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Mount Elbrus - General info

Mount Elbrus is the two headed cone of a dormant volcano. It is connected with the Main Caucasus Ridge by the Khotiutau ridge. The highest (west) summit is 5642m high, the eastern one is 5621m. Elbrus is composed of both hard crystalline rocks and magmatic intrusions. In the surrounding valleys mineral springs are quite common and in a few places sulphurous fumes escape out through fissures, often deep under the ice cover.

Most of the slopes (up to a height of 4000 m) are not steep; lower slopes reach up to 35 but are interspersed with many rock bands (some 600-700m high), crevasses, and ice falls on the southern, northern and western slopes. Eastern slopes are less broken.

At 4200m the unique two-storied mountain hut (Diesel Hut) is located. About 45-50 people can stay in the building. It is easily reached by using the cable car and chairlift system up to 3800m (Garabashi); above that it is sometimes possible to hire a snow cat to save on the two hour glacier walk up to the hut.

The ascent of Elbrus is technically very easy but requires the use of crampons over short sections never over 40. Allow 6-7 hours and beware of rapid weather deterioration which can make route finding very difficult and the conditions arctic.


The Caucasus stretches for more than 1000 km from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. Its main ridge draws the southern border between Europe and Asia. The main ridge is also the border between Russia and Georgia.

The volcanic massif Mt. Elbrus with its two summits (Western Summit - 5642 m, Eastern Summit - 5621 m) is located about 10 km to the north of the main ridge that devides the Caucasus into East and West Caucasus, and is therefore located totally in European territory. However, except for those on the Seven Summits trail, the fact the Mt. Elbrus is Europe's highest peak is almost unknown. Politically, Mt. Elbrus is located in the Russian Federation in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic.

The glaciers on Mt. Elbrus are huge, covering about 150 square km. Six of the seven Caucasian five thousanders are located in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic: Elbrus with it's two summits, Shkhara, Dykh-Tau, Koshtan-Tau, Jangi-Tau (the seventh is Kasbek in South Ossetia/ Georgia). The official date for the first ascent on Mt. Elbrus was the 10th of July 1829, when the Caucasian Killar Khashirov, local guide for a Russian expedition, reached the top. The first foreigner to climb Elbrus was the English Douglas Freshfield, who reached the Eastern Summit together with his Balkarian guide Akhia Sottaev in 1868.

Historically, the political situation in the Caucasus was ever changing. For centuries Caucasian tribes were invaded by others like the Sarmats and the Huns. As a result, some of the Caucasian people had to move more and more into the mountains. Later, the Russians tried to get more and more influence in the Caucasian region and had their army represented in the area. But in comparison to the Chechnyans, who have been fighting against Russian political and military pressure for centuries, the political situation in the territory of the recent Kabardino-Balkarian Republic was always quiet. Kabardian diplomacy was intended to keep good relations with Russia, and the Kabardians were the first Caucasian tribe to join Russia on their own will. As a diplomatic sign they married the daughter of one of their lords with Ivan IV in 1561. Today?s politics in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic are still concerned with keeping good relations with Russia. Even though there is still fighting going on in Chechnya, the political situation in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic is quiet, and tourists visiting the Elbrus region will not sense any signs of political instability.

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