are very different from each other in terms of comfort. Both bring you to the summit, but the Southern Route is way more comfortable than the Northern Route. The latter I would categorize as expedition style. Personally, I don't like the huts on the Northern Route. The Southern Route starts with a nice hotel and comes with comfortable huts. However, the Northern Route is a fantastic option if you really want to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Tents, basic huts and carrying all your stuff yourself."
Carrying gear is an important factor when comparing the two routes. On the Southern Route, you can use the cable car to get the bulk of your gear transported. Also, at some point, you can make use of a snowcat. There is nothing of that on the Northern Route. "And that makes the Northern Route a challenging option. You really have to be mentally strong for that one," explains Vitaly. "But this doesn't make the Southern Route a walk in the park. If you have ascended Mount Elbrus from the South, you also covered a lot of distance and altitude. It doesn't matter which route you choose, on both you make it to an altitude of 5.642 meters, the Roof of Europe."
How long does it take to climb Mount Elbrus?
The climb to the summit of Mount Elbrus is not a walk in the park. The trek takes 8 to 9 days depending on the route that you choose. The southern route usually takes 9 days while the northern route is a bit shorter and can usually be completed in 8 days.
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How do I prepare for my Mount Elbrus climb?
When we spoke to Vitaly we thought a good start would be to climb the Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Right? "No", said Vitaly. "You don't need to climb a smaller mountain in order to be ready for climbing Mount Elbrus. You must just be fit. If you are able to run 10 to 15 kilometers a few times a week and still feel great afterward, you are physically ready. Note that you need to be ab it more fit and determined on the Northern route, where you carry everything yourself all the time. *This takes some extra fitness. But again, it's all mental," says Vitaly. You also don't need to bring any stuff you don't need. The other day I had climbers who thought it would be good idea to bring a book for at night. Believe me, you will not have the energy to read." If you want to get physically ready for climbing Mount Elbrus, you best get comfortable running a half marathon or more. Of course, it will help to get some long hikes in with a stuffed trekking backpack.
Mount Elbrus weather: what is the best season for climbing Mount Elbrus?
The window for climbing Mount Elbrus is pretty small. It is only possible to climb the Roof of Europe when the days are longer in the Northern Hemisphere. From May to September it is possible to climb Mount Elbrus. If you are looking for the most favorable weather conditions for climbing Mount Elbrus then you should consider traveling to the Russian Caucasus in July or August.
Climbing Mount Elbrus: what to expect and accommodation
The Northern Route, as mentioned before, offers a more expedition-style feeling of climbing Mount Elbrus. You will find the most comfortable huts and shelters in Severny Priyut Camp but other than that the accommodation is pretty basic. Think of sea containers and other steel structures that will keep you safe from the elements. If you are joining Vitaly, then you will be staying in tents the whole way. Believe us, it's more comfortable.
On the Southern Route you can expect more comfort with even the option to stay in the luxurious LeapRus, the eco-hotel which is equipped with comfortable bunk beds, modern showers, plenty of food in buffet style, WiFi and fantastic views over the Caucasus. This may not be a hardcore mountaineering option, but it definitely is very comfortable. The other huts on the Southern route are also comfortably equipped, but not as luxurious as the LeapRus mountain camp.
What should I pack for my Mount Elbrus expedition?
According to Vitaly Lazo and Mountain Territory, you should bring the following items when you want to climb Mount Elbrus.
- 60+ liters’ backpack
- Sleeping bag for -5? (comfort temperature)
-Mattress (like thermarest)
- Thin thermal underwear, 1 set
- Warm thermal underwear, 1 set
- Softshell trousers (or any running or trekking ones)
- Storm pants with a membrane, for the rain and wind (hard shell). We recommend the pants with a side zipper
- Storm jacket with a membrane (hard shell), from rain, snow, and wind
- Spare underwear (a few sets)
- Shirt (Synthetic one is better since it dries out faster than cotton)
- Down / synthetics jacket with a hood for wearing at -20C
- Light synthetic insulated jacket, preferably with a hood for wearing at -5 C
- Fleece jacket (can also wear a sweater)
- Fleece pants
- Warm climbing socks, 2 pairs
- Thin trekking socks, 1-2 pairs
- Mittens up to -10C (for example, skiing ones)
- Gloves up to -5 C (fleece)
- Beanie wool/fleece
- Balaclava (you can also use a scarf or a buff)
- Cap/baseball cap
- Mountaineering boots, warm, double (leather or plastic)
- Harness, self-anchoring, 2 carabiners
- Telescopic hiking poles
- Ice ax
- Skiing glasses (goggles) (in case of bad weather)
- Mountaineering glasses UV protection (It's best to take those that cover the eye area as much as possible. Protection Factor 4)
- poncho (rain protection)
- backpack rain cover
-Spoon, plate, cap
- Light waterproof bags for belongings, to keep dry on rainy days.
Your trekking company helps you with your packing list and you can rent anything you don't have directly. Check out the offers for climbing Mount Elbrus here.
What is a good Mount Elbrus climbing itinerary?
The following itinerary is designed by Vitaly Lazo and his team at Mountain Territory. This itinerary for the Northern Route takes acclimatization into account and includes a safe margin for possible bad weather. This itinerary will give you the best cards for a successful push to the summit of Elbrus.
Day 1: Meeting at the airport Mineralnye Vody, followed by transfer to Kislovodsk.
Once there you will meet the guide and you will have a briefing on the upcoming trek. Transfer from Kislovodsk to the Base camp (camping), to the Emanuel meadow, at 2500 m. Acclimatization walk at 2800 m. Night at the Base camp, at 2500 m.
The road from Kislovodsk to the Base camp takes about 4 hours. It passes through the most beautiful places of the Elbrus region: deep canyons, serpentine rivers, waterfalls – areas of amazing beauty. After reaching the Base camp, you will make an easy walk for acclimatization purposes.
Gaining altitude (walking): 300 m.
Time of ascent/descent: 3 hours
At the international airport Minvody, you will be greeted by our representative. A group transfer is organized at 11:00. Gear check, missing equipment is available for rent.
Day 2: We move our camp to 3100 m, to a place called Gryby (mushrooms).
This is a glade of stone formations that look like mushrooms. Many consider mushrooms a source of power! In 1942, Tibetan monks were brought here by order of the Fuhrer. Hitler wanted them to "look" into the future and learn the outcome of the war ...
Gaining altitude: 600 m. Time of ascent: 6 hours.
Day 3: We move to the summit camp, at 3700 m. Walk up to 4000 m. Night spent at summit camp, at 3700 m.
After a rest, the guide will conduct a snow trek on the glacier. You will practice walking in the snow with crampons and working with a rope. At the same time, you’re having an active acclimatization.
During snow activities, the guide will share his experience with you and teach you how to walk properly. This is a special technique that will help you save up to 20% of energy!
Gaining altitude during the day: 600m.
Time of ascent / descent: 5 hours.
Day 4: Acclimatization, trek to the Lenz rocks up to a height of 4800 meters. Night in the summit camp at 3700 m.
Important Day. Today we are acclimatizing for the upcoming summit push. We make an ascent up to 4800 m. We make the first third of the climb with the help of a rope since we’re passing a zone of cracks. The area is quite safe, but according to the standards and requirements of the company, the guide will guide you through the glacier with extra care. We will spend the night in the summit camp, at 3700 m.
Gaining altitude: 1100 m
Time of ascent/descent: 8 hours.
Day 5: Summit push of the Elbrus East.
The summit push Day is a long one, so we plan to start at 00:00. As a rule, we reach the top at 10-12 o'clock in the afternoon. During the ascent, the group will make two stops for a snack (lunch), at an altitude of 4800 m and 5100 m. In addition, every 60 minutes we make short stops to rest.
For the strongest ones, our company proposes climbing BOTH of the volcano's tops, to the West and East of Elbrus on the assault Day. The decision must be informed before the assault day, but only the leader-guide of the group makes the decision about your participation in the double ascent. The final decision is taken at the top of West Elbrus depending on: -Your health; -States of other members of the group; -Weather conditions.
The double ascent is made through a saddle (5300 m) and is accompanied by a leader-guide. It is carried out on the condition of reaching the Western peak before 10:00 by the whole group. Participants not admitted to complete the double ascent will descend from the Western peak to the summit camp.
Day 6: Weather day
In case of bad weather on Day 5, this day is used as an extra day for the ascent. We will spend the nights in the summit camp, at 3700 m.
Day 7: Weather Day
In case of bad weather on Day 6, this day is used as an extra day for the ascent. We will spend the nights in the summit camp, at 3700 m.
Day 8: Descent from 3800 m to the Base camp at 2200 m.
Transfer to the airport of Minvody or Kislovodsk.
How much does climbing Mount Elbrus cost?
If you are climbing Mount Elbrus and are doing just that, you only need to ocus on your flights and your trekking package, and perhaps some personal expenses. Once you land in Mineralnye Vody, you get picked up by your trekking company. No extra costs other than some personal expenses like snacks and perhaps some vodka (for after the climb!) would apply. You can join a group on the Southern Route for 1300 EUR / 1453 USD per person. The Northern Route is a little bit more affordable and goes for 1100 EUR / 1229 USD. You can browse your Elbrus climb options here.
Should I tip my guide after my Mount Elbrus climb?
In the mountaineering and trekking industry, it is common to tip your guide and other support staff after you have safely descended. And why not? If it wasn't for them, you might not have submitted and they are there to keep you safe. Although it is more or less expected when you are trekking in Nepal or when you are climbing Kilimanjaro, this is not the case on Mount Elbrus. Here you can decide if you want to tip or not. If you do, then you could tip about 5 to 10% of the price of your climbing package.
Where to book your Mount Elbrus trek?
The great thing about the internet is that you can find anything anywhere. The same goes for hiking and trekking providers. However, since there is so much on offer, it can be overwhelming to find a trekking operator of your liking. That is why Bookatrekking.com does the selection for you. We only join hands with the best hiking and trekking providers we can trust. You can rest assured that the trekking operators on Bookatrekking.com are reliable. Find your perfect trek and conquer Mount Elbrus, one of the Seven Summits, here.
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