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Towering over the border between Russia and Georgia, Mount Elbrus is a massive, double-topped pyramid that rises out of the heart of the Caucasus Mountains. From its taller West Summit, climbers gaze out over a stunning chain of glaciated peaks that stretches unbroken from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Elbrus is the tallest mountain in Russia and the tallest mountain on the European Continent, making it one of the famed Seven Summits. Mountain Gurus’ Southside Expedition offers a unique mountaineering experience, allowing climbers to ascend a world-class objective while spending every night in the comfort of a hotel or a cozy mountain hut. Our itinerary also includes forays into the rich culture of Moscow and, optionally, Saint Petersburg.


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Mount Elbrus • Southside • 10 Days

Our expedition begins in Moscow, the capital city and vibrant, cosmopolitan heart of Russia. We tour famous landmarks including Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. We then fly south to the resort town of Mineralnye Vody, on the northern flank of the Caucasus Mountains, and continue by van to the alpine village of Azau in the heart of the Baksan Valley at the foot of Mount Elbrus. Our Southside climb utilizes a series of chairlifts and a high mountain hut where we will 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. After the climb, extend your journey with a visit to beautiful Saint Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, which was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years.

“I have experience on Rainier, Baker, Adams, Hood, Alaska Range, Ixta, La Malinche, Orizaba and now Mt. Elbrus with multiple climbs on many. The mountain itself is always unpredictable but the true success of any climb comes down to preparation and logistics. Every aspect of our trip to Russia was terrific! Moscow before the mountain and St. Petersburg after. All aspects were well planned and well executed. On the ground logistics and the in-country team were fantastic. Dennis did a great job with our team and making sure we were well prepared for the climb. By the way… 6 clients… 100% success rate to the summit. Can’t beat those statistics!” August 2014, Rick

“Our trip was an adventure – the combination of exploring Moscow, the Baskan Valley and the mountains, while enjoying the food and culture of both areas with local guides, are hallmarks of the Elbrus trip. We were excellently supported by the Mountain Gurus team. I will happily recommend this trip to others looking for an opportunity to climb Europe’s highest mountain, while experiencing a microcosm of Russian life.” August 2017, KP

Climb Highlights

  • Co-led by an American and Russian mountain guide
  • Welcome dinner in Moscow
  • Guided tour in Moscow and Saint Petersburg
  • 8 nights hotels in Moscow and Azau
  • Comfortable mountain hut includes meals
  • 2 nights hotels in Saint Petersburg
  • Hike Mount Cheget
  • Ascent of Mount Elbrus
  • Snowcat for acclimatization days
  • Mineralnye Vody Flight and land transportation
  • Contingency day for bad weather
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Moscow
Day 2 • Moscow Tour
Day 3 • Mineralnye Vody • Azau • 7,500 ft
Day 4 • Hike Mount Cheget • 11,000 ft
Day 5 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 14,000 ft
Day 6 • Elbrus Acclimatization • 16,000 ft
Day 7 • Mountain Hut • Rest Day • 12,600 ft
Day 8 • Summit Mount Elbrus • 18,510 ft
Day 9 • Contingency Day
Day 10 • Depart

Saint Petersburg Tour

Day 10 • Arrive Saint Petersburg
Day 11 • St. Petersburg Tour
Day 12 • Depart

Mount Elbrus Southside

Expedition begins and ends in Moscow, Russia.

Day 1 • Arrive Moscow

Arrive Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia (SVO). Transfer to hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel in Moscow

Day 2 • Moscow

Our expedition begins in the historic city of Moscow. Today we take a guided tour of the city’s famous landmarks including Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin.

Accommodations: Hotel in Moscow
Meals Included: Breakfast, Welcome Dinner (B, D)

Day 3 • Mineralnye Vody • Azau • 7,500 feet

We transfer to Moscow’s domestic airport for the two-hour flight to the city of Mineralnye Vody. We continue 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: Breakfast (B)

Day 4 • Hike to 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 5 • 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 6 • 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. Return to hotel.

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

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

Day 7 • Mountain Hut • Rest day • 12,600 feet

After a late breakfast we pack our gear and ascend by cable car to 12,600 feet. We spend the afternoon acclimatizing and relaxing in preparation for our summit climb. 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: 5,100 feet

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

Day 8 • 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 on the European Continent, 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 9 • 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 10 • Depart Mineralnye Vody

Transport to Mineralnye Vody for flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Saint Petersburg Tour

Or continue to Saint Petersburg for a tour of Russia’s most historic city.

Day 10 • Arrive Saint Petersburg

We transfer to Mineralnye Vody airport for our flight to the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia (LED).

Accommodations: Hotel in Saint Petersburg
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 11 • Saint Petersburg

Today we enjoy sightseeing in famous Saint Petersburg. We visit the Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the State Hermitage Museum as among many other famous sites. In the evening we enjoy a riverboat ride on the city’s canals. Return to hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel in Saint Petersburg
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 12 • Depart Saint Petersburg

Transport to Pulkovo International Airport (LED) 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

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic, one that must covers the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields.
  • 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.
  • Mid-layer Top: This is a synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: A breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Light Insulated Jacket: Light synthetic insulated jacket
  • Insulated Jacket: 700+ fill down.


  • 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.
  • Insulated Pants: One pair of synthetic insulated pants with full side zips.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible. Double plastic mountaineering boots or heavyweight 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.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 35-45L pack with good support, adequate to carry personal.
  • Duffel: One large duffel for transporting gear. Can be stored at hotel during summit day.
  • Liner Bag: One large plastic contractor bag.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-65cm 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 Sling: (2) 60cm nylon slings


  • Water Bottle: 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
  • Toilet paper, blue bag or wag bag
  • Earplugs


Program Location:
Begins and ends in Moscow, 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

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 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:

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

Things you should know about this trip

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 chairlifts 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. Snowcat fares range from $250 to $400 USD per person, depending on group size and season.

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.

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’s included in the Mount Elbrus expedition?

Our adventure begins in Moscow, Russia’s storied capital city, where we visit landmarks such as the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral and sample the food and culture of this hub of Eastern Europe. We then embark into the Russian countryside. We fly south to the spa town of Mineralnye Vody, and then travel by van into the heart of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian–Georgian border. The drive is comfortable and the scenery unrivaled as we ascend through alpine meadows and forests to the village of Azau at the head of the Baksan Valley. Azau is the last and highest settlement in the area.

Over the next few days, we make acclimatization hikes on Mount Cheget and the lower slopes of Mount Elbrus. We use a series of gondolas and chairlifts to spend one night in a high mountain hut at 12,500 feet. On summit day, a snowcat carries us to 16,000 feet. From there we continue on foot, traversing glaciers across the “Roof of Europe.”

Once we have summited, we offer an optional trip extension to St. Petersburg. Formerly known as Leningrad, St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Czar Peter the Great and is considered the cultural capital of Russia. Modern skyscrapers rise above ancient architecture in this most westernized of Russian cities. St. Petersburg offers many museums and parks. We tour Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood, and the State Hermitage Museum at the stunning Winter Palace complex.

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 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 Mountain Gurus.

Need help choosing a trip?

Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you.