Climbing Elbrus – Which route?

Conquer Europe’s highest peak by Climbing Elbrus – Which route? Discover the best summit paths and expert tips for a successful ascent.

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.” – Unknown

When it comes to climbing Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, the journey is as important as reaching the summit. Choosing the right route is crucial for a successful ascent, ensuring an unforgettable experience and breathtaking views. In this article, we will explore the different climbing routes available on Elbrus and provide expert tips to help you make an informed decision. Whether you are an experienced mountaineer or a passionate adventurer seeking a new challenge, climbing Elbrus will push your limits and reward you with the most magnificent views Europe has to offer.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are multiple climbing routes available on Mount Elbrus, each with its own challenges and rewards.
  • Choosing the right route is crucial for a successful ascent and a memorable experience.
  • Expert tips and advice can help climbers make an informed decision about which route to take.
  • Climbing Elbrus offers unique challenges and rewards, making it a must-do for mountaineering enthusiasts.
  • Regardless of the route chosen, proper preparation and safety precautions are essential for a successful climb.

Elbrus South Route – The Normal Route

The Normal Route, also known as the Elbrus South Route, is the most popular and easiest way to reach the summit of Mount Elbrus. It is also the route that Johnny took in 2018 during his seven summits challenge. This route benefits from the convenience of a cable car and chairlift system, which operates from 9am till 3pm.

Starting the summit attempt from the Diesel Hut at 2am allows enough time to return to the chairlift if movement is efficient. The majority of climbers take the cable car system from Azau roadhead to Mir Station, and from there, either walk or take a chairlift to Garabashi or Leaprus Hut.

From Garabashi, climbers can hire a snowcat to go to the Diesel Hut or higher to Pastukhova Rocks. The hike from the hut to the Saddle takes about 3-4 hours, and from there to the summit, an additional 90 minutes should be allowed for.

The Normal Route is relatively safe, but climbers should be cautious of icy sections and stay on the designated route to avoid dangerous terrain.

Kiukurtliu Route

The Kiukurtliu Route is an alternative route to reach the summit of Mount Elbrus. Starting from below the cable-way Mir Station, the route heads west over glacier slopes, eventually leading to the Khotiutau Pass. From there, climbers ascend the south spur of the Kiukurtliu Cupola and traverse north to reach the easy northwest spur, which leads to the summit.

This route offers a more remote and quiet climbing experience compared to the popular Normal Route. It is recommended for experienced climbers or those seeking a more challenging ascent. Camping is required along the route, and climbers must bring necessary equipment such as ropes, axes, and crampons.

For those who enjoy a sense of solitude and wish to explore a less-traveled path, the Kiukurtliu Route provides a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and serenity of Mount Elbrus.

RouteDifficulty LevelCamping RequiredMain Features
Kiukurtliu RouteAdvancedYesRemote, quiet, challenging ascent
Normal RouteIntermediateNoPopular, convenient, cable car and chairlift system
East RouteAdvancedYesLess frequently used, multiple camp-bivouacs

The Kiukurtliu Route is just one of the several routes available for climbers on Mount Elbrus. Each route offers unique challenges and rewards, allowing climbers to choose an ascent that matches their skills, preferences, and sense of adventure.

Other Routes

Aside from the Normal Route and the Kiukurtliu Route, there are other routes to climb Mount Elbrus. These routes offer a different experience and are less frequently used due to the lack of permanent high facilities. Climbers attempting these routes should be experienced and prepared for multiple camp-bivouacs.

Elbrus East Route

The Elbrus East Route is an alternative option that takes climbers through the picturesque Iryk Valley. This route offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and requires crossing the Irykchat Glacier. Climbers attempting the Elbrus East Route should have mountaineering experience, as the terrain can be challenging and navigation skills are essential.

Elbrus West Route

The Elbrus West Route, starting from Polyana Dzhily-Su, is another less frequented route to the summit. This route involves a more remote approach with fewer facilities along the way. Climbers on the Elbrus West Route should be prepared for longer camping periods and self-sufficiency throughout the climb.

When attempting any of these alternative routes, climbers should be aware of the permits required to climb Elbrus. These may include the Border Zone Permit, Prielbrusye National Park Permit, and OVIR Registration. It is important to obtain the necessary permits well in advance to ensure a smooth and legal climbing experience.

While the Normal and Kiukurtliu Routes are the most popular choices for climbing Mount Elbrus, adventurous climbers may find a unique and challenging experience on the Elbrus East Route or the Elbrus West Route. Regardless of the chosen route, proper preparation, experience, and adherence to safety guidelines are paramount for a successful ascent.

Best Months to Climb Mount Elbrus

When planning your climb up Mount Elbrus, it’s important to consider the best months to ensure optimal climbing conditions. The weather on Mount Elbrus can be unpredictable, and choosing the right time to attempt the climb can greatly impact your chances of success.

The best months to climb Mount Elbrus are July and the first half of August. During this time, you can expect the sunniest days and the warmest temperatures, providing more favorable climbing conditions. These months offer the best chances of clear skies and less precipitation, making for a safer and more enjoyable ascent.

However, it’s important to note that June can still be quite cold with a significant amount of snow, especially at lower altitudes. If you choose to climb in June, be prepared for colder temperatures and potentially challenging snow conditions.

On the other hand, the second half of August can bring unpredictable weather patterns, including strong winds, snowfalls, and rain. Climbing during this time can be more challenging due to the changing weather conditions, so it’s important to plan accordingly and be prepared for any unexpected changes.

Ultimately, the best time to climb Mount Elbrus is during the summer months of July and the first half of August. These months offer the best combination of favorable weather, allowing for a safer and more enjoyable climb. However, it’s important to stay informed about the weather conditions and make adjustments to your plans if necessary.

As you prepare for your Mount Elbrus climb, make sure to check the weather forecast and consult with local experts to ensure you have the best chance of success. Preparation and timing are key factors in a successful ascent, so plan accordingly and enjoy the breathtaking experience of climbing Mount Elbrus.

South Route via the Cable Car

The most popular approach to climbing Mount Elbrus is via the South Route, which utilizes the cable car system. Starting from Azau village, climbers take the cable car to Mir Station and then the chairlift to Garabashi Station. This approach is considered the easiest, safest, and fastest way to reach the summit.

Many climbers choose the convenience of the cable car and chairlift system as it saves time and energy, allowing them to focus on the ascent. The cable car operates from 9am till 3pm, providing ample time for climbers to access higher elevations.

Once at Garabashi Station, climbers typically spend 3-5 days on the South Route, allowing for proper acclimatization and preparation for the summit push. The summit push usually begins in the early hours of the morning to take advantage of favorable weather conditions and to ensure adequate time for the climb.

“The South Route via the cable car provides a comfortable and efficient way to reach the summit of Mount Elbrus. The cable car and chairlift system allows climbers to conserve energy and focus on the climb, while also providing accommodation options at different stations along the route.”

During the climb, climbers have the option to stay at barrel huts located along the route. These huts offer basic shelter and sleeping arrangements, allowing climbers to rest before continuing their ascent.

The South Route provides a well-defined climbing itinerary, ensuring climbers have a clear plan to follow. This helps to minimize the risk of getting lost or veering off the designated path.

South Route Itinerary:

  1. Day 1: Arrival at Azau village and taking the cable car to Mir Station.
  2. Day 2: Taking the chairlift to Garabashi Station and acclimatization walks to Pastukhova Rocks.
  3. Day 3: Rest day at Garabashi Station for further acclimatization.
  4. Day 4: Summit push from Garabashi in the early hours of the morning.
  5. Day 5: Return to Garabashi Station and descent to Azau village.

Following this itinerary allows climbers to acclimatize properly, rest before the summit push, and ensure a safe and successful climb.

Elbrus South Route
Advantages of the South Route via the Cable CarDisadvantages of the South Route via the Cable Car
  • Easiest and safest route
  • Convenient cable car and chairlift system
  • Accommodation options along the route
  • Defined climbing itinerary
  • Efficient and time-saving approach
  • High number of climbers
  • Potential for congestion on the route
  • Less remote and secluded compared to other routes

North Side Approach

The North Side approach to Mount Elbrus is a more challenging and less frequently used route compared to the popular South Route. Unlike the South Route, there are no cable cars or chairlifts available on the North Side, making it necessary for climbers to carry all their gear from the base camp.

This route involves a glacier crossing, which requires climbers to have experience with crevasse rescue and short-rope techniques. It is crucial to be well-prepared and equipped with the necessary skills for navigating the icy terrain.

The North Side approach offers a more rugged and remote climbing experience. While it may require more time and preparation, it rewards climbers with breathtaking views and a sense of isolation in the face of nature’s grandeur.

Exploring the North Side allows climbers to immerse themselves in the pristine beauty of the mountain. The solitude and serenity found along this less-traveled path make it a unique and unforgettable experience.

However, it’s essential to note that the North Side approach poses additional challenges and risks. It demands a higher level of mountaineering skills, physical fitness, and mental resilience. Therefore, it is recommended for experienced climbers who are well-prepared and well-equipped.

Acclimatization and Preparing for the Climb

Before embarking on your journey to summit Mount Elbrus, it is crucial to acclimatize to the high altitude. Spending a few days adjusting to the thin air can greatly increase your chances of a successful climb. Additionally, proper preparation and having the right gear are essential for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Acclimatization Hikes

One of the best ways to acclimatize before attempting the Elbrus climb is by going on acclimatization hikes in the surrounding area. Mt. Cheget and Observatory/Peak Terskol are popular options for acclimatization hikes, offering stunning views and gradual increases in altitude. These hikes allow your body to adjust to the reduced levels of oxygen gradually, reducing the risk of altitude sickness during the climb.

Registration and Permits

Prior to starting your Elbrus climb, it is important to register with the Rescue Center in Terskol. This step ensures that your climb is monitored, increasing safety for all climbers. Additionally, you will need to obtain the necessary permits for climbing Elbrus. This includes the Border Zone Permit, Prielbrusye National Park Permit, and OVIR Registration. These permits are required to enter specific areas and must be obtained in advance.

Gear and Equipment

Having the right gear is essential for a successful climb up Mount Elbrus. Here is a checklist of the essential equipment you will need:

Essential GearOptional Gear
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Harness
  • Rope
  • Hiking boots
  • Gaiters
  • Thermal layers
  • Insulated jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp
  • Backpack
  • Climbing helmet
  • Trekking poles
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Water purification system
  • Cooking stove
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit
  • GPS device

It is important to ensure that all your gear is in good condition and well-fitted before starting the climb. This will help prevent any discomfort or accidents along the way.

Proper acclimatization and thorough preparation are critical to a successful and safe climb on Mount Elbrus. Taking the time to adjust to the high altitude, obtaining the necessary permits, and having the right gear will greatly enhance your experience on this magnificent mountain.

Travel Insurance for Climbing Elbrus

Climbing Mount Elbrus is an adventurous and exhilarating experience, but it’s important to recognize the risks associated with high-altitude climbs. That’s why having travel insurance that specifically covers mountaineering activities is highly recommended. With the right insurance coverage, you can enjoy your climb with peace of mind, knowing that you’re financially protected in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

“Having travel insurance for climbing Elbrus is like having a safety net. It provides a layer of protection that allows climbers to focus on the challenge ahead without worrying about the financial implications of potential accidents or emergencies.”

When seeking travel insurance for climbing Elbrus, it’s crucial to find a policy that includes coverage for high altitude climbs and adventure activities. World Nomads is a trusted travel insurance provider that offers comprehensive coverage for mountaineering expeditions, including emergency medical expenses, evacuation services, trip cancellation, and lost luggage.

With Mount Elbrus travel insurance, you’ll have financial security in case of accidents, injuries, or unexpected circumstances such as extreme weather conditions. This coverage can help cover medical bills, emergency rescue operations, and even the cost of cancelling or cutting short your trip.

Before purchasing travel insurance, it’s important to review the policy details and ensure that it adequately covers the specific risks and needs associated with climbing Mount Elbrus. Make sure to read the fine print and understand any exclusions or limitations.

Remember, accidents and emergencies can happen to even the most experienced climbers. Having the right travel insurance provides you with the necessary support and peace of mind to fully enjoy your Mount Elbrus experience without unnecessary worry.

Mount Elbrus travel insurance

Key Benefits of Mount Elbrus Travel Insurance:

  • Emergency medical coverage for accidents or illnesses that may occur during the climb.
  • Evacuation services to transport you to the nearest appropriate medical facility in case of emergencies.
  • Coverage for trip cancellation or interruption due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Protection against the loss or theft of luggage and personal belongings.
  • 24/7 assistance helpline to provide support and guidance in case of emergencies.

Choosing the right travel insurance for climbing Elbrus is an essential part of your preparation. It ensures that you’re protected financially and can focus on the incredible challenge of reaching the summit. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back; climb Elbrus with confidence, knowing that you have the necessary coverage.

Accommodation Options on Elbrus

On Mount Elbrus, climbers have various accommodation options. The barrel huts, also known as “bochki,” are steel containers that provide basic shelter and sleeping arrangements. These huts are located at different stations along the climbing routes and offer accommodation for a fee.

Alternatively, climbers can choose to camp in their own tents, finding suitable spots for pitching tents. Camping is free, but climbers should be aware of the weather conditions and find wind-protected areas. It is important to pack appropriate gear for either accommodation option.

Accommodation OptionDescription
Barrel HutsSteel containers offering basic shelter and sleeping arrangements
CampingPitching tents in suitable spots

How to Get to the Starting Point

To begin your Mount Elbrus climb, you’ll need to travel to Azau village, which serves as the starting point for the cable car system. If you’re coming from Terskol, you can take a shared taxi to Azau for convenience. Once in Azau, the cable car will transport you from the village to Mir Station. From there, you can access the chairlift that will take you to Garabashi Station, which is located at an elevation of 11,000 feet.

It’s important to plan your journey accordingly and arrive early at the cable car to secure your spot. This will ensure that you have enough time for your summit push. While many climbers choose to use the cable car and chairlift for transportation, some opt to hike from Azau to Garabashi. This budget-friendly option gives you a chance to experience the journey on foot but requires more time and physical effort.

Regardless of your chosen mode of transportation, reaching the starting point is an exciting milestone on your Mount Elbrus adventure.

Climbing Mount Elbrus – South Route Itinerary

The South Route via the cable car follows a specific itinerary. Before embarking on the climb, climbers typically spend a few days acclimatizing in Terskol. This allows their bodies to adjust to the high altitudes and reduces the risk of altitude sickness.

Once acclimatization is complete, climbers begin the ascent by taking the cable car system from Azau village to Garabashi Station or the Leaprus Hut. This convenient mode of transportation saves time and energy, allowing climbers to focus on the ascent.

Acclimatization walks to the Pastukhova Rocks are an essential part of the itinerary. These walks further prepare climbers for the challenges ahead and help them adapt to the altitude. It is crucial to follow the recommended schedule and take the time to rest and acclimatize adequately.

The final summit push begins in the early hours of the morning from Garabashi. Climbers should start early to maximize their chances of reaching the summit and to avoid any potential hazards later in the day. The ascent typically takes around 8-9 hours, depending on individual fitness levels and weather conditions.

After reaching the summit and taking in the magnificent views, climbers commence the descent, which usually takes 3-5 hours. It is essential to maintain focus and caution during the descent, as fatigue and gravity can pose challenges.

Following this itinerary ensures a well-planned and successful climb of Mount Elbrus via the South Route. It allows climbers to make the most of their experience while prioritizing safety and acclimatization.

Climbing Mount Elbrus – North Side Itinerary

The North Side approach to climbing Mount Elbrus follows a different itinerary and requires more time compared to the South Route. Climbers typically start from the base camp at about 8,200 feet and make their way towards the summit, which involves a glacier crossing and steep snow slopes. The itinerary includes multiple camp-bivouacs and requires experience with crevasse rescue and short-rope techniques. Climbers should allow for approximately 6-8 days to complete the North Side itinerary.

Elbrus North Side Climbing Schedule

Day 1Arrival at base camp (8,200 feet), set up camp
Day 2Acclimatization hike in the vicinity of base camp
Day 3Trek to High Camp (12,000 feet), establish camp
Day 4Rest day at High Camp for acclimatization
Day 5Summit push to the summit of Mount Elbrus (18,510 feet)
Day 6Descent to High Camp
Day 7Return to base camp
Day 8Departure from base camp

Climbing Mount Elbrus via the North Side requires careful planning and a higher level of mountaineering skills. The glacier crossing and challenging terrain demand experience with crevasse rescue and short-rope techniques. It is important to follow the itinerary and allow for sufficient rest and acclimatization along the way. The North Side climb offers a more rugged and remote experience, providing climbers with a sense of adventure and solitude.

Safety Considerations and Tips for Climbing Elbrus

Climbing Mount Elbrus comes with inherent risks, including altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions, and the potential for accidents. It is important to be aware of these risks and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and successful climb.

Acclimatization and Preparing for the Climb

Proper acclimatization is crucial when climbing Mount Elbrus. Spend a few days at lower altitudes to allow your body to adjust to the reduced oxygen levels. Consider acclimatization hikes, such as Mt. Cheget and Observatory/Peak Terskol, which can help prepare your body for the higher elevation.

Furthermore, it is essential to have the appropriate gear for climbing Elbrus. This includes crampons, ice axes, a harness, warm clothing, and sturdy footwear. Make sure to check the condition of your equipment before the climb and replace any worn-out or damaged gear.

Staying on Designated Routes

When climbing Mount Elbrus, it is important to stay on the designated routes. Straying from the path can lead to dangerous terrain, including crevasses and unstable slopes. Familiarize yourself with the route before the climb, and follow the markers and signage to ensure your safety.

Experience and Climbing with a Guide

Mount Elbrus is a challenging mountain, and it is recommended to have sufficient mountaineering experience before attempting the climb. If you are a novice climber, consider joining a guided expedition led by experienced mountaineers. Climbing with a guide provides added safety and support, as they have extensive knowledge of the mountain and can assist you in case of emergencies.

Weather Conditions and Backup Plans

The weather on Mount Elbrus can change rapidly, and it is important to be prepared for various conditions. Monitor the weather forecast before the climb and be flexible with your plans. If the weather deteriorates, have a backup plan in place and be willing to adjust your itinerary accordingly. Safety should always be the top priority.

“Climbing Mount Elbrus requires careful planning, preparation, and respect for the mountain. It is essential to prioritize safety at all times and be aware of the potential dangers that can arise during the climb.” – Experienced Mountaineer

Personal Limits and Safety Guidelines

Each climber has their own physical and mental limitations. It is important to know your capabilities and not push yourself beyond what you can handle. Pace yourself during the climb, take breaks when needed, and listen to your body.

Additionally, familiarize yourself with safety guidelines specific to Mount Elbrus. These guidelines may include information on altitude sickness prevention, emergency procedures, and communication protocols. Following these guidelines will contribute to a safe and successful climb.

Recommended Guides and Tours

For those who prefer to climb Mount Elbrus with the guidance of experienced professionals, there are several reputable guides and tour operators that offer organized expeditions. These companies specialize in Elbrus climbing and provide expert knowledge, logistical support, and a safe climbing environment. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, joining a guided tour can enhance your overall climbing experience and increase your chances of reaching the summit.

Two highly recommended companies for Elbrus climbing guides and guided tours are G-Adventures and Intrepid Travel. Both companies have a proven track record in organizing successful expeditions to Mount Elbrus and offer a range of tour options to suit different preferences and levels of experience.


G-Adventures is a renowned tour operator that offers guided tours to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations, including Mount Elbrus. Their Elbrus climbing expeditions are led by experienced guides who provide valuable instruction, support, and guidance throughout the journey. G-Adventures offers both small group tours and private expeditions, allowing climbers to choose the option that best fits their needs. With a focus on sustainability and responsible travel, G-Adventures ensures a safe and environmentally conscious climbing experience.

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel is another trusted tour operator that offers guided tours to Mount Elbrus. Their Elbrus climbing expeditions are led by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about mountaineering and dedicated to providing a memorable and rewarding experience. Intrepid Travel offers a range of itineraries, including unique routes and alternative approaches, for climbers seeking a more adventurous and off-the-beaten-path experience. With a commitment to sustainable travel and cultural immersion, Intrepid Travel ensures climbers have an authentic and impactful journey.

By joining a guided tour, climbers can benefit from the expertise of experienced guides, access to local knowledge and resources, logistical support with permits, accommodations, and transportation, and the camaraderie of climbing with like-minded individuals. These tours provide an organized framework for the climb, ensuring safety, comfort, and an overall smoother and more enjoyable climbing experience.


Climbing Mount Elbrus offers a thrilling and challenging adventure for mountaineers. Whether you choose the popular Normal Route via the cable car system or the more remote and rugged North Side approach, adequate preparation and route selection are crucial for a successful ascent.

When climbing Elbrus, prioritizing safety and acclimatization is essential. It is important to follow safety guidelines, consult with experienced climbers or guides, and be mindful of personal limits throughout your journey. Taking the time to acclimatize to the altitude and having the right equipment will greatly contribute to the success of your climb.

Regardless of the route you choose, Mount Elbrus offers a remarkable achievement for those who respect the mountain and approach the climb with the right amount of preparation and guidance. So, grab your gear, consult the route recommendations, and embark on this remarkable adventure. Happy climbing!

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