Caucasus
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Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus is the two headed cone of a dormant volcano. It is connected with the Main Caucasus Ridge by the Khotiutau ridge. The highest (west) summit is 5642m high, the eastern one is 5621m. The main ridge separates Georgia from Russia and Asia from Europe. Elbrus is composed of both hard crystalline rocks and magmatic intrusions. In the surrounding valleys mineral springs are quite common and in a few places sulphurous fumes escape out through fissures, often deep under the ice cover.

Most of the slopes (up to a height of 4000 m) are not steep; lower slopes reach up to 35° but are interspersed with many rock bands (some 600-700m high), crevasses, and ice falls on the southern, northern and western slopes. Eastern slopes are less broken.

At 4200m the unique three-storied, dirigible-shaped mountain hotel "Refuge of 11" (Priut 11) is located. The first wooden building constructed here in 1932 could accommodate 40 people; 120 can stay in the present building which is the most popular base for the ascent of Elbrus. It is easily reached by using the cable car and chairlift system up to 3800m (Garabashi); above that it is sometimes possible to hire a snow cat to save on the two hour glacier walk up to the hut.

The ascent of Elbrus is technically very easy but requires the use of crampons over short sections never over 40°. The steepest section, just above the saddle at 5416m, is also often the icy crux of the ascent. Allow 6-7 hours and beware of rapid weather deterioration which can make route finding very difficult and the conditions arctic. Most of the route below the saddle is marked but in bad weather it is easy to lose the marker posts.


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© Andrew Wielochowski 4/9/2014. From the "Map & guide to Elbrus and the Upper Baksan"