The Caucasus form a chain of snowy, high, alpine mountains separating Georgia from Russia to the north. Just north of the main chain, in Russia, lies Europe's highest summit - the twin-peaked Mount Elbrus. The main chain itself contains many mountains over 5000 m and tens of summits higher than Mont Blanc.
In the valleys, clear streams tumbling down from the mountain sides mix with the rushing melt waters from the glaciers at the head of the valleys, passing through dramatic scenery, alpine meadows and beautiful forests. The Baksan Valley leads, over about 40 miles, from the northern foothills to the main chain itself.
This is the most important and best developed valley in the Caucasus, partly because of the mineral wealth located near Tyrnyauz and partly on account of Elbrus at its head and the hundreds of magnificent mountains which comprise it's watershed. Almost at the end of the Baksan Valley, at the foot of Elbrus, lies Terskol - the Chamonix of the Caucasus.
It boasts about half a dozen hotels and two ski lift systems. These facilities make it the best developed mountain sport center in the 1000 km length of the Caucasus - a range that could swallow up the Alps!
Our trip will start with an evening visit to Red Square and a morning city tour of Moscow before our flight to Mineralnye Vody, a spa town on the plains north of the Caucasus. From here a four hour bus journey takes us to our base hotel in the Baksan Valley.
We will have nine days before going on to Elbrus.
These days will be spent on two enjoyable camping trips, to build up fitness and acclimatization, following beautiful forested valleys, walking through alpine meadows, crossing glaciated mountain passes and climbing some of the easiest summits which provide superb panoramas of the Caucasus Range. During the first of these trips there is time to practice the use of crampons and ices-axe.
The trip will be porter supported but will involve backpacking with your own personal equipment including your sleeping bag. For the ascent of Elbrus itself we will use a cable car/chair lift system to take us to the Garabashi huts at 3850 m where we will stay. Otherwise we will walk up to camp at the former site of the Priut 11 hut at 4200 m using a mess tent for meals.
The actual program will depend on the group condition and availability of a Snow Cat which we will, if available and necessary, use to help us up the lower slopes of the mountain. Though gentle-angled, the ascent of Elbrus requires the use of crampons and an ice axe, hence the opportunities to practice with these during the first ten days. Very warm wind and water proof clothing is essential on Elbrus.
The trek leader and guide is Gia Ksnelashvili. He is a well-qualified and very experienced mountaineer and leader, a fluent English speaker with expert knowledge of the Caucasus. We employ extra guides on Elbrus. They will have ropes and radios.
The Elbrus expedition is considered Strenuous. On our 16 day expedition we will be walking and climbing several high passes on the way to Elbrus. Although a chairlift is utilized on the lower slopes, the climb from the top of these lifts to the summit is difficult. Weather can play a part in our progress.
Day 1: Arrive in Moscow. You will be met and taken to the Rossia Hotel - a 3* star hotel next to Red Square. Free time to sightsee. Supper. Night in hotel.
Day 2: City tour and transfer to the airport for the flight to Mineralnye Vody, on the plains north of the Caucasus. Drive by private bus to the hotel in the Baksan Valley, near Elbrus.
Day 3: Our trek starts with a pleasant walk up the Adyl-su valley to the "Green Hotel", an alpine meadow campsite at 2450 m. This is an excellent day to tone up our muscles for the days ahead.
Day 4: Walk up the Jankuat Glacier, ascend Gumachi, 3805 m, a fine summit with a mixture of terrain providing good practice with crampons. Return to camp.
Day 5: After breakfast we descend the Adyl-su valley and have lunch at the hotel. Free time. Night in the hotel
Day 6: A short drive to Vierhny Baksan from where we walk up through woods then open mountain slopes to Syltran Lake at 2950 m, one of the largest lakes in the Caucasus. Camp. This is a long, demanding day, excellent training for the long pull up Elbrus!
Day 7: Cross the Syltran Pass, 3300 m. with a possible 30 min. side trip to a nearby small summit and viewpoint. We descend by the Mukal Valley and then walk up by the Mkiara Valley to camp at 3200 m.
Day 8: Cross the glaciated Irik Pass, 3750 m. to a campsite in the forest lower down in the beautiful Irik valley. Camp.
Day 9: Finishing our descent of the Irik valley we return to the hotel. The afternoon is free to relax, have a sauna or wander into Terskol.
Day 10: We take the cable car/chair lift system up Elbrus and stay in the Garabashi Huts at 3850 m, at the Diesel Hut at 4157 m, or camp.
Day 11: Acclimatization walk to Pastuchova rocks at 4800 m.
Day 12: We begin in the small hours of the morning for the ascent to the highest of Elbrus' twin peaks - the West Summit. You carry your day pack with the day's requirements. We return to spend the night in Garabashi, Diesel Hut or camp.
Day 13: Return to hotel. Relax and perhaps enjoy one of the fine walks from the hotel. If a group attempt was not made on day 12 then the guide could consider making this a reserve ascent day.
Day 14: Drive to Mineralnye Vody, fly to St Petersburg; dinner and night at hotel in the city center.
Day 15: After breakfast we have a morning city tour. After lunch there will be free time till the evening. Supper will not be provided.
Day 16: Expedition ends in the morning.
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Europe Russia Outdoor: Mountain Ranger Mountain/Rock Climbing Hiking & Trekking