|Elevation||5,642 m (18,510 ft) |
|Prominence||4,741 m (15,554 ft) Ranked 10th|
Volcanic Seven Summits
Country high point
|Topo map||Elbrus and Upper Baksan Valley by EWP|
|Age of rock||Unknown|
|Last eruption||50 CE ± 50 years|
|First ascent||(west summit) 1874, by Florence Crauford Grove, Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, Peter Knubel and guide Ahiya Sottaiev
(lower summit) 22 July 1829 by Khillar Khachirov
|Easiest route||basic snow/ice climb|
Mount Elbrus (Karachay-Balkar: Минги-Тау (Mingi Taw), Russian: Эльбрус, Georgian: იალბუზი) is an inactive volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia. Mt. Elbrus's highest peak is the highest mountain in the Caucasus, in Russia, and in all of Europe. Mt. Elbrus (west summit) stands at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the east summit is slightly lower at 5,621 metres (18,442 ft).
The name Elbrus (English pronunciation: /ˈɛlbrəs/) is a metathesis of Alborz. The name Alborz is derived from that of Harā Bərəzaitī, a legendary mountain in Persian mythology. Harā Bərəzaitī reflects Proto-Iranian *Harā Bṛzatī. *Bṛzatī is the feminine form of the adjective *bṛzant- "high", the reconstructed ancestor of modern Persian boland (بلند) and Barz/Berazandeh. Harā may be interpreted as "watch" or "guard", from an Indo-European root *ser- "protect". In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī became Harborz, Modern Persian Alborz, which is cognate with Elbrus.
Elbrus stands 20 km (12 mi) north of the main range of the Greater Caucasus and 65 km (40 miles) south-southwest of the Russian town of Kislovodsk. Its permanent icecap feeds 22 glaciers, which in turn give rise to the Baksan, Kuban, and Malka Rivers.
Russia is just off the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is responsible for many of the world's volcanic and seismic activity. Elbrus sits on a moving tectonic area, and has been linked to a fault. Apparently, Elbrus has a "deep" supply of magma that resides underneath it.
The volcano is currently considered inactive, as no eruptions have ever been recorded. Elbrus' last eruption was probably as recent as the Holocene, according to the Global Volcanism Program, and took place between 0 and 100 AD. Evidence in the form of several lava flows on the mountain which look fresh and roughly 260 square kilometres (100 sq mi) of volcanic debris has been analyzed. The longest flow extends 24 kilometres (15 mi) down the northeast summit, indicative of a large eruption. There are still more various signs of activity still present on the volcano, including solfateric activity and hot springs.
The ancients knew the mountain as Strobilus, Latin for 'pine cone', a direct loan from the ancient Greek strobilos, meaning 'a twisted object' — a long established botanical term that describes the shape of the volcano's summit. Myth held that here Zeus had chained Prometheus, the Titan who had stolen fire from the gods and given it to ancient man — likely a reference to historic volcanic activity.
The lower of the two summits was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, a Kabardian guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel, and the higher (by about 40 m - 130 ft) in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, and Swiss climber Peter Knubel. During the early years of the Soviet Union, mountaineering became a popular sport of the masses, and there was tremendous traffic on the mountain. In the winter of 1936, a very large group of inexperienced Komsomol members attempted the mountain, and ended up suffering many fatalities when they slipped on the ice and fell to their deaths. The Wehrmacht occupied the area surrounding the mountain from August 1942 to January 1943, during World War II, with 10,000 soldiers of a Gebirgsjäger (Mountain Troop) division. A possibly apocryphal story tells of a Soviet pilot being given a medal for bombing the main mountaineering hut, Priyut 11 ("Refuge of the 11"), while it was occupied. He was then later nominated for a medal for not hitting the hut, but instead the German fuel supply, leaving the hut standing for future generations. When news reached Adolf Hitler that a detachment of mountaineers was sent by the general officer commanding the German division to climb to the summit of Elbrus and plant the swastika flag at its top, he reportedly flew into a rage, called the achievement a "stunt" and threatened to court martial the general.
The Soviet Union encouraged ascents of Elbrus, and in 1956 it was climbed en masse by 400 mountaineers to mark the 400th anniversary of the incorporation of Kabardino-Balkaria, the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic where Elbrus was located.
From 1959 through 1976, a cable car system was built in stages that can take visitors as high as 3,800 metres (12,500 ft). There is a wide variety of routes up the mountain, but the normal route, which is free of crevasses, continues more or less straight up the slope from the end of the cable car system. During the summer, it is not uncommon for 100 people to be attempting the summit via this route each day. Winter ascents are rare, and are usually undertaken only by very experienced climbers. Elbrus is notorious for its brutal winter weather, and summit attempts are few and far between. The climb is not technically difficult, but it is physically arduous because of the elevations and the frequent strong winds. The average annual death toll on Elbrus is 15-30, primarily due to "many unorganized and poorly equipped" attempts to summit the mountain.
The Normal Route is the easiest, safest and fastest on account of the cable car and chairlift system which operates from about 9am till 3pm. Starting for the summit at about 2am from the Diesel Hut should allow just enough time to get back down to the chairlift if movement is efficient. Note in bad weather the chairlift section may be closed, also note the chairlift ride is 15 minutes long and can be very cold.
The majority of groups take the cable car system from Azau roadhead to Mir Station from where either a 1 hour walk or a chairlift takes them to Garabashi - "The Barrels". Above it may be possible to hire a snow cat to go to the Diesel Hut (site of the burnt Priut Hut) or higher to Pastukhova Rocks. Walking this takes 90 minutes to the hut and almost 2 hours more to the rocks. The walk to the Saddle takes another 3 to 4 hours and from there to the summit, a further 5 to 6 hours should be allowed for.
There are no major difficulties on the route, however after strong winds icy sections may be exposed and a fall could result in a slide. Particular care should be taken on the traversing ascent from the Saddle. The Saddle hut is a ruin that offers no shelter. There are few crevasses of any size or danger if you stick to the route but only 50m off the route you could be in dangerous terrain. Details and diagrams:
A longer ascent route starts from below the cable-way Mir station and heads west over glacier slopes towards the Khotiutau pass. Some distance before reaching this the south spur of the Kiukurtliu Cupola is climbed to a broad glaciated saddle behind pt.4912 (top of the SW spur). Now a rising traverse north is made to attain the easy northwest spur by which the summit is gained. This expedition involves 3 nights camping-bivouacs; parties also need a rope, axe and crampons. Kiukurtliu route details
Climbing Elbrus from other directions is a tougher proposition because of lack of permanent high facilities. Freshfield always maintained that a route from the east up the Iryk valley, Irykchat glacier and over the Irykchat pass (3667m) on to snowfields below long rock ribs of the east spur would become the shortest and most used approach. A hut built long ago on the north side of the lrykchat pass is now wrecked, and in any event the vertical interval calls for at least 2 camp-bivouacs. Other route details and map
Three are required:
1. Border Zone Permit. 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 192 Kabardinskaya street. Passes are issued between 9.00 and 13.00, and the following documents are necessary:
- a stamped letter of application from an organisation approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Russia); - passports of all participants; - a route sheet.
This sounds easy but Russian bureaucracy will probably force foreigners to stay in Nalchik for a few days. 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. OVIR Registration. Foreigners have to be registered in OVIR (Visa and Registration department) in Tyrnyauz. Generally hotels arrange registration. Last year the "official" fee was 50 roubles per person. It may be obtained at Mineralnye Vody airport at a much higher price. Unregistered climbers may face a fine that can be very high - but negotiable.
All of these permits are generally arranged in advance by agents. 
Mount Elbrus is said to be home to the 'world's nastiest' outhouse which is close to being the highest privy in Europe. The title was conferred by Outside Magazine following a 1993 search and article. The outhouse is surrounded by and covered in ice, perched off the end of a rock, and with a pipe pouring effluvia onto the mountain.