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Ascent of Elbrus on 2015-08-18

Climber: Andrew Rankine

Date:Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Elbrus
    Location:Russia
    Elevation:5641 m / 18510 ft

Ascent Trip Report

I summited Elbrus on an 8-day tour with Pilgrim Tours, a company that I would highly recommend to all who are looking for an operator on this peak. The hotel in Terskol was excellent, the food was pretty good, and the portions were more than enough.

Before going to Elbrus I attempted Mont Blanc with my friend to acclimatize but did not manage to get past the Grand Couloir due to rockfall. Afterward we went to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, arriving in Mineralnye Vody on Friday (August 14) at noon.

After a 4 hour drive from the airport, via Pyatigorsk and Baksan we made it to Terskol. If driving solo there are a lot of police pulling over people and checking papers at checkpoints. The driver seemed to know all the cops though so it was no issue.

Saturday: Took the chairlift from Terskol up to about 3000 m on Cheget, and hiked an hour to 3500 m. A very easy day.

Sunday: Move bags to Barrels huts, hiked to Pashtuhov Rocks but had to turn back because a storm was coming in. Later we heard that some Polish climbers were lost in the storm. Stayed in the huts, which was not very comfortable. If I were to climb Elbrus again I could bring a thermarest to use in the huts.

Monday: Because we did not get to 4700 m (the top of Pashtuhov Rocks) the previous day, we hiked up to the lower part of the rocks at 4500 and turned back. Got some rest before summit day.

Tuesday: Got up at midnight, breakfast at 12:50, and took the snowcat to 4700 m at 2 am (it cost 600 euros for the group of 15 people). Our group voted to take the snowcat because the afternoon was supposed to be stormy. The snowcat had no cab, so we sat outside and it was cold except for the hot diesel fumes that blew all over us.

At 2:30 we got to 4700 m and began the ascent. It wasn't as cold as expected, maybe -10 C and -20 C windchill. My water bottles in my pack (stored upside down in my spare layer) did not freeze at all. The wind picked up at 4 am, up to perhaps 50 kph and gusts a bit higher, but settled down to 40 or so for the rest of the day, with gusts to 60 about on the summit. I confirmed these numbers with the weather report after the ascent.

The route was very busy, and we were constantly passing people going both up and down. By 7 am we reached the saddle (5300 m), with a surprising amount of elevation loss.

The next section to the fixed ropes was very steep and slow going. By this point I was feeling the altitude but was close enough that I was determined to summit. We reached the fixed lines that can be seen from the saddle, and after 300 m were on the summit plateau. There were so many people on the fixed lines with only a carabiner that a fall would have pulled 10 or so people onto a single anchor. It didn't seem very safe. A jumar or tibloc would probably be a better tool, but it wasn't even that difficult to warrant any equipment.

20 minutes later we were on the summit, got the summit pics, and descended after 15 minutes. As I began feeling better about being at a lower altitude I felt a dehydration headache coming on.

We descended to the Pashtuhov Rocks, and a couple members of the group voted to take a snowcat down so we took it. It cost 2000 rub per person. A solo climber could also take a snowmobile down the mountain for 2000-4000 rub. A bunch of them were waiting for climbers at the rocks.

At the huts we had the choice to stay the night there or descend to Terskol. We chose to descend but the upper chairlift was broken from the lightning storm a couple nights ago. But the guide got a lorry to take us down to the middle station for 300 rub each.

All in all, a good ascent. With the snowcat it was not too tough, and I was surprised how easily we did it considering our acclimatization.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1641 m / 5384 ft
    Trailhead:4000 m / 13126 ft
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:3 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Andrew Rankine
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