Elbrus (5642m) – Highest mountain in all of Europe

Mount Elbrus is the highest mountain in the Caucasus mountain range, Russia & all of Europe.

5 more steps to the summit From sea level to 5600m
in just over 4 days left appreciable traces

The standard route is classified as non-technical and the mountain can be climbed with an ice-axe + crampons only. So leave your ropes at home but be prepared, you are pushing into extreme altitude and severe weather conditions & desperate cold claim lives every year. Wikipedia states that “the average annual death toll on Elbrus is 15–30, primarily due to many unorganized and poorly equipped attempts to summit the mountain.”

Click on topographical map to enlarge  The view from space

Click (coming soon) to download the GPS placemarks for GoogleEarth.

Click here for: Elbrus Weather Forecast

Team Google: Dan (California), Zigeiner (Bavaria),
Ed (Slovakia) & Jan (Czech Republic)…
…successfully setting up the highest ever shooting of
Google StreetView imagery @ 5642m in -21°C

We decide to head for the South Face Route in a 9-day return trip from Dublin. Pilgrim Tours offers a Lite Package for independent climbers who prefer support only concerning invitation letters, climbing permits, visas and local transportation.

Day 1 & 2

We fly from Dublin (sea level) to Amsterdam to Moscow to Mineralnye Vody. From there it is a further 3.5 hour car ride to Terskol (2163m). The weather is miserable when we arrive Sunday evening and all night long we can hear roaring thunderstorms from high up the mountains.
 Zigeiner playing with remains of the Russian / Georgian conflict ⇒

Day 3

Today we buy food + gas for the mountain and sort out last bits of equipment in the two local gear shops which hold an actually quite decent collection of good quality second-hand gear. In the afternoon we take the chairlift up Mt. Cheget (3650m) to acclimatize and enjoy one more night in our warm & dry hotel beds.

 Terskol city center  “Acclimatizing” in downpour @ about 3400m

 Day 4

The cable car takes us from Azau (2350m) up to Barrels Hut (3700m) where we are offered a 100m vertical ride in a snow cat, provided, we stay in one of their shelters (~10U$/night).

For the first time we spot both Elbrus summits Riding in the back of a snow cat

Later in the day we hike up to Diesel Hut (4100m) to further acclimatize. Climb high – sleep low.

The view from camp onto the Caucasus range
Inside one of the containers Jan melting snow

Day 5

Protected from wind & snow inside, the temperature stays just above freezing level overnight. And after a long but lightheaded sleep we pack up and continue our hike up the mountain to around 4100 meters. A few meters above Diesel Hut we manage to retrieve another 4 berths in one of the shelters and our tents remain inside the packs.

We get a taste of why this mountain is so dangerous: within mins we are in complete white-out! We share the 16m² shelter with
another 8 climbers from the Ukraine

During our afternoon hike to about 4450m and the thin air reminds us that we are nowhere near ideally acclimatized. At current altitude the barometric pressure is already less than 70% (447mmHg) compared to sea level. The Ukrainian climbers, as an exemplary example, have spent 10 days on the mountains and are aiming for the summit the coming night. So do we! The weather prediction looks promising and with all the StreetView equipment packed we don’t wanna miss this exclusive opportunity…

Day 6

We set our alarms for 2 o’clock, choke a bowl of porridge and start our 1600 meter summit attempt at 3:16am sharp. The sky is full of stars, wind blows at around 40 km/h and my thermometer shows a moderate -5°C.

Almost all other climbers we come across that night take advantage of snow cats (400U$/cat/10ppl.) which bring people up as high as Pastukhov Rocks at around 4600m. We climb ourselves. A few of the “passengers” we would later catch half way up the mountain staggering heavily due to their quick ascent and the kicking effects of AMS. We also pass several climbers sitting absent in their own vomit.

Ed visibly tattered. Also hit by minor frostbite he decides
to turn around just past the 5000 meter mark.

As Jan & Dan also show alarming signs of exhausion a couple of hours later, I take all SV camera equipment, axes and pull Dan by a leash. I’m loving it…

 Boooom – this is why we climb mountains!!  Jan & Dan fighting hard

11 hours later we are the happiest (and highest) Schnitzels in all of Europe!

Jan enjoying the incredible summit panorama – we are on the roof of Russia!!

It takes us about 3 more hours to get back down to camp again

Day 7

The next morning we make use of another beautiful day and “streetview” the two camps around Diesel Hut & Barrels Hut. With the last cable car we head back down to Azau in the afternoon and, of course, exessively celebrate our victory…


Jan & Ed are obviously enjoying Zigeiner’s
gratitude towards nature.

 Getting hammered Russian style!

Day 8

  Actually… today was ment to be our spare summit day… instead we have all day to wonder from what we need to recover more: the mountain or last night?!

Day 9

Sunday early morning a taxi takes us to Mineralnye Vody and we fly home to Dublin via Moscow and Amsterdam. Monday morning 8:30 am sharp – I am back in the office.

Thank you real world for this short, intense & epic escape from the “bubble”!!


August 27, 2012  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: On the road 2011-13 Views: 8981

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2 Responses

  1. www.zigeiner.de » Zigeiner live on Google Maps Hangout announcing “The World’s highest peak collection” - April 11, 2013

    [...] Click here to check out the full expedition report about Europe’s highest peak ”Mt. Elbrus” (5642m) in the Ru…. [...]

  2. Nico - October 1, 2012

    Che que historia!

    Acabo de leer la historia del Elbrus. Que increible. Super buenas las fotos tambien!

    Te felicito otra vez!