It is possible to get
to Prielbrusie area possible from the towns of Mineralnye Vody and
Nalchik. To reach these towns, one may take flights from Moscow, St
Petersburg and some other Russian cities. There is a direct flight
from Frankfurt to Mineralnye Vody. Also there is train connection
from the main Russian cities to Mineralnye Vody and Nalchik.
From these places it is about 3-4 hours driving to Terskol. There
are no regular buses from Mineralnye Vody airport, so it is
necessary to book private tranport. Private buses are available: in
front of hotel near the airport and in front of railway station. The
local N11 service links the airport to railway station.
There are two bus stations in Nalchik: intercity and local. From the
local station there are two minibuses to Terskol at 13.00; 16.00.
The schedule is not strictly adhered to. Sometimes these buses
depart when full. It is possible to rent a car or mini bus to
Terskol at the intercity station.
By plane or train to Nalchik or Mineralniye Vody.
It's about 4 hours drive from Mineralniye Vody to Azau and about 2.5
hours from Nalchik to Azau. Azau is the highest village in the end
of Baksan valley. There is the cable car station to Elbrus in Azau
village. Regular public transport (bus) sometimes is available
sometimes not. There are no public buses from Mineralnye Vody to
Terskol or Azau. If you go from Mineralnye Vody you may be forced to
make some changes: in Baksan (that is the gates to the Baksan
valley, it's easy to get there by public transport), in Tyrnyauz, in
Elbrus village (20 min drive to Azau). If you go from Nalchic or
Prochladnyi you can take a public bus to Terskol, but the timetable
is unpredictable and sometimes this bus does not go for some days.
The most common way is coming together with other travelers and
making negotiations with a minibus driver for shared transfer.
Mineralniye Vody airport - Piatigorsk: 28 km
Piatigorsk - Baksan: 74 km (46 mi)
Nalchik - Baksan: 26 km (16.2 mi)
Baksan - Tyrnyauz: 53 km (33 mi)
Tyrnyauz - Elbrus: 44 km (27.3 mi)
Elbrus - Terskol: 15 km (9.3 mi)
Terskol - Azau: 3.5 km (2.2 mi)
Terskol -Cheget: 1.5 km (0.9 mi)
Three are required:
1. The Elbrus Region is a border zone between Russia and Georgia
and foreigners require a permit to be in any area south of the
Baksan. This is obtained at the military head office of the border
rangers in Nalchik. You should also be registered at their local
posts: in the Baksan valley at the Alpine Base Baksan; in the Adyrsu
valley near the Alpine Camp Ullutau.
Pogranotryad in Nalchik issues permits at Kabardinskaya street
192. Passes are issued between 9.00 and 13.00. if you want to have
a go make sure you have the following documents:
- - a stamped letter of application from an MFA approved
- - passports of all participants;
- - a route sheet.
This sounds easy but Russian bureaucracy will probably force you
to stay in Nalchik for a few days if you try it as a foreigner. It
is best to do it through an agency.
2. Prielbrusie National Park permit. No strict system exists for
obtaining this permit. Prices are negotiable. Park offices are
located in Elbrus village.
3. Foreigners have to be registered in OVIR (Visa and
Registration department) in Tyrnyauz. Generally hotels arrange
registration. Last year the "official" fee was $2 per person. If
OVIR officials catch an unregistered climber the fine can be very
high - but negotiable.
To climb Elbrus officially one must
have (full list of papers):
1. Russian visa.
2. Voucher with Elbrus region mentioned.
3. OVIR registration.
4. Elbrus area preserve permission.
5. Immigration card.
If you want to hike in Adyl-Su, Adyr-Su and other side valleys
that are to the South from the main Baksan valley you must have
Border zone permission.
Here below is the detailed information about
Visa: As the Caucasus is
Russia you need Russian visa to go there. There
is no any city mentioned in your visa and if you are already
in Russia you can go anywhere (except military and border zones).
To apply for a visa you need invitation (visa support) from a
tourist company or private person. Visa companies also offer such
invitations. Russian visa has fixed dates and period of stay. You
can enter Russia and leave it on any date within visa period but you
will not be allowed to enter before the beginning of visa period and
overstay is a serious violation. If you overstay you may be delayed
in Russia until all penalty procedures are over. If you leave Russia
you will need new visa to come here again or 'two entry' visa.
Tourist visa may have up to 1 month period and one entry.
Voucher: This is a part of
invitation (visa support) which is used to apply for Russian visa in
the Russian Consulate. Actually there is a rule to have that voucher
along with you but this rule does not work in most regions of
Russia. In the Caucasus police officer can ask for that voucher and
you may have problems if you have no voucher at all or have voucher
without Elbrus region mentioned. Make a copy of the voucher when you
take papers to the Consulate.
OVIR registration: There
is a law in Russia to register your visa in a local OVIR
(visa and registering department) if you are going to stay in any
region more then for few days. Even if you have registration in
Moscow you must also register in the Caucasus area too. You may be
stopped by a policeman and asked about your registration. If you
have no registration you will be fined. The only OVIR office in
Elbrus area is in Tyrnyauz (cost is 50 Rubles). Also one can make
registration in MinVody airport (costs 300 Rubles because it a kind
of service there). This registration is rarely asked in the Valley
but most likely will be asked at Mineralnye Vody airport on your way
back. To register you must have passport, Russian visa and
immigration card. OVIR registration is a stamp on your
immigration card. An inviting tourist company (if you use their
service) can do this for you without your presence when they have
Elbrus area preserve permission: This is new
(started in summer 2004) regulation. While you are in Elbrus area
(all territory higher than Elbrus village) you must have this
permission. No need to go somewhere to get it
- an inspector will find you and will ask to purchase it if you have
no the permission. The cost is USD 20 (in 2004). An inviting tourist
company (if you use their service) can do this for you in advance
without your presence.
Immigration card: This is a fancy paper which must
be filled out before the passport control gates when you enter
Russia. You have to show it to passport control officer and have it
with you when you are in Russia and when you leave the country. The
most and only important thing that OVIR registration is stamped
there that is why the card is must have thing. Also it must be
filled out properly in other case it may be considered invalid.
* * *
Border zone permit: The main Caucasus mountain
range is a border between Russia and Georgia and territory of about
5 -10 km inside Russia (depends of existing mountain passes)
considered to be a border zone. You can walk in the Baksan valley,
climb Mt Elbrus or explore the mountains North to Baksan valley. If
you are going in the valleys near the border you may be stopped by
border guard and asked about your border zone permit. If you
have no permit you may be arrested, taken to the nearest border
office (in Verckhni Baksan) and fined. You can apply for the permit
in Nalchik only (it is easy, costs nothing, but takes time to get
there and wait for some hours or even until next day). An inviting
tourist company (if you use their service) can do this for you in
advance without your presence.
No need to have a climbing permit for climbing mountains
in Russia, also Mt Elbrus. However it may be good idea to register
in rescue service (in Terskol). It's free and may be useful if you
have a problem.
If you have no..
Visa: You can not enter Russia.
Voucher: You may be delayed and fined.
OVIR registration: You may be delayed and fined.
Elbrus area preserve permission: You will be forced to pay on
Border zone permission when you are in the zone already: You
may be arrested and taken to border guard office. It may take a lot
of time. Of course you may be fined.
When To Go
The Caucasus are landlocked, but the Black and the Caspian Seas
are so large that they have a significant effect on Elbrus' climate
and precipitation. Sandwiched between the Russian steppe and the
Arctic Circle in the north and the semi-desert of the Middle East
and Arabia in the south, the Elbrus has a very variable climate. The
southern slopes are dry and subtropical, in contrast to the much
cooler northern slopes.
Above the treeline of the region, temperatures quickly fall, and
above the permanent snowline, which is higher than in the Alps, they
rarely rise above freezing. On summer nights, temperatures are on an
average -8 degrees celsius. At this temperature, snow and ice are
perfect. Temperatures above the snowline can fall to -30 degrees
celsius even during the day.
The end of July and August offer the most stable weather, but one
should watch out for afternoon thunderstorms as these are frequent
and longer periods of heavy rainfall and snowfall do occur. The
winds are often cold and violent and weather changes often. Elbrus
is quite a straightforward climb, but weather, altitude, and demands
on stamina prevent many from reaching the summit.