Top Tips for your Mount Elbrus expedition......

24th Aug 2017

Elbrus Summit


Travelling to Russia and an ascent of Mount Elbrus are both fascinating experiences and yet both have some unique features that it is best to be prepared for.  As one of our Peak Mountaineering teams prepare to leave, we wanted to share some Top Tips for a relaxed and successful trip.  

Some of these are general tips that could be useful for any expedition, but most are focussed specifically on our south side itinerary.  Whether you are heading out with us or flying your own Elbrus flag, we hope you find them useful either way (for Peak Mountaineering clients please read these in conjunction with the other information we have sent to you).

- On Elbrus you spend a lot of time in a mountain hut and so do be prepared for lots of downtime.  On acclimatisation cycles you are often only out of the hut for a few hours and there isn't much else to do.  Pack some cards and games, grab a few books in the the departure lounge, download some movies and podcasts onto your phone or tablet, bring a journal or pad to write your memoirs and maybe it is time to tackle that Rubik’s cube your Auntie bought you for Christmas.  Whatever you find fun to do, please do come prepared for lots of time out.    

- You can change sterling into Roubles at the airport.

- The guides and some staff in the hotels speak some English, but it certainly isn't widely spoken. Download Google Translate onto your phone or get a phrasebook and you’ll soon make friends with the locals. 

- The hotel we use has wifi (and most other hotels do too).  You can also keep in touch with home via your mobile and a basic (but sometimes unreliable) phone signal is even available on the mountain.  Another option is to bring along an old mobile (make sure it's a type that is unlocked to work in Russia) and buy a local SIM card.  This will cost about 500 roubles.

- Having some footwear for inside the hut is essential.  Once you've taken off your boots at the door it helps to have something practical and comfortable.  You can bring specially designed hut slippers or simply a pair of trainers or approach shoes will work just as well.

- The hut dormitories are likely to be mixed gender - just so you know!

- There is electricity in the hut so remember a charging lead.

- There are pillows in the huts but we can't vouch for their cleanliness.  Best to bring along a pillow case or inflatable pillow if that bothers you.  

- All food is provided but it helps to have a supply of your favourite energy bars or snacks (a couple for each day would be ideal).

- There will be hot drinks available but if you have a particular herbal tea bag you love or you can't live without Nescafé Gold Blend or a bedtime Horlicks…..please bring some along.

- Drinking water is available at all times but some people find it easier to drink with a bit of flavour (especially at altitude).  Bringing a supply of tablets to dissolve in water works well (the sort cyclists and runners use) or some of the concentrated juices made by companies like Robinson’s are great.

- Elbrus can be cold, Elbrus can be windy and …infact what we know for sure is that the weather is very hard to predict! So, essential items are good quality ski goggles, plenty of warm gloves (follow the kit list guidance), strong sun cream (at the very least SPF 30+) and sunblock lip balm.

- It's a fun challenge, but a tough challenge - prepare yourself physically as much as possible.  General aerobic exercise is good but, ultimately, you are going to be walking up steep hills carrying a rucksack…… guess what the best preparation exercise is?! Ask us if you need more guidance.

- A unique feature of the south side of Mount Elbrus is that there is the possibility to get mechanical uplift for some way via snow mobile or snow cat (piste basher).  You may choose to use this or not (most people see the obvious benefits to using this once on the mountain) but it comes at a cost.  In the daytime a snow mobile costs about 2000 roubles per person and 4000 at night time.  This can be paid in roubles (obviously!) but the drivers are also okay taking the money in $, € or £.  For the standard 8 day itinerary it is normal to take the uplift once in the day and once at night meaning a budget of about £100 is needed. Please do bear in mind though that flexibility is the key and the number of uplifts needed may change.

- Usually there is a section of fixed rope that needs to be used on ascent and descent.  For this you will need a 3 metre length of 9mm dynamic rope that can be made into a cowstail along with 2 screwgate carabiners.  We will show you how to make up a cowstail system once in country.

- You will probably want to leave some clothing in the hotel and will need a bag to transport things to the mountain hut plus a rucksack of around 40 litres capacity.  The mountain bag will also need to be carried on the lift.  So, the ideal is to bring a duffle bag of around 90 litres (with rucksack style straps), your daysack and a separate ‘leave in the hotel’ bag.  The hotel bag could be as simple as a sturdy bin liner or rubble bag or you could bring a lightweight hold-all style bag. The hotel storage is secure.

- Have sturdy name tags on your hold luggage and carry on luggage.

- The hotel we use has a sauna (there is a small charge for this) and a gym (no charge) - you might want to bring a swimming costume and your work out gear.

- On the first day we head up on a cable car in the afternoon (to start the acclimatisation process) and there is no time to get lunch.  Please bring a few spare sandwiches and snacks for this day to tide you over until dinner.  Please don't ignore this one - we are on a tight time schedule and won't have time to get food in country.

- Don't expect washing facilities in the mountain huts.  It will be wet wipes and a long drop toilet….but think how good that first shower will feel once you are back in the valley! 

- The valley village we are staying in is called Cheget and it is small and basic.  There a few souvenir stalls and a few hotels/bars.  Please set expectations of loved ones about the quality of gifts you'll be bringing home and be mentally prepared yourselves! 

- You know that old 5P’s saying….planning and preparation prevents poor performance.  So, happy planning and preparation!

Posted by Paul

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