How Long Does It Take to Climb Mt Elbrus?
Being the highest peak in Europe, Mount Elbrus is already a very popular summit amongst both experienced and beginner level mountaineers. But apart from that, the mountain itself is comparatively easier to climb which is another reason why several people commit themselves to climbing it each year. With the technical part of the climb being easier, even an amateur or a beginner level climber can summit the peak given that the weather conditions are fine, and the climber has the right gear. This means that Mt Elbrus is quite accessible for mountaineers of all type and doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the experiences of its climbers.
However, it’s not a harmless hike either. Every year a handful of people lose their lives while attempting to climb Mt. Elbrus. This is partially due to bad weather, poor visibility, and lack of adaptation. It’s also not recommended that inexperienced climbers try summiting Mount Elbrus on their own. Rather, it’s advised that they take the help of a guide. Furthermore, if anyone who has previously done a couple of high altitude climbs already, then with properly adapting to the terrain and environment of the mountain along with use of right equipment, they can summit Mount Elbrus too.
What is the best time to climb Mt Elbrus?
The best time to summit the mountain coincides with the sunniest and warmest season in the region. Therefore, from July till mid-August are the best days to be able to climb the peak. June gets a littler colder, and you may encounter lots of snow even if you are at an altitude of 3500-3800 meters. Also, the latter half of August is not the most ideal time to summit the peak due to the advent of unpredictable weather conditions such as strong winds, heavy rainfalls, and the possibility of snowfalls. Thus, if you are planning a hiking trip to Mt Elbrus, then make sure you choose the time when you will be easily climbing up the mountain.
The climbing season lasts from mid-May to mid-September, although, in September the routes are likely to experience ice while during May the snow is a bit softer. Thus, the best time falls between July and August.
Day by day itinerary for climbing Mt Elbrus
It will take you approximately 4 days to climb up the mountain. Following is day by day guide for you which explains what each day typically looks like, and what you should prepare yourself for.
This will be the first day of your climb. You will start your journey in the morning. In order to reach the mountain, the most convenient approach will be to travel in the cable car to Mir Station from Azau. From there you will have the option of walking for an hour or taking a chairlift to Garabashi which is known as “The Barrels” or Bochki in Russian. It’s the accommodation site of Mt Elbrus for those who wish to climb it. It’s approximately 50 meters away from the chairlift’s top. Also, majority of the tourists like to reside in the hotels of the Baksan Valley which act as the base accommodation where mountaineers can acclimatize before climbing.
After adapting to the environment, the climbers try to go up using cables which uses Old Krugozor station and Mir Station as transits. Once this is done, the next step is to ride a small chairlift. The weather, however, becomes of importance here since in bad weather conditions, the chairlift section is likely to be closed. Moreover, riding the chairlift may be uncomfortable too since it can get very cold and chilly. The entire chairlift ride will take roughly fifteen minutes.
The interesting thing you will note here is the fact that many locals will be riding these chairlifts in a pair of shorts despite the weather being cold! If you are unable to find accommodation anywhere and the Garabashi huts are also full, then you will have to make to do with the Diesel Hut or use tents for camping to camp around the ex Priut 11 refuge. This location lies above “The Barrels”. If you want, you can also use the dust trail to climb up the chairlift line all the way to Garabashi to Azau.
The entire day consists of finding the right accommodation for yourself, and then spending the rest of the day acclimatizing, resting, sleeping or just relaxing. There is also a coffee shop nearby where you can grab tea or coffee, and enjoy the evening.
This is the day when you will actually be looking forward to acclimatize. On day 2, if the weather permits, you can climb up to the Pastukhov rocks and come back. You can also climb up tp Priut 11. It will take you roughly 90 minutes to walk on foot to Priut 11 and 2 hours more from there to reach the Pastukhov rocks. In order to acclimatize, you can hike up to these points and come back to your accommodation.
When you hike, make sure that you walk slowly, and get enough rest. It’s also important that you keep yourself hydrated throughout your journey. If you are comfortable enough, then on this day you can also choose to move up from Garabashi to Priut 11, and the hike up from there the next day.
The experience from previous two days will make you feel more comfortable to hike up or climb up to a higher altitude. Thus, on day 3 you can choose to move up to a higher altitude. Once you do that, stop at one of the huts or campsites, and make sure that you take the rest of the day to rest, and relax since you will be needing the energy for the final hike up to the summit. As you continue to move up, you will find breathtaking views all around you. You will be mesmerized by the astonishing surroundings, and the snowcapped peaks around you. Enjoy a hot cup of tea, and enjoy the surreal beauty of Mount Elbrus.
If you previously moved up to Pastukhov rocks, it will not be very difficult for you to move up towards the summit on this day. The path from Pastukhov to saddle is very steep, and you will most probably have to hike in a zig-zag pattern to easily climb up. From the saddle, you will continue to move up towards 5000 meters and more. It’ll become essential that you stop a couple of times during your hike since the altitude will make it difficult for you to breath as oxygen concentration falls.
The last 200 meters are supposedly the most difficult ascent due to the steepness and altitude. However, with constant breaks, you will be able to make it eventually. Once you will reach the summit, you will find yourself surrounded by one of the most surreal sceneries. You will find mountains, and valleys all around you. You will be standing at an altitude higher than any other mountain in the vicinity, and so the feeling will definitely be different and overwhelming than the entire hike.
After reaching the summit, you will make your way down the mountain back to the campsite you started from the same day. If it’s Pastukhov rocks, then you will be going back to that campsite. It’s recommended that you do not rush things and take your time in descending down. Comparatively, it’s easier to descend down, yet you should not be overexerting or exhausting yourself out.
This is the day when you will eventually come back from climbing the mountain to the village. You will be returning the gears and heading back for home.
Number of days required for acclimatization
Acclimatization is considered an important part of the climb since Mount Elbrus is one of the moderately high peaks. Also, majority of the climbers come from very low lying areas such as Moscow, and therefore, it’s possible that such visitors will face altitude sickness. Thus, acclimatization becomes even more important. It’s recommended that you should spend at least 7 days adapting at the altitudes of 2500-4500 meters before your final climb.
Most climbers prefer to stay at Terskol before moving up to the Barrels Huts. You can also choose to move up to the Cheget Peak which aids in acclimatization. Moreover, you should be taking a day’s rest before the final day of climbing up the summit. Following this plan will add a few more days to your itinerary since acclimatization is extremely important.
Things you need to climb Mt Elbrus
Apart from determination, wander lust, and a bit of mountaineering training under your belt, there is a list of quite a few items that you need to get before you can proceed with your adventure of climbing Mt Elbrus. You will have most of the things covered on this list if you are a professional mountaineer already. But in case you are just getting started with the intoxicating adventure of mountaineering, it’s essential that you make sure you have all the protective gear.
At Terskol, you will find vendors who will be willing to lend you the special climbing gear. However, you will be required to bring your own basic gear for hiking. You will be able to lend crampons, ice axe, harness, rope, plastic boots, thick jacket or overall, and snow pants among other items in the gear. You should be bringing a large enough travel backpack, trekking poles, a sleeping bag, and a camping mat with you regardless of what your accommodation plan is.
If you are looking forward to camp instead of using the huts, make sure that you carry water and windproof tents with you. Other important items to bring along with yourself are utensils like plates and bowls, pocket knife, pocket knife sharpener, headlamp, water bottle, and a waterproof pouch to carry essential items like passport, money, and cellphone. When you pack your clothes, make sure to include all the warm clothing items such as beanies, socks, and gloves that will protect your from blisters in particular. You should also take a first aid kit with you which should include items like sunblock, band aids and essential medicines.
Overview of the routes of Mt Elbrus
Mostly, mountaineers find it fit to use the standard route of the mountain for climbing. This is the South Face and Azau valley route for which we have given the itinerary above. This route will begin either from the Barrels Hut at a height of 3900 meters or from 2350 meters of altitude where Azau valley is present. From these bases, you will then climb up to the Diesel Hut which is at an elevation of 4157 meters, Pastukhov rocks at an altitude of 4670 meters, and to the Saddle at a height of over 5000 meters. This route is also very good in terms of the easiness to climb since it’s pretty straightforward.
However, in the times of bad weather conditions, the route may get tricky, and difficult to trek. Also, the descent is not very tedious or long. It will barely take you a couple of hours, 3 minimum and 6 maximum, to descend down the mountain.
The other routes of the mountain are very seldom trekked. Therefore, the information on them is not as widely available. The most dangerous and difficult route is the Southwest Face from Voroshilov which starts from the altitude of 2150 meters. This route has a lot of crevasses and icefalls too. The Northwest face of the mountain has, although, been climbed before, however, no certain information is available about it. It’s only known that the route is more difficult than the South Face or Azau valley route.
Dangers associated with Mount Elbrus and its climb
The most immediate and important danger that lingers at Mount Elbrus is the weather condition. The uncertainty associated with the weather tends to overwhelm the climbers and sometimes leads to unfavorable weather conditions such as sudden storms and extremely cold weather. Such kind of danger can cause delays and hamper your climbing itinerary.
Another important factor are crevasses which are, although, not as widespread on the standard route, however, if you accidentally wander off, then you may encounter those as well. Moreover, previously many climbers have been seen wandering off or losing the track of the trek and then were, unfortunately, never seen or found. Also, several deaths have occurred due to frostbites and hypothermia. These dangers will not only slow down your climb, but can also be fatal.
Glissades are yet another problem for those wishing to climb the mountain. Many mountaineers have fallen victim to these and this has resulted in deaths and injuries. Thus, while climbing you need to take a note of all these dangers and plan your trip accordingly.
Mount Elbrus, the highest peak of Europe, is a moderately high peak. For those who are professional and experienced climbers, the ascent is not a huge problem given the weather conditions are favorable on the Azau valley route which is the standard. However, if weather does not suit climbing, then even the experienced climber will face difficulties. The standard Azau Valley route is considered to be the easiest and safest route to summit the peak of Mount Elbrus. The other routes are relatively more dangerous and difficult to ascent.
The entire itinerary of climbing the peak spans over several days. Mostly, you can do it within 2 weeks including a week of acclimatization. The ascent from base to the peak is not as tedious or long. It takes roughly 5-6 days to be able to summit the peak. The entire timeline is, however, subjected to the weather conditions. It also depends on which month are you choosing to summit the mountain.
As in May and September, weather conditions tend to get harsh and unfavorable while between July and August you can enjoy a relatively smoother climb up. However, these are also the months when you are most likely going to experience crowd especially at the places of accommodations such as the Barrels Huts, and Diesel Huts. Despite having multiple accommodation options such as huts and shelters, people still choose to camp for a different experience. This makes the mountain look more overcrowded and, thus, leads towards the depletion of scarce resources.
Therefore, choosing the best time to climb up the mountain comes with its own set of pros and cons that you will have to weigh yourself according to what you prefer; an easier, less problematic climb or lesser mountaineers around you. All in all, climbing Mount Elbrus is considered much safer and easier than the other famous peaks like Everest and K2. With the right protective gears, and other equipment, whether you are a beginner or an experienced mountaineer, you can climb up the peak with relative ease.
For beginner level climbers, it’s important and recommended as well that they hire a guide or be with a group that has one so that they do not wander off or be in danger while climbing. Though every mountain has its own set of dangers and threats associated with its ascent, with right precaution and careful planning, Mt Elbrus can be climbed with ease and comfort.