DAY 1:: ARRIVAL TO NORTH CAUCASUS
After flying into the Caucasus Mineral Waters airport (MRV), settle in for the scenic drive to Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. Brush up on the history of the Balkar people along the way, among whom you will be spending the next week. Prepare for a stunning detour for your picnic lunch, at Bylym Lake, an incredible lake nestled among grassy hills and rising rock faces. Once you have completed the breathtaking drive to Mt. Elbrus, check into your hotel and enjoy some free time to explore the area and take in the views around you. Don’t blink, because you will have risen 7,000 feet above sea level on this 3-hour drive without even noticing! You will meet your guide tonight and go over the plan for the next 6 days, and a successful Elbrus encounter!
DAY 2:: ACCLIMATIZATION HIKE
Your acclimatization to the Caucasus Mountain heights starts today! Most of today is focused on preparing for your Elbrus ascent. Cheget is a neighboring mountain to Elbrus with a beautiful view, if the weather allows. As you spend several hours hiking up Cheget, getting your body used to the elevation and conditions, you will realize why the Caucasus is such a coveted destination. After a tasty lunch on the mountain, all gear will be double-checked (and rented as necessary), for your upcoming ascent. Rest up tonight, as tomorrow you are moving up to 14,000 feet, base camp!
DAY 3:: BASE CAMP
Today you get to meet Mt. Elbrus up close and personal. You’ll take the famous cable car system up three levels to the climbers’ base camp. This will be your home the next 4 days for your Elbrus encounter. As riveting as you’ll find Elbrus itself is, even more so is the surrounding Caucasus range, stretching into Georgia and beyond. Once your things are settled in one of the infamous “barrel huts” for lodging, you’ll do another brief acclimatization climb combined with some ice climbing/training. Your body will continue to adjust today, as the elevation has doubled, not to mention the significantly colder weather (there is snow here at base camp year-round). Daily your mountain guide will be walking you through practical precautions for summiting Elbrus safely and successfully. Your private cook on Elbrus will make sure you are getting the nourishment your body needs.
DAY 4:: ACCLIMATIZATION / TRAINING
During your second day on the mountain you’ll get a good feel for tomorrow’s route, as you do an acclimatization/practice climb up to the Pastukhov Rocks, around 16,500 feet. Spend some time getting used to the gear you’ll be using with some training using your ice axe. If you have a chance today, make sure to check out Elbrus’s infamous “World’s worst outhouse”; now you can mark that off your bucket list.
DAY 5:: REST DAY
Wake up with excitement today, as it’s your final day before your Elbrus ascent. Today is a day to rest up before the big hike tomorrow and to allow your body one more day to adjust to the altitude. Get to know some of the other climbers on the mountain, play some board games or just get extra sleep. If there are more than 3 people in your group, you’ll meet your second summit guide today, who will team with you and your guide on your ascent tomorrow. Turn in to bed early after dinner, as an early wake-up call awaits!
DAY 6:: SUMMIT DAY
It’s Summit Day! You’ve got an 8-12 hour ascent ahead of you, and so will start your climb in the dark between 2:00-3:00 am. Team is a beautiful thing as you work together with your group up the mountain. The early morning hours of your climb is quite the sight with a long line of climbers ascending Elbrus, lit up by a highway of head lamps. You may have never experienced quite the sunrise as you do on your ascent, as you leave the rest of the Caucasus range behind to Elbrus’s gentle summit. Your climb won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, with altitude sickness, extreme cold temperatures, and unpredictable weather all real possibilities, but it will all be worth it when you reach the top. Once you have a quick celebration on the top, prepare for your 3-4 hour descent back to base camp. Gather your things and jump on the cable car to head back down to Cheget. Dinner will have never tasted better than it does tonight.
DAY 7:: RESERVE / REST DAY
Rest day! You’ve earned it. Sleep in as long as you want. Today you’ll want to peruse the charming local souvenir markets, full of tempting local goods, including Caucasus Papakha hats, beautiful hand-knit slippers, shawls, and tasty local jams. Or if you’re up for it, go on a local horseback excursion, see a beautiful waterfall, or try out a 4-wheeler on the local trails. Enjoy re-living and re-telling your Elbrus encounter with your fellow climbers and guides at your celebration dinner tonight. In case there was inclement weather on Day 6 (yesterday’s planned ascent), today will be your summit day up Elbrus.
DAY 8:: DEPARTURE
Pack your bags and say goodbye for now to the North Caucasus, a place we hope you will come back to for another adventure very soon. Fly out of the local Mineral Waters airport (MRV), through Moscow, and back to wherever you call home..