Mt. Elbrus Expedition
Itinerary and Route
We have the option of starting our expeditions in St Petersburg, Moscow or Mineralnye Vody. Each expedition makes their way to the picturesque Baksan Valley. Based out of a lodge in Terskol, we will spend a few days acclimating on the surrounding peaks, taking in the spectacular scenery, and enjoying the mountain culture of Russia. Our ski expedition spends several days here skiing a variety of nearby backcountry terrain.
The Upper Mountain
As dawn breaks, the Caucasus mountains stretch into the distance. Guy Cotter
Moving onto the slopes of Elbrus, we stay in the Heart of Elbrus Hut and continue to acclimate for a couple more days. Summit day begins before sunrise as we climb up moderate snow slopes towards the east summit. Approaching the saddle between the east and higher west peak, we find remnants of a derelict hut not able to withstand the elements at this altitude.
The final push brings us onto the summit ridge with a tremendous sight of the hundreds of peaks in the Caucasus. Slowly turning in a full circle, you can see wooded valleys merging into mountains of rock and snow, all with early morning light glimmering off the Black Sea. The visual rewards are well earned for reaching the highest point in Europe and for climbing one of the Seven Summits!
The AAI Approach
AAI's success around the world is due to a several factors. First, the expeditions are led by professional guides, who do an outstanding job at the highest of international standards; they combine their great technical and judgmental skills with a dedication to their clients' goals and a willingness to work hard to achieve them. Over the years AAI expeditionary teams have helped many other guided and non-guided groups extricate themselves from serious trouble with storms, gear, and altitude illness.
Second, we ask clients who wish to join us to do a thorough job preparing for the expedition. We help each team member construct a suitable training program that will maximize their chance for success. And finally, we follow a carefully crafted itinerary that provides excellent acclimatization and that includes enough extra days to wait out storms while still leaving adequate time and resources to make a summit.
Sunset views from Elbrus. Andrew Wexler.
Mt. Elbrus Expedition
- One of your trips goes to St. Petersburg; the other does not, why?
- I hear that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world! Is this true?
- Do we really ride snowcats on the mountain? Isn’t this cheating?
- Can I bring my skis?
- I hear getting to the mountain involves a long travel day, is this true?
- What are the barrels? Why don’t we stay in a tent?
- What are the skills/prior experience required for this climb?
- What is the conditioning level needed for this climb?
- How many climbers will be on this expedition?
- Can I contact other climbers or guides for this expedition?
- Will I be sharing a barrel or room with other climbers? Is there a single room option on this trip?
- How heavy will my pack be?
- What kind of food do you have on the mountain?
- How long is a typical day on the mountain?
- What type of communication is available on the climb?
- What sort of hotels do we stay at in the city?
- What time should I arrive and where do I meet my guides?
- How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
- How much should I tip my guide staff?
- What if I arrive early or depart late?
- Are there any entry or visa requirements?
- Can't find your question here?
1. One of your trips goes to St. Petersburg; the other does not, why?
We wanted to offer a variety of options for those that want to climb Elbrus, but don’t have the time to visit both of Russia’s majestic cities. The longer trip allows for two days in St. Petersburg, often called the Venice of Russia. The second trip is straight to Moscow and allows for no city tours. This is for the climber who just wants to climb the mountain, and plans on coming back to “see the sights” another time.
2. I hear that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world! Is this true?
It is one of the most expensive cities in the world. A simple cappuccino can sometimes cost 7USD! We work hard to try to find the most comfortable and affordable restaurants and hotels. It is the classic case of tourists always paying more, but if you are cautious and aware, usually you can avoid the worst of it.
3. Do we really ride snowcats on the mountain? Isn’t this cheating?
We do ride snowcats during our climb, but it is far from cheating! Any ground we use “mechanical assistance” to climb, we already will have walked to that height on foot. For example; on summit morning, we will ride the snowcat to Pastokov rocks, while 1 or 2 days prior, we will have walked there during our final acclimatization climb.
4. Can I bring my skis?
While it is possible to ski from the summit, we do not offer a ski trip on Elbrus except as a private trip. Contact our office for details.
5. I hear getting to the mountain involves a long travel day, is this true?
If you have ever seen the Steve Martin movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” that is sort of what it feels like. The valley where the mountain is located is in a remote part of the country. So typically we spend a day traveling to get there. This will involve a domestic flight - always exciting in Russia - and a bus ride. While it sounds simple, travel inside of Russia can be somewhat slow, so expect to plug into your music player, move some duffel bags around between the flight and bus, and enjoy the countryside!
6. What are the barrels? Why don’t we stay in a tent?
The botchkys or barrels are one of the best parts of the trip! They need to be seen to be believed: old converted fuel barrels with bunks, windows, electricity and yes even heating! Compared to a tent, they are quite comfortable and luxurious.
7. What are the skills/prior experience required for this climb?
Elbrus is a glacier climb, so it would be good if you came to this trip having worn crampons and used an ice axe before. Basic snow skills are a plus.
8. What is the conditioning level needed for this climb?
As the altitude is over 18,000ft / 5000m, it is good to be in excellent cardiovascular shape, and be able to carry a moderate weight pack.
9. How many climbers will be on this expedition?
Typically 9 to 12 members will be on the trip with you.
10. Can I contact other climbers or guides for this expedition?
Sure! If you contact us before the trip, we will send out your request to other members. Then it is up to them to contact you. We will never send you other members contact information due to privacy policies.
11. Will I be sharing a barrel or room with other climbers? Is there a single room option on this trip?
Yes, barrels hold 6 people comfortably. In the hotels, typically you will share with 1 other team member. There is a single room option on this trip for both the hotels in the city as well as the lodge in the valley below the mountain, so please contact out office for the single supplement prices.
12. How heavy will my pack be?
Due to the use of the chairlifts up to our basecamp (barrels) you will never have to carry a pack heavier than 15-20lbs/ 7-9kg. You will however have to move your heavier duffel bag onto and off of cable cars and chairlifts up to basecamp. We like to call it, “the duffel shuffle”.
13. What kind of food do you have on the mountain?
We actually have a Russian cook that will accompany us to the barrels! She usually makes traditional dishes. Borscht (soup), fresh fruit and breads, fish, meat, potatoes, and always a fun dessert!
14. How long is a typical day on the mountain?
Days where we are acclimatizing can be between 5-7 hours long. Summit day can be up to 15 hours, with the average summit day being 7-8 hours. The benefit of a long summit day is that we start and finish at the huts, rather than having to camp higher to shorten the summit day.
15. What type of communication is available on the climb?
Believe it or not, your mobile phone from home will work all the way to the barrels! Please check to make sure you understand the roaming rates as it can be quite expensive to call from Russia. Your guide will also carry a satellite phone as a backup.
16. What sort of hotels do we stay at in the city?
Excellent ones! For instance, the hotel in Moscow, the Holiday Inn is a modern hotel with world class facilities including various restaurants and a heated pool. It is also located close to the Moscow Metro, so that it is easy to get out to explore the city.
17. What time should I arrive and where do I meet my guides?
A month or so before the trip, you will receive a final details letter outlining the hotel and agent contact details, the team member list, airport transfer information as well as other last minute tips. The airports in Moscow and St. Petersburg are far outside the city centre, so typically we will send a private car to the airport and the driver will have your name on a sign. Your guide will usually meet you on your arrival at the hotel.
18. How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
Seeing as Russia is an expensive country, it is difficult to plan and budget how much cash to bring. Fortunately there are plenty of cash machines all over the big cities. The only thing to be aware of is that there are no cash machines in the Elbrus valley, so be sure to leave town with enough cash to see you through the climb. Most members get by with between 400-800 USD, needing more sometimes for gifts and tips.
19. How much should I tip my guide staff?
Tipping is a very personal thing. It all depends on the level of personal interaction you have had with your guide. If you feel that your guide worked hard to help you personally, then give accordingly.
20. What if I arrive early or depart late?
Due to the excessive amount of bureaucracy in Russia (and the pedantic nature of their officials) the planning of an expedition is very time consuming as every detail must be confirmed well in advance to meet our obligations with visa and travel documentation. Changes from the plan can become very expensive and flexibility is not an option like it is in the west. For this reason we request that expedition members ensure their travel arrangements in and out of the country are as close to our itinerary as possible. If you do have plans for extra days in Russia, please do let your client liaison know so that they can assist with this as per the visa requirements.
21. Are there any entry or visa requirements?
Yes, one of the biggest issues with travel in Russia is the visa! Almost all foreign travelers to Russia require a visa. Once your trip has been paid for, confirmed and we have your flight arrival/departure details we will provide the invitation letter necessary to procure your visa to visit Russia. We usually like to do this 4 - 6 weeks prior to the trip start date. The visa process normally takes approximately 2 weeks, although you can opt for a speedier service by paying a higher fee. You have to send your passport in to your nearest Russian embassy along with the necessary paperwork. Your travel agent or a visa processing service should be able to assist you with this process. Visit the following link for details. http://www.visatorussia.com/
22. Can't find your question here?
Contact our office for further information!