This is a 10-day ski expedition and ventures right into the heart of the mighty Caucasus Range. Nestled between the Caspian and the Black Sea, it's a seriously wild place! In April and May snow conditions are usually excellent and the surroundings are majestic and virtually undeveloped. We start with some superb day touring in the Adyr-Su and Baksan valley before attempting the Elbrus ascent.
Although Elbrus is not a technical peak (less technical than Mont Blanc), it is very strenuous and you should be able to ski-tour all day, and be cable of 1300m height gains. However this is a physically demanding tour requiring good fitness and acclimatisation. Typically those that ski Mount Elbrus will already have completed a classic high altitude ski tour such as the Haute Route or Mont Blanc.
Elbrus is an extinct volcano so is conical in shape and has two distinct summits. The western summit is higher and is climbed from a mountain hut (known as the ‘Barrels’) at 3800m. With the right weather conditions, it is a relatively straightforward climb with crampons and ice-axe sometimes necessary on the icy upper slopes, however with good snow it is possible to ski-tour all the way to the summit with a superb (and long) powder run down.
On this expedition you will be lead by a Mountain Tracks IFMGA guide and a local guide working in tandem. For accommodation we use good quality hotels in the valley, and serviced mountain refuges on the mountain, for the most part the accommodation is full board.
We will make every endeavour to carry out the itinerary as shown but alterations may have to be made owing to weather and snow conditions.
A snow cat can be taken from the barrels to Postokov rocks on summit day. This takes you about 900m up the mountain and is STRONGLY advised for all teams unless you are very well acclimatised and have excellent fitness. The cost is about €450 split between the team.
Fly to Moscow and on to Mineralnye Vody, just to the north of the Caucasus range. The group will be met at the airport and taken to a local hotel.
From Mineralnye Vody it is a 3-4 hour journey (180kms) by road to the Ullu Tau Lodge in the Adyr-Su Valley. This will be your base for the next 5 days. We start the trip with a first ski tour in the afternoon.
Breakfast is usually at 6am to gain the best snow conditions, we return to the lodge each night. Packed lunches are provided but its good to have some extra energy bars as most of the days involve 1200m to 1800m of ascent. The main Baksan valley has many smaller valleys leading off allowing access to some beautiful peaks and passes. Daily itineraries between 6 to 8 hours long may include the following depending of weather conditions and group aspirations.
Chotchat Peak 3870m is seen to the south west and is a great first day outing as its not too steep with only a small glacier but affords great views of future objectives. Ascent 1200m
Granovskova Pass 3900m is south east of the lodge and is an easy angled but very long ascent off 1400m. Towards the top we cross the large crevassed Adyrsu glacier.
Mestia Pass 3750m follows the same route as the Granovskova Pass but ascends south half way along. On the way we stop for lunch in the bivoac hut next to the Adyrsu glacier at 3050m a great viewpoint back towards Chotchat Peak and Gumachi. Ascent 1200m
Garvash Pass 3710m is due south of the main valley and has some steep skinning and kickturns. It crosses the Ullutau glacier and depending on the state of this crampons may be needed to get to the pass. Ascent 1200m
Koiavgan Pass 3500m this faces directly west from the lodge and is a short steep un glaciated ascent.
Gumachi Pass 3540m is usuallyattempted on the last day as it allows us to ski into the adjacent Adylsu valley where we get transferred to the Nakara Hotel. This ascent is a great wilderness ski tour with breathtaking scenery and stunning views of Elbrus on the descent towards the main Baksan valley. This day can only be attempted in good wether and does involve a short easy abseil/lower over the col. There is an option for fit teams to ascend Gumachi Peak 3805m if conditions are favourable.
Rest day. Travel by road into the Baksan valley and to the Nakra Hotel. If you are feeling energetic, you may wish to ascend Cheget Karabashi (3400m) or ski using the Cheget chairlift system.
Today we drive to Azau at the foot of Elbrus ski station. We use the ski lifts to transport ourselves and equipment to Garabashi Station 3800m. From here we transfer our bags to the 'barrels' and get settled in. These are basic but warm and within a short walking distanceof our dining room. We usually undertake a short ski tour up to the old Priut 11 hut 4157m.
Acclimatization ascent up +950m to the Pastukhov rocks (4750m) where there are spectacular views including Ushba, the ‘Matterhorn of the Caucasus'. Return to the 'barrels' lodging overnight.
Summit day: an early 4am start for the 8-10 hour ascent of Elbrus (5642m). This is a long ascent up vast, windswept ice fields. A snow cat can be taken from the barrels to Pastukhova rocks on summit day. This takes you about 700m up the mountain and is STRONGLY advised for all teams unless you are very well acclimatised and extremely fit. The cost is about €450 split between the team. Crampons will be needed to ascend from thesaddle to the summit as it can be steep and icy. Return to the hotel in Nakara for a well deserved beer.
Return to Mineralnye Vody. Fly to Moscow. Evening flight to London.
|Sat 11 May||Tue 21 May||Sat 11 May
- Tue 21 May
The price includes all accommodation (except in Moscow if required), all meals (except in Moscow), all guide fees and expenses, all uplift costs and local travel and transfers
The price does not include flights to Moscow/Min. Vody, accommodation in Moscow (if required), equipment hire, personal insurance, bar bills, optional excursions, visa fees.
The price is based on a minimum group size of 5 or more.
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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on our Elbrus Ski Tour.
Accommodation is a mix of mountain lodges, hotels and the infamous 'barrels'! Most days you'll just ski with a daypack but you do change accommodation 3-4 times and so you're main bag shouldn't be too bulky.
If you are uncertain or need further information, don't hesitate to contact us.
For the Elbrus ski tour you must have an all-mountain/freeride touring ski.
There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufacturers:
The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.
Food and Water
We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.
For the Elbrus ascent you will need a kit bag or large rucksack to carry your equipment for 3-4 days in the barrels. We usually get a snowcat to transport the bags, food and beer up to the barrels so weight is not too much of an issue. The only consideration is in case of very bad weather you might need to ski down with your bag (a 10 minute blue run), so make sure it has rucksack type straps.
A medium to heavyweight duvet jacket is essential and insulated Primaloft trousers are also useful (not essential) on cold days.
Hiking / trekking boots for travelling to huts and walking between the barrels etc
Ski poles with large touring baskets
Thin Thermarest / Insulated mat - to bolster the mattresses in the barrels!
Two water bottles 1L preferably one with an insulated cover. Avoid platypus / camelbak style systems as they freeze.
High factor sun and lip cream SPF 30+.
Money - Euros can be exchanged everywhere and there are ATM machines in all the towns we visit.
At 5,642m Mt Elbrus is the highest point in Europe (and one of the 7 summits - the highest points on each of the continents).
Elbrus is in the heart of the mighty Caucasus Range which runs for over 1,200km from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east.
The mountain itself is about 1,000m higher than any of the neighbouring mountains and thus dominates the landscape like no other.
The best route into the area is to fly to Moscow (or St Petersburg) and take an internal flight to Mineralnye Vody airport (aka MinVody), which is connected by a network of roads with valleys on the northern slopes of the Caucasus. The journey time by road from MinVody to our first base is about 4 hours.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
The UK government recommend against all but essential travel to the North Caucasus area of the Russian Federation. This is due to its proximity to areas (Dagestan, Chechnya) that have seen terrorist activity in recent years. After not running trips in 2010 and 2011 we returned with groups in 2012, 2015 and 2016 as the security situation in the region has improved with more international travellers visiting the area.
A visa is required for entry into Russia. This should be obtained in the UK prior to departure. PLEASE NOTE: obtaining a Russian visa is a long, tedious process and needs to be done well in advance - we suggest at least 6 weeks and attention to detail when completing the on line form is essential to avoid any unnecessary delays. Invitations and vouchers will be supplied by Mountain Tracks. If your budget allows, using a specialist visa company such as Visa Swift or Action Visas can make the process much more tolerable.
There are no direct flights from Europe to Min. Vody. From the UK and Europe, the best route is via Moscow where a connecting flight can be taken to Min. Vody. You'll be met at Min. Vody airport and transferred in private vehicles to the Ullu Tau Lodge. At the end of trip you'll be transferred back to Min. Vody for the return flight to Moscow and your connecting flights home.
The guideline price for return flights from London (or Geneva) to Min. Vody is £580-600.
The group will be accompanied from the UK by one of Mountain Tracks' IFMGA mountain guides who will assist the local Russian guides and be responsible for ensuring the trip runs smoothly.
Our partners in Russia are Nikolai Shustrov and his team from Top Sport Travel in St Petersburg who will lead the tour when in the Caucasus. They are amongst the best guides on Elbrus and as well as being expert skiers and accomplished mountaineers they speak English and are very friendly!
The price is based on a minimum group size of 5 or more. The price for a group of 4 (minimum number) is £2,395 per person.
4 nights are spent in the Ullu Tau lodge on HB basis in twin rooms. 2 nights in a hotel in Cheget (HB/Twin rooms) and 2 nights are spent in the 'barrels' on Elbrus. These are basic mountain huts (4-5 people in a 5-bed hut). Food, whilst basic, is generally nourishing with meat (lamb) and borscht being the staple diet.
Our Introductory level is suitable for people who can ski red and black pistes in resorts without problems and you can deal with moguls and some ice. You will be new to off-piste skiing or maybe have dabbled a little on the sides of the piste or even attended a previous off-piste specific course. You would like to ski powder snow with confidence and learn to link turns off-piste in a variety of terrain as well as being able to control your speed and adjust your turn radius.
Introductory level ski touring trips are appropriate for people looking for their first touring experience. The pace is relaxed and typically we skin for 2-4hrs per day so ascents are about 500 - 800m vertical. You need to be a reasonable off-piste skier (at our Off-Piste Development level), able to link controlled parallel turns in powder snow and ski through trees in control. You need to be prepared to hike short sections on foot carrying your skis on your rucksack (though you won’t need any specific mountaineering knowledge, so crampons and an ice axe are usually not required).
Off-Piste Coaching and Adventure
For our Intermediate graded off-piste ski courses and trips you will have at least a couple of weeks off-piste skiing experience and /or received some previous instructions on an off-piste specific course. You can link 10-12 turns together in reasonable control, speed and style, following the fall line in most conditions. If you’re looking to improve your technique in deeper snow and steeper slopes then our Off-Piste Coaching Development trips are for you. These are instructor-led courses.
If you want to get some miles under your skis then look at our Off-Piste Adventure Intermediate trips which are led by our team of Mountain Guides. On the Adventure courses you can expect to hike or ski tour short distances to get to better snow and terrain, although no previous ski touring experience is required.
These tours will involve around 3-5hrs of skinning per day, achieving around 800 – 1000m of vertical ascent. We would expect you to be able skin to a pace of 300m of vertical ascent per hour. You need to be able to execute good uphill kick turns on steeper slopes and have some familiarity with use of crampons and ice axe. You need to be a reasonably strong off-piste skier able to deal with a variety of snow conditions (powder, crust, slush) and able to ski on steeper and narrower slopes with the requisite ability and confidence for exposed sections.
For our Advanced Off-Piste Coaching courses you should be an excellent piste skier and have many years experience of skiing off-piste. You should be able to ski off-piste in most conditions linking controlled parallel turns, ski bumpy terrain, trees, narrow gullies and enjoy pushing yourself to achieve new things. Your skiing should be reasonably fluid and autonomous i.e. you can already adapt your turn radius and speed to the terrain and snow conditions off-piste. This course will focus on the technical and tactical skills to ski steep terrain, jump turns and line choice as well as refreshing your avalanche skills and mountain safety. The mission is for your skiing to become more dynamic and reactive!
You are an experienced and confident off-piste skier able to handle most snow types and conditions, you can ski steep slopes (30 degrees+) and make short turns in gullies and ski through trees. These skills have been learned over a number of years of skiing off-piste with mountain guides or experienced groups of friends. You are happy to ski tour to access descents and better snow, so you will have previously used ski touring equipment and can do effective and safe uphill kick turns. You aspire to ski the best snow available and are happy to push yourself to reach the best snow and terrain.
Advanced-level tours are for experienced ski tourers who’ve previously completed another hut-to-hut trip or multiple day tours. A large proportion of the terrain may be steep and exposed; thus confidence in your uphill kick turns on 35+ degree slopes is a must, as is your ability to ski slopes of 40 degrees. You will be a strong, fluid off-piste skier able to handle all conditions. You will be confident of using crampons and an ice axe and happy scrambling/climbing on snow and rock on short climbs to summits, and in gullies to gain a col.
You can ski fluidly and autonomously on all terrain. You often ski couloirs and gullies and seek out steep slopes and you can jump turn in narrow couloirs and have experience of abseiling and sideslipping on steep terrain. You can ski fast with fluid ‘freeride’ style turns and can jump off small rocks and ski trees with no fear or problems. You are happy to ski tour and hike to reach the best snow and terrain and you should have some basic knowledge of using crampons and ice axe. Your aims are to push your skills and challenge yourself further.
Expert level ski tours are pure ski mountaineering journeys in the high mountains. You must be confident skiing steep exposed terrain and ski touring for at least 5 hours per day with long ascents. You will be expected to climb on your feet carrying your skis on your pack to summit mountains above 4000m in altitude. You must be completely confident with your crampon placement and use of an ice axe and you will have some basic rope skills and be happy walking along exposed ridges on mixed terrain to gain the summits of peaks.
You are fit enough to ski all day with only short stops for food and drink. You can ski off-piste all day without being too tired at the end of the day; you can ski in this way for multiple days on your holiday. You can also hike or ski tour for around 2 hours per day. You’re used to doing cardiovascular exercise 3 to 4 times a week (bike, run, gym) to maintain your fitness, and you’re able to push yourself if needed for short periods of time at a higher rate than usual.
You can ski all day comfortably off-piste with only short stops for food and drink, you can do this for multiple days on your holiday. If necessary you can ski tour for around 1-2 hrs up hill plus your happy to do a few short hikes to access good snow with your skis on your shoulder or rucksack. Your stamina and endurance fitness is good and you work hard to maintain a good level of fitness. You will be exercising 3-4 times a week and also at the weekend; thus running a half marathon, doing a 50 mile cycle ride, 3-4 hours on a mountain bike or a full day’s hill walk would all prove possible with this stamina level.
You can ski all day comfortably and will be expected to ascend on skis at around 400m/hr and be able to skin for at least 5hrs with up to 1000m to 1300m of ascent per day. Your stamina and endurance fitness is good and you work hard to maintain a good level of fitness. You will be exercising 3-4 times a week and also at the weekend; thus running a half marathon, doing a 50 mile cycle ride, 3-4 hours on a mountain bike or a full day’s hill walk would all prove possible with this stamina level.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.