SKI MT. ELBRUS
CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS, RUSSIA
Ski one of the Seven Summits.
Mt. Elbrus is a stunning volcanic peak located in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia and at 18,510′ it is Europe’s, as well as Russia’s, highest peak. On this 13 day ski mountaineering expedition, we’ll attempt a ski descent from the summit.
Visit Russia’s greatest cities during the expedition where we stay within an easy stroll of Moscow’s Red Square and in the heart of St. Petersburg.
Ski Mt. Elbrus with an experienced ski mountaineering guide, benefiting from the background, training, and expertise of our guides as you venture to higher altitudes.
Improve your chances of reaching the summit with time spent training and acclimatizing and with an itinerary that has the flexibility to accommodate for the uncertainties of Mt. Elbrus’ weather.
Base out of the Garabashi Huts on Mt. Elbrus, enjoying the hot meals prepared by the hut’s cooks and allowing us to ski one of the Seven Summits, a descent of over 6,500′ feet, carrying only light daypacks.
OVERVIEW | the experience
Mt. Elbrus (18,510' | 5,642m) is the highest peak in both Europe and Russia. Situated between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east, Mt. Elbrus rises majestically from the high green plains that stretch northward into the heartland of Russia. Just to the south of the peak lies the main body of the Caucasus Mountains, a range that rivals the Alps with its stark rugged beauty.
Our adventures begin several thousand miles to the north of Mt. Elbrus in Moscow - the political, economic, and cultural heart of Russia. We walk across the cobblestones of Red Square, beneath the shadows of St. Basil's onion-shaped domes, and cross through the thick walls of the Kremlin to visit the seat of Russian power.
We then fly south to the town of Mineralnye Vody, known for its abundant mineral springs. A three-hour drive brings us to the Baksan Valley, sitting at the foot of Mt. Elbrus and surrounded on all sides by the soaring peaks of the Caucasus. After adjusting to the altitude while hiking in the valley, we move to the Garabashi Hut at 12,000’ on Mt. Elbrus’ flanks.
The mountain’s rolling glaciers surrounding the hut provide excellent ski mountaineering opportunities, skills review, and acclimatization. The route takes us up the broad flanks of the Mt. Elbrus southside to the West Summit, the mountain's highest point. The ascent is a moderate snow climb that presents minimal technical difficulty but the altitudes to which we go make climbing Mt. Elbrus a challenging undertaking.
The descent route follows the climbing route closely, descending slopes up to 45° and is commonly a mix of snow conditions with cold winter snow up high and softer spring corn below. The terrain on our route allows us us to adapt the descent to all skiers' comfort levels and keeps the focus on finding fun turns from the summit.
After the expedition, we end in St. Petersburg. Sitting on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, this beautiful European-styled city is often described as the "Venice of the North". We spend a full day exploring St. Petersburg's stunning architecture, amazing museums, and many canals before returning home. Our time there is the ideal way to end our Mt. Elbrus adventure.
ITINERARY | the flow
DAY 1 — TRAVEL DAY
Depart U.S.A. Depending on flight times and connections travel to Moscow, Russia typically takes almost 24 hours from the U.S.
Day 2 — MOSCOW
Arrive in Moscow (SVO). A group transfer is arranged from the airport to our hotel at 4:00 p.m. We can arrange a personal transfer for you if your flight arrives after 3:00 p.m., or if you are arriving at a different airport. This will be at an additional cost but is much less expensive than taking a taxi. Once we check-in to our hotel, the afternoon is free to rest and explore the city. A team orientation meeting is held at 7:00 p.m. We spend the night in Moscow at the Park Inn Sadu.
Day 4 — AZAU
We have an early morning transfer to Moscow's domestic airport for our flight to Mineralnye Vody. A three-hour drive brings us to the village of Azau at the base of Mt. Elbrus. Located in the Baksan Valley at 7,500', Azau is a small village full of skiers in the winter and a quiet center for climbers in the summer. We spend the night in a hotel in Azau. (B, L, D)
Day 5 — AZAU
We awake for an early breakfast and to begin our acclimatization hike. We climb up the eastern slopes of the Cheget ski area, bringing us to over 11,000’ and offering impressive views of Mt. Elbrus across the valley. Descending back to Cheget via a single chairlift, we have lunch in a local café before returning to Azau. The rest of the afternoon is spent organizing our gear for the expedition. (B, L, D)
Day 6 — GARABASHI HUT
From Azau we ride two trams up to the Mir Station, and then take a chairlift to the Garabashi Hut (12,000') at the foot of Elbrus’ glaciers. Also referred to as "The Barrels", the Garabashi Hut is where we stay while on the mountain. We set off on a ski tour to acclimate on the lower reaches of the glaciers and snowfields to approximately 13,000'. (B, L, D)
Day 7 — GARABASHI HUT
We build upon our acclimatization by ascending to Pastukhova Rocks at 15,000’, gaining familiarity with the route and reviewing basic ski mountaineering techniques. We pull our skins at the Rocks and make turns back down to the Garabashi Hut for the night. (B, L, D)
Day 8 — GARABASHI HUT
We spend the morning reviewing basic mountaineering techniques such as ice axe arrest, crampon techniques and roped travel. Today's focus is on acclimatization and rest. Final preparations are made for Summit Day and we settle in early in anticipation of tomorrow's summit attempt. (B, L, D)
Day 9 — SUMMIT DAY
We get an early alpine start for the summit. We begin our ascent with a snowcat ride to Pastukhova Rocks (15,000'). From there, we climb the low angle snow slopes as we traverse towards the Saddle (17,700'). We may use a mix of ascending techniques, including skinning, ski crampons, or climbing in crampons with our skis on our packs. Mt. Elbrus has two large summit domes and the Saddle separates the East Summit from the West Summit. Both are comparable in size but the West Summit is slightly higher, and our objective. Our route gets somewhat steeper as we gain the upper summit plateau where we follow the ridge to the Summit. After enjoying the summit and its impressive views of the Caucasus mountain range, we begin our 6,500' ski descent to the Garabashi Hut. We may vary our descent route from the ascent route in order to take advantage of better snow or ski terrain. Depending on our schedule, the time of day, and the weather we have the option of taking the tram back down into the valley or spending one more night on the mountain. Summit Day time is 8 to 10 hours. (B, L, D)
Day 10 — AZAU
This extra day is scheduled into the itinerary in case we encounter bad weather or need additional time for acclimatization. Having this extra day has proven to dramatically improve the team's success. If we do not use this day for our summit attempt, we can spend the day in Azau relaxing, horseback riding, fishing and/or visiting the local market. Overnight in Azau. (B, L, D)
Day 11 — ST. PETERSBURG
We have an early departure from our hotel to Mineralnye Vody for our flight to St. Petersburg. A transfer from the airport brings us to our hotel in the center of the city. Overnight at Hotel Arcadia. (B)
Day 12 — ST. PETERSBURG
We take a half-day tour of the striking city of St. Petersburg. Attractions include a visit to the State Hermitage, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and walking along the banks of the city's many canals. The afternoon is free to check out any of the numerous churches, palaces, museums, or parks that make up this wonderful city. We finish the day with an evening boat cruise on the city's canals. We spend our final night in Russia at the Hotel Arcadia. (B)
Day 13 — TRAVEL
Return flights from St. Petersburg (LED) to the U.S. (B)
In partnership with RMI Expeditions
This trip is operated in partnership with RMI Expeditions. Our partnership combines the strengths of our guide services: RMI's decades of experience leading countless successful international expeditions, with Pacific Alpine Guides experience specializing in guided backcountry skiing and remote ski mountaineering around the world.
DETAILS | the logistics
This trip is on hold indefinitely due to the Ukraine war. There are no upcoming dates for the foreseeable future. Until there is a dramatic change in the situation in Russia, we will not be returning to Elbrus. We stand with Ukraine.