Preparing for Mount Elbrus: 20 things we wish we'd been told.
Category: Trip and Event Reports
Posted by Ben Keen
An ascent of Mount Elbrus is a highly rewarding and challenging experience.
It is one of the 7-summits and the highest point in Europe at 5642m. To visit this mountain and hopefully stand on its summit holds huge bragging rights and big bunch of ‘adventure points’!
Just getting to the mountain’s base is a fascinating and unique experience. Before you even set foot on the mountain you will be having an adventure of a lifetime. To make visiting this area of Russia and ascending this peak as comfortable as possible, we have created a list of additional information and hints and tips to help prepare you.
Some of these are general tips that could be useful for any expedition, but most are focussed on our south side itinerary. For The Adventure Element clients please read these in conjunction with the kit list we have sent to you.
1 - You spend a lot of time in a mountain hut
Be prepared for a fair amount of downtime allowing the body to acclimatise. On acclimatisation cycles you may only out of the hut for a few hours.
- Pack some cards and games. Uno is always a favourite and always in my kit bag!
- Bring a few books
- Download movies and podcasts onto a phone or tablet
- Bring a journal or pad to write your memoirs
Whatever you find fun to do, please do come prepared for lots of time out.
2 - Changing Money
You can change sterling into Rubles at your UK departure airport. At the time of writing, there are approx 61 Rubles to the Pound. Please do not wait until you arrive in Russia. Time is short and you will need to catch our transfer to Cheget.
US dollars and Euros are also accepted so worth having some ‘emergency’ money available.
3 - Download Google Translate
The guides and some staff in the hotels speak some English, but it certainly isn't widely spoken. Having Google translate will help you make friends a lot quicker!
4 - Internet Access
Your hotel has good, free wifi.
You can also keep in touch with home via your mobile and a basic (but sometimes unreliable) phone signal is even available on the mountain and all the way to the summit!!
Another option is to bring along an old mobile (make sure it's a type that is unlocked to work in Russia) and buy a local SIM card. This can be done in the village post office in Cheget. This will cost about 500 rubles (approx £9) and will include 3G access.
5 - Bring footwear for inside the hut
Once you've taken off your shoes/boots at the door in the Elbrus mountain hut it helps to have something practical and comfortable to put on. You can bring hut slippers or simply a pair of trainers or approach shoes.
6 - Mixed gender hut dormitories
Just so you know! There are 8 - 10 beds in each dormitory.
7 - Charging phones and Devices
There is electricity in the hut so remember a charging lead and plug adaptor.
8 - Pillows & Sleeping Mats
There are pillows in the huts but we can't vouch for their cleanliness. If this concerns you, bring along a pillow case which can be stuffed with your clothes and down jacket or bring an inflatable pillow.
Sleeping mats A sleeping mat is not an essential item on the kit list. However, if you prefer a more comfortable night sleep in the mountain hut, you could add your sleeping mat under your matteress.
In addtition, we like to pack our sleeping mat in our hand luggage when we travel. This means we can roll it out in the airport and grab some essential comfortable sleep when waiting for flights or if there is a delay.
9 - Snacks and Treats
Amazing and plentiful food is provided through out the trip. During your down time and whilst on the mountain it helps to have a supply of your favourite energy bars, home snacks or comfort food (a couple for each day would be ideal). It is possible to buy snacks in the valley. However, they can be expensive.
10 - Hot Drinks
Hot drinks are included, but if you have a favourite drink you love or you can't live without…..please bring some along. Being a coffee snob, quality coffee will be in my bag!
11 - Drinking Water
We can not emphasis the importance of staying hydrated. However, drinking plain water all the time can be hard and gets boring. We find it easier to add a bit of flavour (especially at altitude). Bring a supply of tablets to dissolve in water (the sort cyclists and runners use) or some concentrated juices.
12 - Elbrus weather is fickle!
Elbrus can be cold, Elbrus can be windy. What we do know is that the weather is very hard to predict! Essential items are:
- Good quality ski goggles
- Good quality sunglasses
- Plenty of warm gloves (follow the kit list)
- Strong sun cream (at least SPF 30+ or 50+)
- Sunblock lip balm.
13 - Ice axe leash
In some of the terrain on Mount Elbrus, dropping your ice axe would be a big issue - please bring an ice axe leash. If you do not have one, a small sling would suffice.
14 - Get fit!
Ascending Mount Elbrus is a tough challenge. Please ensure you are physically prepared. Aerobic fitness is good but, ultimately, you need to prepare for walking up steep hills carrying a rucksack.
15 - Snow mobiles and Snow Cats
A feature of ascending Mount Elbrus from the South Side is the possibility of using the mechanical uplift options. These are ski lifts, snow mobiles or snow cats (piste basher).
The ski lifts up to 3850m are an essential part of the journey and the cost is covered in your trip fees. You may choose to use the other options to ascend higher on the mountain. These are used to prevent having to repeat terrain already walked (most people see the benefits to using this once on the mountain) but it comes at a cost. In the daytime a snow mobile costs about 2000 rubles per person and 4000 rubles at night, per person. This can be paid in rubles, but its also possible to use $, € or £.
For the standard 8 day itinerary it is normal to take the uplift once in the day and once at night (normally on summit night) meaning a budget of about £100+ is needed. Please do bear in mind though that flexibility is the key and the number of uplifts needed may change.
16 - Fixed Ropes
On one of the higher slopes of Elbrus (around 5300m), there is usually there is a section of fixed rope that needs to be used on ascent and descent. For this you will need a 3 metre length of 9mm dynamic rope that can be made into a cowstail along with 2 screwgate carabiners. These are attached to your harness, we can show you how to make up a cowstail system once in country.
17 - Kit bags and leaving clothes in the hotel
Leaving some clothes in the hotel whilst you're on the mountain is an option. You will need a small bag or simply a sturdy rubble bag in order to do this.
In addition, you’ll need a bag to transport things to the mountain hut plus a rucksack of around 30-40 litres capacity. The mountain bag/holdall will need to be carried on the lift. So, the ideal is to bring a duffle bag of around 75 - 90 litres (ideally with rucksack style straps)
18 - Luggage Labels
Have tags on your hold luggage and any carry on luggage. We use the I-Trak system (details here https://trakandgo.i-trak.com/benefits.aspx ) but any sturdy tags will do.
19 - Hotel upgrade + Sauna
We have decided to upgrade the hotel we use in Cheget. Our new hotel has a sauna so bring along your swimming kit (there is a small charge for the use of the Sauna but after a long few days on the mountain it will be worth it!) There is also a gym - you might want to bring your work out gear too.
20 - Food arrangements on first day arrival in Cheget
On arrival in Cheget, we will try and head up on a cable car up to 3100m, this is to start the acclimatisation process. In order to do this, and there is no time to get lunch on arrival. Please bring a few spare sandwiches and snacks for this day to tide you over until dinner. These could be bought in the UK or in Moscow during our stop-over. Please don't ignore this one - we are on a tight time schedule this day.
21 - Cheget Village
Cheget is the village were we are staying in the valley. It is small and basic. There are not a lot of opportunities to buy souvenirs. There are a few stalls, and a couple of hotels/bars. Please be prepared, The village is up and coming but it is not a thriving tourist area. It may be worth preparing loved ones that you may not be bringing home that huge Russian souvenir they've always wanted!