Mount Elbrus Overview
Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano which can be found in the Caucasus Mountains, Southern Russia. Standing at 18,510ft, Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe.
Elbrus actually has two summits which are both dormant volcanoes. The highest is on the west side, standing at 18,510ft. The second summit, to the east side, sits at a slightly lower 18,442ft.
Climbing Mount Elbrus is a tough challenge; your physical limits will be pushed to the max. However, the climb is a stunning one, with views across the lower Caucasus range and glaciers giving you the motivation to persevere.
Quick Facts About Elbrus
- Elbrus last erupted at around AD 50. Since then, the volcano has remained completely dormant, apart from displaying the occasional small lava flow.
- There are 22 glaciers on Mount Elbrus which direct into three rivers: Baksan, Malka and Kuban.
- A cable car system was built from 1959 to 1976. These cable cars can take visitors to 12,500ft!
History of Elbrus
The first person to reach the summit of Elbrus was Kabardinian Killar Khashirov, a guide for a Russian army scientific expedition. He reached the east side, which is the lower summit on Elbrus. This happened in 1829. Balkarian guide Akhia Sottaiev made history by reaching the higher west summit in 1874.
In 1932, the first hut was built at 13,650ft. This hut was given the name Prijut 11, but unfortunately, it got burnt down by a campfire in 1998. This wasn’t all doom and gloom, as the hut had actually been named the World’s Worst Outhouse by Outside Magazine.
Cable cars were introduced to the mountain in 1959, helping visitors to reach as high as 12,500ft before beginning their climb.
Experience Required for Climbing Elbrus
Many mountain climbers compare summiting Elbrus to what it's like summiting Aconcagua.
Although climbing Elbrus is not technically difficult, the strong winds and elevations make it physically challenging. While Elbrus might be a suitable first expedition for some, the mountain is mainly popular amongst experienced climbers who have dealt with high altitudes and harsh weather conditions.
Main Routes at Elbrus
The ‘Normal Route’ at Elbrus is the easiest and safest route to follow. Climbers use the cable car system (found on the south side of the mountain) to reach 12,500ft. The normal route can be accessed right from the end of the cable car system and features no crevasses. It’s important to note that this route still has its own risks - snowfall, high winds and high elevations pose their own threats. Around 15 to 30 climbers die each year.
The northern route is less popular as it is far more remote and requires a lot more endurance. There are several crevasses along the north route and climbers need to have rich ice and snow experience.