Elbrus at 5,642 m is a huge dormant volcano in Southern Russia’s Caucasus Mountains. The west summit (first ascended in 1874 by the Florence Crauford Grove’s British expedition) of this twin-domed peak is Europe’s highest and the fifth highest of the sought-after 7 Summits. If you’re an adventurous trekker, you’ll go via the spectacular north-south traverse.
To fully savour the uniqueness of this incredible, prominent mountain and to retain the spirit of adventure we climb to the basecamp following roads which cling high above dizzying drop-offs and give you that wonderful, tingling sensation of complete and utter remoteness. The route to the top is a varied, awe-inspiring landscape: Alpine meadows awash with flowers in bloom, gerbils scattering from swooping eagles and, as you near your ultimate goal, surreal volcanic rock twisted into crazy forms and vast glaciers flowing from the summit.
This expertly supported expedition combines elements of an alpine ascent and a Himalayan adventure. You’ll be rolling up your sleeves, and carrying your own load, so the emphasis is on individual responsibility and effective teamwork. Through gradual acclimatisation and a day learning the necessary Alpine techniques, your chances of realising this incredible summit are greatly enhanced. This ascent symbolises the very best of mountain adventure.
Day 1 – Depart UK
Day 2 - Arrive Mineralnye Vody mid-morning. Soak up some local colour before regrouping in the evening a full 360 brief and an introduction to our local Russian mountain guides. Overnight in hotel.
Day 3 - Mineralnye Vody - Emanuil Valley (2,250m)
We’ll board 4WDs for an early morning start to the base camp of Mount Elbrus. The feeling of remoteness is tangible and we’re greeted with fantastic scenery of huge canyons and local villages. The last 45 minutes of this 4 hour drive is on a hairy road along the edge of a spectacular canyon, as we descend into an alpine meadow and an exciting river crossing before reaching base camp in Emmanuel’s Pasture (2,700m). Soaring above are the twin summits of Mount Elbrus. We’ll take an afternoon walk to the local hot springs and a huge waterfall.
Day 4 - We begin Day 4 climbing to Camp 1 at 3,800m. It’ll take around four to five hours and return to Emmanuel’s (BC) to sleep. Today’s climb allows us to get into trekking shape and to test our boots and equipment and, more importantly, we start acclimatising by “climbing high and sleeping low”. The terrain is a geologist’s delight as we climb through hardened lava contorted into stone mushrooms, volcanic bombs and exotic lava sculptures.
Day 5 - Today we retrace our footsteps through a pristine alpine environment to the high camp sitting on the edge of a huge glacier. We strike camp or find space on the bunks of a small hut that is to be used exclusively by our team. The afternoon is spent soaking up the glorious feeling of wilderness at our lofty perch.
Day 6 – Ascent to Lenz’s rocks (4,600m)
A long, day today, but an exhilarating one, as we rope up to commence an exciting climb up on the glacier’s back to a rocky pyramid known as Lenz Rocks. The views open up as we climb higher and reveal many of the lofty summits of the Caucasus range. Your guides will teach you relevant roping up and glacier travel techniques. We have the chance to scramble up Lenz Rocks to reach a cross there and to soak up the amazing views over a picnic lunch.
Day 7 – We rest today in preparation for the summit attempt, though it won’t all be about resting however as the guides once again get busy conducting “Ecole de Glace”. For a few hours today you’ll enhance your Alpine skills and learn how to self-arrest, crampon and ice-axe techniques as well as have a session on how to set up crevasse rescue systems. The afternoon is dedicated to chilling out, hydrating, eating and sleeping. All of these are important as soon the summit attempt begins.
Day 8 - Summit Day (5,642m)
Our climb to reach Europe’s highest point will begin around midnight. We retrace our steps to Lenz Rocks in the light of our head-torches and the stars and moon. Then, as the sun creeps over the horizon, we exit the glacier to gain a rock band through which a safe path zig-zags to just under 5,000m. By now we can see far over the plains of Russia and the enormity of the Caucasus Mountains. Soon we reach the saddle dividing the twin peaks of Elbrus and cross it to reach the final steep slopes of the west summit. After a break we continue up virgin snow to gain the final ridge to the top. Today is a tough day by anyone’s standards (12 – 14 hrs) but as we reach the summit, we are rewarded not only by tremendous views but by the ultimate satisfaction that we have accomplished this amazing achievement by climbing the mountain from the basecamp to the summit under our own steam. There is no finer feeling than this. To reward ourselves for our hard work we descend only 850m and are met by a PistenBully that will take us down to the ski lifts which drop to the valley floor on the South-side. From here we board a final transfer to the village of Cheget and our hotel. This night of summit celebration is always memorable!
Day 9 - Contingency Day
Reserve day in case of bad weather at summit camp or if people are in need of further acclimatisation. If the traverse is successful, we stay in hotel accommodation (not included in the price).
Day 10 - Mineralnye Vody
Rest day and a celebration lunch in an iconic Caucasus restaurant where you’ll be presented with your summiteer certificate. Shopping and enjoying the hospitality of this Alpine village and its good range of restaurants and local markets.
Day 11 – International flights home
- International flights from London
- Scheduled hotel nights, based on double or triple occupancy
- Food while on the mountain
- Scheduled group restaurant meals
- Group climbing and cooking gear
- Airport transfer to hotel
- National park, and other permit fees
- Local guides and a 360 guide (depending on group size) - based on 1:3 guide/client ratio
- PistenBully descent after summit from 4,800m
- All accommodation based on two people sharing
- All food whilst on trek and breakfast when city based
- 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoor
- Monthly payment plan, on request
- Personal equipment and excess baggage
- 1 night of accommodation on day 9 in the event of an early summit
- Additional single accommodation
- Lunch and dinner when city based except where indicated
- Staff/guide gratuities
- Items of a personal nature: phone calls, laundry, room service, etc.
- Alcoholic beverages
- Airport transfers when not booking on with flights
- Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early including any airline surcharges as a result of changing return airline tickets
Please see www.360-expeditions.com/expeditions/elbrus-north-south-traverse/#faqs
From the minute the team met up at Heathrow I knew this exped was going to be awesome! This was my fourth trip with 360 Expeditions and I have trusted them implicitly since my first exped with them to provide an awesome team, an awesome guide and crew, an awesome experience, and a top notch itinerary with the best possible chance of a successful summit. Their attention to detail in both the planning and the execution of this expedition was great. Stu S was at the helm on this one, and with his infectious enthusiam and incredible mountain knowledge along with the cool Russian crew we were in very safe hands. Even the drive in to base camp was an off roading advenutre, and the ascent up the north side of the mountain provided a real, remote feeling, full on mountaineering experience. I've marked the food down a little just because it was a bit basic, perhaps Russian cuisine isn't quite to my taste, but there was plenty of it and snacks provided too and to be honest it's well worth it in order to be on the north side ascent away from the crowds and infrastructure of the south side. This is an exped for those who love a real mountaineering experience and enjoy the highs and lows of expedition life (we were lucky with the weather but Elbrus can be brutal!) rather that those who simply want to summit quickly and tick it off their list. Reaching the summit was the toughest thing I'd ever done, but such an adventure and so many laughs along the way, and with the support and patience of our team and awesome guide I got there and I can't really explain how amazing that felt. A celebratory night out Russian style is also an experience not to be missed! This is a great exped that doesn't require too much time off work, I would highly recommend it. It was absolutely awesome and really motivated me to keep climbing and keep dreaming big!
What a blast this trip was! Including off road jeep safari, a huge traverse summit day, summit day 2, a night out Russian style and experiencing PistonBully and Skimobiles on the 'other side'. Its great to be able to get a big mountain feel on a trip that only need a week's leave from work. My advice is get fit, it makes it more enjoyable. The 360 Expeditions team went above and beyond to cater for all the different skills and fitness levels in the group. Despite feeling awesome on all the acclimatisation climbs, I bombed on the 'big' day and didn't attempt to summit; the traverse was enough. Back in the hotel that night Rolfe offered to take me and another climber, who also didn't summit, back the next day for another go this time from the South. He didn't have to do that, that's just the sort of guy he is and company they are! On attempt 2 we all summitted but in appalling weather - it turned into an 'epic' and I learnt a lot about myself and mountaineering! The best referral I can give is that I've now booked to climb Spantik at just over 7000M which will be my 4th 360 Expedition trip.
I have used 360 for numerous major expeditions and all have been fabulous. This particular one is a great trip because its relatively short in duration but gives access to a completely different culture and this north south traverse gives a beautiful few days ahead of a challenging but rewarding summit day which isnt too technical at all so this would suit relative novices.
I have travelled with 360 Expeditions before. When I wanted my next test 360 Expeditions were my first choice. I have used several guides with the company before but when I heard that Rolfe was leading this trip I jumped at the chance to join, and trained hard. Pre trip planning advice as always spot on from their head office experts in Helen and Marni (more about them later) and I Joined a team on board to Moscow where we met Rolfe. A quick flight to Milnerady Vody and we were chilling, having a beer and getting generally excited about the next day. Rolfe ensured that kit prep was done early and others on the team were taken away for extra kit - no stone left unturned with Rolfe. We were promised an exciting ride in - no kidding ! it was awesome. Fleets of jeeps whipped us away from the city and into the valleys. Eventually, after river crossings and what can not really be described as a road we arrived at base camp. No rest here - acclimatisation walk straight away. The next day was humping our kit to base camp - 20kg up to 3800 metres. we returned via an incredible rock formation. The next day up we humped again in a thunderstorm which was incredible. I was slower but Rolfe was by my side. And as we had met before and have some similar interests talking about Guns N Roses meant that I soon forgot about the pain of carrying a large unit up the hill. Rolfe knew what made me tick!! When I arrived my appetite had gone - not unusual for me and i know it happens. But i had also not slept. Rolfe, thinking on his feet as always arranged for me to sleep in a tent as i sleep better when no background noise from others and taught me "tent craft" when tent pegs wont do. The evening was poor for me - I became unwell and had to ask to leave the trip. I am high on the mountain, its 7am and I am forced to leave for "ailments". Rolfe simply gave me a hug, said "its been great fun brother" and via satellite phone contacted Marni and Helen to assist me home. One of the porters arranged by the team carried my main bag and i hiked 1300m down to base camp. By the time i arrived 3 hours later everything was arranged by the excellent helen and Marni, always in contact reassuring me that all is ok. A jeep appeared from nowhere, took me back to the city where a hotel had been arranged and a flight home the next morning. Overall this trip was incredible - i didnt get the summit but I got the experience and also got the 5* treatment when things went wrong. When choosing the team that you trek with i would urge you to ensure that the company you select is experienced in the area, has the right logistical support behind them and more importantly - care about you. The team managed to get some summits 2 days later via the tougher north - south traverse. But being different to any other company i know Rolfe helped 2 others summit from the more popular south side just 24 hours later to help others achieve their dream. The very best team ever!! On to the next one 360!
5 Star review! I wish that I could give more. This still lives with me 8 years later as the best 3 weeks of my life. I have done 4 expeditions now - 3 with 360 Expeditions and I would not consider any other firm to work with. Firstly its the pre-expedition logistics. I was managed impeccably from Marni and Helen. They did not know me before (even though I had met Rolfe, my guide prior in 2010) but before I went I felt that they knew me very well. Pre expedition training plans, kit advice for a novice and a discounted kit package too. You do not just book and arrive unprepared. I was met by Rolfe - I had met him in 2010 and he was super cool - but he doesnt know it (just google this guys CV!!). He just breathes the mountains. Pre flight prep talks and kit check and we were away to Lukla. If you havent done Lukla before - you need to do Lukla!!! When we arrived we had breakfast and Rolfe arranged his team of Sherpas, Sirdar and Porters. The logistical planning was exceptional - kit split into 2 teams of porters - one going direct to the Mera Base at Khare and the remainder was carried with us through the Hinku Valley as we prepared for the change in altitude, slowly and deliberately gaining fitness too. Food was incredible ! On another trip I lived on porridge, eggs and Dal Bhat. With 360 Expeditions I was getting salads, toasted sandwiches, chicken and chips on one day, soups, dumplings - everything. It amazed me that we were eating a picnic by a waterfall and then it would just be packed up and moved on. The camp chef would overtake you to ensure you had a nice hot chocolate at the end of the day. The team was close knit - I talk to them all, 8 years later. I knew no one prior, but thats the beauty of expeditions - you are all in the same boat. What I found amazing was how immersed in culture you become - Nepal is the most fascinating place - dont think that you go there for the scenery alone! Above everything else the main difference - the biggest difference and the greatest compliment that i could pay 360 Expeditions was the difference in class in their professionalism. Other teams - supposed big players - rallied around Rolfe for advice. I mean, he had been here several times before. He had contingencies - extra rope (which the big players asked to borrow) and it soon became apparent to our small group that our team got bigger as other companies clients joined us for advice from Rolfe. They didnt feel safe with the others, but they could see the expertise that made them more than a bit jealous. And finally the biggest difference - Rolfe and his team of Sherpas. Fully immersed within our team, highly entertaining and just a little bit crazy at times too. Think Bum slide races! I look back on this trip with agony that I need to do this again - and I will - and I will not shop around for the team to take me. There is only one choice for me, and it should be yours too.