Elbrus is a dormant volcano in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, only 20 km from the Georgian border. It is the highest mountain of the European continent. Its West summit is 5,642 meters high, the East one is 21 m shorter – 5,621m.
Elbrus can be climbed either from the north or the south. The north route is much more demanding. On the summit day there are 2,000m to be climbed and there are no snow cats to be used on the summit day. Also the north route is less crowded and the diversity of the landscape there is breathtaking. I decided to go for this option.
After having obtained my visa for Russia, I flew to Mineralnye Vody Airport. The arrival terminal looks more like a bus station than an airport. Given the short transfer time I had in Moscow, I was very relieved to get my luggage.
Two days after my arrival I started with my team an off-road ride towards Elbrus Base Camp located at 2,600m. It’s located on a beautiful green meadow, in which also some Russian tourists seemed to be spending their camping holidays and watching those climbers coming from all over the globe. From far, both Elbrus summits appear likewise giants respectfully covered in snow. We did a short walk, saw wild horses, enjoyed watching Russians taking short swims in a freezing cold source nearby.
The next day, we did an acclimatization hike to the so called Mushroom stones at 3,200m. The landscape there is breathtaking. We were few teams, so we could enjoy the beauty and the silence of nature. We were sleeping in wood huts and we had meals to fixed hours in a big dinning room. The food was excellent and the kitchen stuff was incredibly friendly and so was our guide Valery. He is a great mountaineer, very humble and always ready to help and give advices.
On our way up, the day after we carried our summit gear to high camp at 3,800m, we encountered some bad weather. The sky became covered and it started raining. We stored our gear in a little hut at high camp, got some warm soup and hurried to go down since the weather was getting worse. We were very glad to be back at Base camp and to be able to dry our wet clothes.
Two days later we returned to High Camp ready for the summit push. At dinner we discussed the weather forecast. Our guide, Valery seemed to be worried since the winds will be around 56km/h. He suggested we start our summit push at midnight and seemed pretty confident though.
After a rich breakfast we started shortly after midnight. It felt pretty warm. We must have had around -5 degrees. Soon as we went up, we encountered very strong winds, As we reached a spot called Lenz rocks at 4,500m. the winds became so strong, that we had to put more layers on. We did a short stop and put on our big jackets. That’s exactly what the weather forecast predicted: winds up to 56 km/h.
Two teams turned back. We continued as first team that day, breaking the trail and fighting against the wind pushing us back. After 3 hours of hard work, the winds started to decrease. Two team members were extremely tired. They had to give up and go down. Arriving to the saddle at 5.300m., we made a short break before continuing our way up to the summit. We finally made it to the summit. The winds were so strong, that I needed a hand to hold my Moroccan flag.
Soon we started our descend since the sky was getting more and more covered. on the way down as we reached the saddle, a section with plenty of rocks, where most accidents happen in Elbrus, we had to stop as we saw an injured climber. Our guides went to provide first aid. Witnessing such an incident in the mountains, increases the focus and attention.
Back of Mount Elbrus
As we reached High Camp, the friendly staff and the Camp doctor welcomed us cheerfully. I showed him the bloody blisters on my shinbones because of my big boots. He just smiled, telling me, that it’s not that bad and I should just apply some healing cream on them.
The next day we descended to Base Camp. Our backpacks were heavy because we were carrying all our gear. Porters services are insanely cheaper compared to the rest of the Seven Summits. I insisted on carrying my own backpack. My mind was already in the next mountain “Kilimanjaro”, that I had to prepare.