How hard is it to climb Mount Elbrus? Well, if you have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in the African continent and the highest freestanding mountain in the world at the elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 feet), expect Mount. Elbrus climbing to be a little bit challenging. Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in the European continent in the Caucasus range and stands at an elevation of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet).
So, in comparison, you can expect the climb to be on the ‘difficult to challenging level’, however, the answer to how hard is it to climb Mount Elbrus is more complex than this. There are several factors that you have to consider to assess the overall difficulty level of this highest peak in the European region with several climb routes. Let’s discuss in length what the Mout Elbrus climbing is all about and what you can expect during your expedition.
How Hard is It to Climb Mount Elbrus- Climbing Overview
Mount Elbrus, a part of the ‘Seven Summits’ a mountain expedition challenge to scale the highest snow-clad peak in the seven continents, represents the highest elevation point in the entire European region. Located in the southwestern part of Russia, known as ‘Strobilus’ (pine cones) among the natives, there are two peaks in the mountain, both above the altitude of 5,600 meters.
The Russian scientific expedition team was the first to summit the Elbrus East Peak at 5,621 meters (18,442 feet) in 1829. And the highest of the two, Elbrus West Peak at an altitude of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) was first ascended by the British expedition team led by F. Crauford Grove. There are generally two popular climbing routes that lead to the summit of Elbrus East Peak, the southern route and the northern route. Besides them, there are two more climbing routes to the mountain from the eastern and western sides, but they are not as popular or mainstream as the northern and southern routes.
Southern Climbing Route
This is one of the major and most popular climbing routes on Mount Elbrus, This is also one of the fastest, safest, and most convenient climbing routes as the climbers can easily reach upto 3,658 meters (12,500 feet) thanks to the cable car system en route. Although there are not much of technical segments that climbers have to overcome, due to the lack of high camp on the mountain, the elevation gain during the summit push is considered to be one of the toughest out of the seven summit peaks. The mountaineers have to ascend over the massive altitude of 1,900 meters during the summit day, making it a strenuous and tiring summit push.
There are generally two major difficult sections in this climbing route, the technical segments over the Pastukhov Rocks and the saddle point that stretches between the Western Elbrus Summit and Eastern Elbrus Summit. Climbers need to use their mountaineering tools and skills on the fixed rope in these segments for ascending and descending on the mountain.
Northern Climbing Route
Compared to the fast climbing route with access to the cable car system, the northern climbing route on Mount Elbrus can be a bit of a challenge. There are no cable car systems or chairlifts on the northern route and the mountaineers have to climb their equipment by themselves from the base camp at 2,500 meters. Also, there are more technical segments on this route in comparison to the southern route, and overcoming the elevation gain factor on the freezing slopes is no easy feat either.
Only experienced mountaineers are recommended this climbing route for the summit push as this route passes across the glaciers with risky crevasses; climbers should at least have basic crevasse rescue and short rope skills for a safe expedition from this route. Moreover, the climbers have to overcome more steeper segments on the mountain compared to the southern side. But, as there is no high camp on this route either, the strenuous summit push is quite similar to the southern route; climbers have to overcome an altitude of 1,828 meters during the summit push day. Although this is considered to be a challenging and thrilling route out of the two, in recent years there has been a growing number of climbers on this route as the southern route is most overcrowded with climbers from all over the world.
After the overview of the climbing routes and what you can expect during your expedition, moving ahead, you might indeed be wondering how hard is it to climb Mount Elbrus actually. Well, the answer depends on what route you are taking, if you taking the northern route, you can expect a bit more of a challenge and need to overcome several technical segments during the scaling.
On the contrary, the southern side is a considerably safer and more convenient climbing route as you will be able to easily reach the elevation point of 3,658 meters with the help of a cable car system. So, unlike the climbing route where you have to ascend on the slope of the mountain from the base camp (2,500 meters.) carrying your luggage and equipment, you can have a fresh start on the mountain at the higher elevation point if you take the southern route. You can even compare the success rate on each of the slopes to determine the overall difficulty level on each side, the success rate of Mount Elbrus climbing from the southern route is 80%- 90%, whereas, it is below 50% in the northern route.
However, it doesn’t mean that mountain climbing from the southern route will be a piece of a cake either. Labeled as a ‘difficult to challenging’ peak, the slopes on Mount Elbrus, whichever, you take are not easy to overcome. Mount Elbrus is indeed a deadly mountain with an annual death rate of 15- 20 climbers, relative to the number of expeditions. The major causes of death being altitude sickness and harsh weather conditions.
So if you are preparing for an expedition on this mountain, you have to take these factors into consideration, train adequately, and find the right time frame with suitable weather conditions for the climb.
Best Time for the Expedition
As the weather and climatic condition is one of the major obstacles to this highest European peak summit, choosing the right season is a very crucial factor when it comes to the successful summit of the mountain. The best time for the Mount Elbrus expedition is from June to early September, these peak climbing months have stable weather conditions and are on a relatively warmer side compared to the off-season.
Moving further ahead, even among these months, the most suitable frame for the Mount Elbrus expedition is considered to be July- August. During these peak months, the temperature of the valley can spike upto 25°C during the daytime, however, at higher altitudes above 4,000 meters, the temperature is usually in the minus degree celsius. The night and early morning temperatures can average around -20°C in the higher region even during the peak climbing season, so you can expect how harsh and freezing it is during the off seasons, especially the winter.
However, the temperature of the high altitude regions cannot be predicted easily and they often change drastically without a warning. During the Mount Elbrus expedition, the afternoon clouds and thunderstorms are pretty common even during the summer climbing window frame. Thus, if you are serious about summitting this magnificent seven-summit peak, you have to prepare yourself for any weather conditions thrown your way.
Why is It Considered Easy Peak Among Other Seven Summit Peaks?
The general assumption about Mount Elbrus being an easy summit out of the other seven summit peaks is due to the cable car system available on the southern side of the mountain that takes climbers easily to the 3,658 meters. However, it is just an en route factor, and the climbers taking the northern climbing route start from the base camp at 2,500 meters, like any other mountain expedition in the seven summit bid.
Furthermore, due to the lack of a high camp on the mountain, the climbers have to scale a really long distance during the summit push, 1,828 meters on the northern climbing route and 1,900 meters on the southern climbing route making it one of the most pectin and strenuous climb out of other seven peak. The annual 15- 20 deaths on the mountain based on general statistics is a standing statement in itself of how challenging and deadly the Mount Elbrus expedition actually is.
If you are about to take on the challenging slopes of Mount Elbrus, make sure to account for the difficulty factors of the expedition and prepare adequately for a safe and enjoyable experience.
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