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ELBRUS. Classic Climb
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The Elbrus volcanic massif lies to the North of the Main Caucasian Range and is linked with it by a ten-kilometre ridge to the North. It has two summits, the Eastern (5633m) and Western (5642m), and in the southwestern spur of Elbrus there are two more summits, Kyukyurtlyu (4623m) and Dome Kyukyurtlyu (4965m). All four summits represent mountaineering targets.

The ice surface of Elbrus runs into 144 square kilometers, with 77 big and small glaciers flowing down the slopes of the massif.

The weather in the area is unstable even in summer, with frequent winds of hurricane force, blizzards, thunderstorms and thick mists. In the absence of visibility even experienced climbers can lose their way on the boundless snow fields of Elbrus. Therefore, in the event of a rapid gathering of clouds during an ascent parties are advised to return to the hut.

An ascent of Elbrus is fraught with the danger of mountain sickness, preventive measures include a period of preliminary acclimatization and a reasonable rate of climb to the summit. This must especially be borne in mind of climbers negotiating such altitudes for the first time.

Temperatures are always low on the Elbrus summits, and tend to drop sharply when the weather deteriorates. Climbers should therefore be warmly dressed and take spare warm things.

The Route to Elbrus

The most popular ascent route to the Eastern and Western summits of Elbrus is from Terskol (Azau) village along the Baksan Gorge via Shelter Eleven (“Prijut 11”).

From the first station of cable car Azau (2200m) climbers can reach altitude 3750m (Gara Bashi glacier). Two levels of cable car: “Stariy Krugozor” (3000m) and “Mir” station (3500m) have comfortable cabins which transport snowboarders and skiers on the slopes of Elbrus in winter time. Chair lift works between 3500m and 3700m. It is possible also to use here a private snow-cat (it can transport 7-10 pax + equipment).

The route from Gara Bashi station till Pastukhov Rocks (4700m) is not difficult either, passing along by a slightly inclined snow. Only 200 meters before Pastukhov Rocks does the gradient increase 35-40°. As the height here is already considerable great attention must be paid to the gait. This section is accessible not only to mountain climbers but to experienced hikers as well. However, on this route windproof jackets and mountain boots must be warm. From the hut it takes 1-1.5 hours.

The route from Pastukhov Rocks to the saddle of Elbrus is the longest in time. The first 200 meters is a steep (up to 40°) walking, but after the turn towards the saddle the steepness diminishes. This section is travelled in three of four, sometimes five, hours. In the latter half of the summer there may be stretches of hard snow and sometimes ice. In view of considerable altitude the gait should be as slow as possible.

After gaining the saddle, to reach the Western summit of Elbrus, route continues within the saddle, past a small hut, usually snowed up to the roof. From here one turns sharply to the left (west) and continues the ascent to the summit along a poorly defined snow crest. The climb from the summit to the hut takes 1-1,5 hours; the descent to the saddle requires 30-40 minutes.

The descent from the saddle to Shelter Eleven requires 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the group, the experience of its members and weather conditions.

Recommendations

  1. Departure from Shelter Eleven for the summit at 3 or 4 am.
  2. All members of the group must be warmly dressed and, especially, have warm boots.
  3. Each member must have an ice axe, ski pools and crampons.
  4. Each member should take a small backpack with thermos and necessary equipment.
  5. A lunch packet should be taken.
  6. Ropes (heavy and light) in ratio of 5-6 meters per person.
  7. Harness + 2 karabins.