UK Mountains Walking, Mountaineering and Equipment Reviews
Mount Elbrus
Climbing Europes Highest Mountain
The Expedition
Summary Report
South AmericaAconcagua6,962m
North AmericaMcKinley (Denali)6,194m
AustralasiaCarstenz Pyramid4,884m
Mount Elbrus (5,642m)

I made my attempt during August 2019. Check here for details of the climb, my preparation and any other information that I think might be useful.

Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe, located in the beautiful Caucasus Mountains. The Caucasus stretch for 880 kilometres from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. They form the physical barrier dividing Europe and Asia, although the whole range lies entirely within the former Soviet Union. The highest and most glaciated part of the Caucasus is the central region, which includes Elbrus, the fifth highest of the Seven Summits. The snowline is higher than in the Alps and the flavour of the climbing is a cross between Alpine and Himalayan. The higher altitudes are extensively glaciated, although the general configuration of the range is less complex than the Alps.

On this expedition, the intention is to climb the highest, West summit (5,642m) of Elbrus via the more remote Northern route which is considered to be nicer than the Southern aspect, not least because there are no cable cars and snow cats, a prominent feature on the climb from the South. On the Northern route we will walk from base camp, spending up to five nights on the mountain to ensure sufficient acclimatisation for what can only be described as a long and gruelling summit day of nearly 1,900m of ascent.

If the weather is clear, the views from the top should make it all worthwhile in the knowledge that we've climbed the mountain by our own efforts rather than using Cable Cars and Snowcats.


Everyone trains differently for climbs like this. My training has consisted of regular trips to UK mountains; Lakes, North Wales, Peak District and the Brecons. Good days out are key. Remember, for something like Elbrus, basically it is all about the summit day which is long and tiring, so you need to get used to long days out. For me, I like to walk somewhere around 15 miles in the mountains and 20+ miles on easier terrain, although as you will see from the various reports and my Walking Log I've done much further. I also carry a heavier sac than I really need - plenty of spares, but I've also done some wild camping weekends which necessitates more gear. On Elbrus I'll be carrying as little as possible especially on the summit day. If it's cold and I'm wearing all my gear, I should only have food, water and a camera in the sac, otherwise it will be that plus surplus clothes - for sure I'll need everything to start with, popular opinion suggests it will be -20degC at the start and get colder!

My other main form of fitness training is cycling which, whilst not exercising walking muscles per se, does work the cardio-vascular system nicely and provides impact free exercising. I have an indoor rowing machine which I use regularly and some loose weights for upper body strength. When I trained for Aconcagua many years ago my training regimen was pretty much the same so I'm reasonably confident it will work again. We'll know by mid-August!

Obtaining a Visa

Before you can go to Russia for any reason, you need a Visa. Unlike many other countries, this is far from straightforward and should not be undertaken lightly or close to departure time. There is an on-line application that needs to be completed (Russian Visa). This must not be completed and submitted more than 30 days ahead of when you intend to go to the Visa Application office - yes, you have to go in person as they take your fingerprints and triple check all your documentation! Personally, I started it well before the 30 days but returned to it several times to make minor corrections and additions which can then be saved without submission. That gives you time to think about the answers and obtain the necessary information. It asks some hard questions; you need to provide details of your last three passports, you need to name every country you have visited in the last ten years, with arrival and departure dates, you need full details of where you are staying - slightly tricky as I am climbing Elbrus - a tent on the mountain seemed a bit vague, but Jagged Globe gave me a list to be included. In addition, you need the names, addresses and passport numbers for all of your children. Actually the last bit shouldn't be too hard! As for the other stuff, popular opinion is that if you don't have previous passports, declare that the one you have is your first, and only include countries visited that have either stamps or Visas in your passport. I could not comment on whether this is a good idea or not, I simply repeat other web-based advice.

Once you have all of this, it needs to be submitted on-line and printed out to be taken with you on the day you visit the Visa office - even though they will have a copy of it on their system. In addition to this, you need your passport - which you need to give to them, so don't do this if you need the passport in the next few weeks. The paper application form that you complete needs to have a photo of you taken within the last six months - they will send you away if they think the photo is older. Whilst I was waiting my turn in the office, two ahead of me got sent to Jessops to get more photos. Maybe the Russian Embassy have a deal with Jessops? Other paperwork you need are a 'Tourist Voucher' from a Russian Travel Agency stamped and signed by an authorized person, normally the Russian agent arranging the trip and a 'Standard Tourist Confirmation' (in Russian language) of acceptance from the authorised Russian Travel Agency, registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The confirmation must contain the agency's reference number and registration number.

Some suggest you need your travel insurance documents but mine weren't required. I took additional ID (Driving License) but that too was not needed.

You can get a standard turn around which is 4-5 weeks or a 'fast' turn around which is about 5 or 6 working days - obviously this is an extra cost. For my fast turnaround Visa I paid £186. The fast turnaround is about the same speed as the standard application time for Tanzania and Nepal - go figure.

It is recommended to arrive at the office early just in case there are problems. I arrived around 9:30am and there were two people being processed and three in front of me, two of which, as I already mentioned were sent away for more photos. I had no problems with the application and in fact was out of the office in under 45 minutes. I went to the Manchester Office which is in a large office complex less than 10 minutes walk from the Market Street Tram Stop.

Footnote: My Passport with visa was returned to me the following Wednesday, which is just 4 working days including the application day. Happy with that!

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