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7 days in Russia
Grade: Beginner


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Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus is located in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It is one of the famous Seven Summits. The mountain has two summits, its higher western summit stands at 18,510 ft and the eastern summit slightly lower. Little known outside of Eastern Europe, the peaks, glaciers and valleys of the Caucasus are as beautiful as the Swiss Alps. The route ascends gentle snow slopes to a saddle between the two summits and gains over 6,000 feet before reaching the western summit. Although the climb requires no previous climbing experience the ascent is long requiring good physical conditioning and the use of crampons and ice axe.

Elbrus Express • 7 Days

Our Elbrus Express climb begins in the spa resort city of Mineralnye Vody (meaning “mineral waters”) before heading to the small village of Azau in the heart of the Baksan Valley near the base of Mount Elbrus. We use a series of chairlifts and a high mountain hut, where you’ll enjoy comfortable accommodations and delicious hot meals prepared by our Russian cook. The Southside Route allows us to climb Europe’s highest peak carrying only light daypacks. Our expedition also offers the option of snowcat support above Pastukhov Rocks to 16,000 feet on summit day.

Related climbs: Mount Elbrus Southside

Need help choosing a trip?
Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you.

Who can climb Mount Elbrus?

Though the Southside Route on Mount Elbrus is non-technical, it involves high-altitude mountaineering above 18,000 feet. Climbers will benefit from prior high-altitude experience. Climbers should have a solid grasp of basic crampon and ice axe skills, plus good strength, endurance, and aerobic conditioning. Mountain Gurus offers two different programs to better serve our climbers’ varying schedules and experience levels.

Both itineraries climb the less difficult Southside Route, allowing us to use a series of chairlifts and snowcats to gain elevation on the mountain. The Southside Route is unique among Seven Summits climbs because we spend every night in a hotel in Azau or in a high mountain hut while we acclimatize and progress up the mountain. Our comfortable accommodations afford us valuable opportunities to rest and recover between days on the mountain. During acclimatization climbs, your guides will lead refresher courses on fundamental mountaineering skills.

Our 7-Day Express itinerary is better suited for those with previous mountaineering experience or more physical fitness. You will be expected to climb at a swifter guided pace.

Our 10-Day Mount Elbrus Southside expeditions include more time for rest and acclimatization, and an additional contingency day for bad weather. Mount Elbrus Southside expeditions are overseen by an experienced American mountain guide.   

As with any of the world’s major peaks, there are many guide services to choose from, but whether you reach the summit can depend largely on the expertise of your guide. Our guide team has many decades of experience in the mountains, including numerous summits of Mount Elbrus. We routinely have 100% success rates.  

What are the risks and challenges of Mount Elbrus?

As with any of the Seven Summits, climbing Mount Elbrus requires good physical conditioning and entails a certain amount of risk. At Mountain Gurus, we schedule our expeditions for late summer when the weather is most stable. But even in summer, weather in the Caucasus can be unpredictable. You should prepare for high winds and cold temperatures on the upper mountain.

With a summit elevation of 18,510 feet, altitude illness is possible on Mount Elbrus. Our expert guides carefully monitor each team member for altitude-related symptoms. On summit day, we will gain more than 5,000 vertical feet. Adequate physical training prior to the climb is essential.

The Southside Route is a non-technical climb, making Elbrus one of the less physically demanding Seven Summits. It is an excellent and rewarding choice for anyone who wants to stand on one of the world’s highest peaks. From the western summit, you will enjoy a view of a seemingly endless chain of mountains stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

Why Choose Mountain Gurus

Whenever you venture into the wild – whether to the roof of the world on Everest or to the birthplace of man on the plains of the Serengeti – you should consider two priorities. First, enjoying your adventure and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Second, staying safe. At Mountain Gurus, we ensure both. We guide thousands of clients every year on adventures all over the world. On every trip, safety is our top priority.

We look forward to supporting you throughout your journey, from booking to summit day. To learn more about our services, history and philosophy, please visit: Why Choose Mountain Gurus.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Mineralnye Vody • Azau
Day 2 • Hike Mount Cheget • 11,000 ft
Day 3 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 14,000 ft
Day 4 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 16,000 ft
Day 5 • Summit Mount Elbrus • 18,510 ft
Day 6 • Contingency Day
Day 7 • Depart

Climb Highlights

  • Co-led by an American and Russian mountain guide
  • Welcome dinner in Azau
  • 6 nights hotels in Azau
  • Comfortable mountain hut includes meals
  • Hike Mount Cheget
  • Ascent of Mount Elbrus
  • Snowcat for acclimatization days
  • Land transportation
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

“Mountain Gurus did an awesome job of planning a wonderful trip. Having a Russian mountain guide in addition to our guide was a bonus. We also got to experience the new mountain huts on Mt. Elbrus which was a pleasant surprise. The guides did a good job setting a good pace and going over the basic elements of what would help us all have a successful summit day. And as it is a rarity that everyone in the group summits, I can say that it was the extra time spent going over some basics, along with having the best guides in the business, which helped us all reach the summit! Thanks Mountain Gurus!” July 2015


Elbrus Express

Expedition begins and ends in Mineralnye Vody, Russia

Day 1 • Arrive Mineralyne Vody • Azau • 7,500 feet

Arrive Mineralnye Vody, Russia (MRV) before noon. We drive by van (three hours) to the small village of Azau in the Baksan Valley. Expedition orientation and gear check in the afternoon.

Accommodations: Hotel in Azau
Meals Included: Welcome Dinner (D)

Day 2 • Hike up Mount Cheget • 11,000 feet

We take an acclimatization hike up Mount Cheget and enjoy remarkable views of the Baksan Valley. Return to hotel.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 3,500 feet
Trekking Time: 3-4 hours

Accommodations: Hotel in Azau
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 3 • Climb to 14,000 feet on Elbrus

After breakfast we take the cable car to 12,600 feet on Elbrus. We hike above 14,000 feet to just below Pastukhov rocks for acclimatization and descend to 13,200 feet where we conduct a basic climbing school in preparation for summit day. Return to hotel.

Vertical Ascent Cable Car: 5,100 feet
Vertical Ascent Climbing: 1,400 feet
Climbing Time: 3-4 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Hotel in Azau
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 4 • Climb to 16,000 feet on Elbrus

Today we take the cable car to 12,600 feet, then continue by snowcat to 14,000 feet. We enjoy views of the mountain and the surrounding Caucasus Range as we climb above 16,000 feet to continue our acclimatization. We descend and overnight at a mountain hut. Please Note: We do not stay at the Diesel Hut. We overnight in the much nicer Leap Russia, or a cozy, privately owned mountain hut.

Vertical Ascent Cable Car and Snowcat: 6,500 feet
Vertical Ascent Climbing: 2,000 feet
Climbing Time: 4-5 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Mountainside Hut on Mount Elbrus
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Summit Day • Mount Elbrus • 18,510 feet

The day starts early. After riding the snowcat above 16,000 feet, we climb open snow slopes to the saddle between the east and west summits. We gain nearly 6,000 feet en route to the summit. Mount Elbrus is the highest point in Russian and in Europe, and is one of the Seven Summits.

Vertical Ascent Snowcat: 3,400 feet
Vertical Ascent Climbing: 2,500 feet
Climbing Time: 7-9 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Mountainside Hut on Mount Elbrus or Hotel in Azau
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 6 • Contingency Day

Descend to Azau or transport to Pyatigorsk (near Mineralnye Vody). We spend the afternoon exploring one of these Russian spa resort towns.

Accommodations: Hotel in Azau or Hotel in Pyatigorsk
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 7 • Depart Mineralnye Vody

Transport to Mineralnye Vody for flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner



Inquire for price

Rates are quoted based on double/twin sharing hotel accommodations while in Azau. Single room fees apply.

Deposit and Payments

  • A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 per person secures your reservation.
  • The balance is due 120 days prior to the start date.
  • The balance can be paid by credit card with a surcharge of 3.0%, or Zelle payment network.
  • If your balance payment is not received 120 days before the start of your program, your reservation will be canceled, and all program fees forfeited.

Price Includes

  • Scheduled land transportation in Russia
  • Scheduled meals during the expedition
  • Hotels in Azau
  • Mountain hut on Elbrus
  • Park and lift fees
  • Professional mountain guide. Groups of 6 or more are accompanied by an American guide in addition to a fully certified local guide
  • All group equipment for the expedition

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare and meals during travel
  • Domestic airfare (Moscow – Mineralnye Vody – Moscow)
  • Visa fees
  • Non-scheduled airport transfers
  • Non-scheduled meals
  • Snowcat transportation on summit day
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal gear
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Single room supplement (hotels only) $300
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Excess baggage fees
  • Tips and gratuities


A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool/ synthetic, one that covers the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. A category 4 lens is required.
  • Goggles: Dark lenses to help with snow and wind.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: One synthetic long-sleeve shirt. Hoods for sun protection are strongly recommended.
  • Mid-layer Top: A synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: This breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: A fully waterproof shell. GORE-TEX© or equivalent. Hoods are required.
  • Insulated Jacket: Heavy weight down. 700+ fill or higher required.


  • Lightweight Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
  • Softshell Gloves: One pair. Leather palms offer durability and grip.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.

Lower Body

  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton.
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated.
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants. Full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible. Double plastic mountaineering boots or Heavy weight synthetic/ hybrid mountaineering boots are required.
  • Approach Shoes: Light hiking boots or sturdy trail running shoes.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.


  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated to 0ᵒ Fahrenheit).

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 35-45 liter pack for personal gear. Should have an effective waist belt, fit properly and provide good support while carrying 25-35 lbs.
  • Liner Bags: 1 large plastic contractor bag.
  • Duffel Bag: One large, waterproof PVC duffel bafor transporting gear.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-75 cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-Locking Carabiners: (2) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Nylon Slings(2) 60 cm nylon slings


  • Water Bottles: Two, 1L wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©
  • Water Bottle Parkas: Two, fully insulated water bottle covers.

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Toilet paper, blue bag or wag bag
  • Earplugs



Program Location:
Begins and ends in Mineralnye Vody, Russia

Visa/Entry Information:
American citizens must obtain a visa prior to travel in Russia. You must obtain a Russian sponsor letter prior to applying for a Russian Visa: $248 for US citizens.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Russia

Flight Travel Information:
Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), Moscow, Russia
Mineralnye Vody Airport (MRV), Russia

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in-country in the destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in a pre-departure information packet upon booking. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Mount Elbrus Express Fitness & Training

Climbing Grade: Beginner   

Over the course of the trip we make a series of forays to successively higher altitudes, descending each night to recover in town. Even though we will be assisted by a snowcat on summit day, this climb requires stamina and endurance. Your summit pack will weigh between 25 and 30 pounds.

Before the expedition we recommend that you take a mountaineering course to master the skills essential to reaching the summit.

Here’s a suggested progression of climbs before attempting Mount Elbrus Express:

  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
  • Glacier Mountaineering Course
  • Mexico Volcanoes, Ecuador Volcanoes

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Elbrus Southside and Elbrus Express trips?

Our 10-day Elbrus Southside Expedition includes two nights in Moscow at the beginning of the trip. The 7-day Elbrus Express itinerary travels straight to Mineralnye Vody in the Caucasus Mountains without visiting Moscow. Either itinerary may be extended with an optional 3-day tour of Saint Petersburg.

Who will guide my Mount Elbrus climb?

All of our Mount Elbrus expeditions are led by one of our American guides, or by our experienced and friendly Russian guide Roman Demenko.

How much will my pack weigh on Mount Elbrus?

Mount Elbrus is a unique Seven Summits climb because we are able to use a series of chair lifts and snow cats to move to our high camp on the mountain. That means, we do not have to carry heavy, overnight backpacks. On acclimatization hikes and summit day, you will carry your personal climbing equipment, warm clothes, food and water in a pack weighing 20 to 25 pounds.

What should I climb to prepare for Mount Elbrus?

The regular Southside Route on Mount Elbrus is a moderate glacier climb at relatively high altitude. We recommend that all climbers practice basic crampon, ice axe, and glacier travel techniques before attempting Elbrus. Our 3-day and 5-day mountaineering courses on Mount Baker offer excellent preparation. Since our ascent of Elbrus is assisted by snow cats and chairlifts, this is an excellent trip for climbers who are gaining their first high-altitude climbing experience.

Will I be able to contact friends and family while on the mountain?

Most cell phone providers work in Russia. Check your provider for overseas rates before you leave, or consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival in Russia. Wifi service is available at our hotel accommodations.

Is the snowcat on summit day included in the price of the trip, and if so what are the costs?

The snowcat on summit day is not included in the price of the trip. This cost ranges from $250 – $400 USD per person depending group size and on mountain pricing.


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