|Elevation||5,642 m (18,510 ft)|
|Prominence||4,741 m (15,554 ft)
Volcanic Seven Summits
Country high point
|Topo map||Elbrus and Upper Baksan Valley by EWP|
|Age of rock||Unknown|
|Last eruption||50 CE ± 50 years|
|First ascent||(west summit) 1874, by Florence Crauford Grove, Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker and the guides Peter Knubel of St. Niklaus in the canton Valais and Ahiya Sottaiev
(lower summit) 22 July 1829 by karachay guide Khillar Khachirov
|Easiest route||basic snow/ice climb|
Mount Elbrus (Russian: Эльбру́с, tr. El'brus; IPA: [ɪlʲˈbrus]; Karachay-Balkar: Минги тау, Miñi taw, IPA: [miŋŋi taw] ( )) is a dormant volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay–Cherkessia of Russia, near the border with Georgia. Mt. Elbrus's peak is the highest in Russia.
Elbrus has two summits, both of which are dominant volcanic domes. Mt. Elbrus (west summit) stands at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the east summit is slightly lower at 5,621 metres (18,442 ft). The lower of the two summits was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, a Karachay guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel, and the higher (by about 20 m—70 ft) in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, and the Swiss guide Peter Knubel of St. Niklaus in the canton Valais.
While there are differing authorities on how the Caucasus are distributed between Europe and Asia, many sources agree[who?] that Elbrus is in Europe and is therefore the highest mountain in all of Europe.
The name Elbrus // is a metathesis of Alborz. The name Alborz is derived from that of Harā Bərəzaitī, a legendary mountain in Iranian mythology. Harā Bərəzaitī reflects Proto-Iranian *Harā Bṛzatī. *Bṛzatī is the feminine form of the adjective *bṛzant—"high", the reconstructed ancestor of modern Persian Barz/Berazandeh (tall,elegant) and boland (high, tall), and modern Kurdish "barz" (high, tall). Harā may be interpreted as "watch" or "guard", from an Indo-European root *ser—"protect". In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī became Harborz, Modern Persian Alborz (also the name of a long mountain range in northern Iran), which is cognate with Elbrus.
- Mingi Taw (Минги-Тау) – a Karachay–Balkar (Turkic). Mingi Taw means an eternal mountain or Thousand Mountain.
- Ialbuzi (იალბუზი) – (Georgian)
Elbrus stands 20 km (12 mi) north of the main range of the Greater Caucasus and 65 km (40 mi) south-southwest of the Russian town of Kislovodsk. Its permanent icecap feeds 22 glaciers, which in turn give rise to the Baksan, Kuban, and Malka Rivers.
Elbrus sits on a moving tectonic area, and has been linked to a fault. A supply of magma lies deep beneath the dormant volcano.
The volcano is currently considered inactive, as no eruptions have ever been recorded. Elbrus was active in the Holocene, but according to the Global Volcanism Program, the last eruption took place between 0 and 100 AD. Evidence of recent volcanism includes several lava flows on the mountain, which look fresh, and roughly 260 square kilometres (100 sq mi) of volcanic debris. The longest flow extends 24 kilometres (15 mi) down the northeast summit, indicative of a large eruption. There are other signs of activity on the volcano, including solfataric activity and hot springs. The western summit has a well-preserved volcanic crater about 250 metres (820 ft) in diameter.
The ancients knew the mountain as Strobilus, Latin for 'pine cone', a direct loan from the ancient Greek strobilos, meaning 'a twisted object' – a long established botanical term that describes the shape of the volcano's summit. Myth held that here Zeus had chained Prometheus, the Titan who had stolen fire from the gods and given it to ancient man – likely a reference to historic volcanic activity.
The lower of the two summits was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, a Karachay guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel, and the higher (by about 40 m—130 ft) in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, and the Swiss guide Peter Knubel of St. Niklaus in the canton Valais. During the early years of the Soviet Union, mountaineering became a popular sport of the masses, and there was tremendous traffic on the mountain. On 17 March 1936, a group of 33 inexperienced Komsomol members attempted the mountain, and ended up suffering four fatalities when they slipped on the ice and fell to their deaths.
During the Battle of the Caucasus in World War II, the Wehrmacht occupied the area surrounding the mountain from August 1942 to January 1943 with 10,000 Gebirgsjäger from the 1st Mountain Division. A possibly apocryphal story tells of a Soviet pilot being given a medal for bombing the main mountaineering hut, Priyut 11 (Приют одиннадцати, "Refuge of the 11"), while it was occupied. He was then later nominated for a medal for not hitting the hut, but instead the German fuel supply, leaving the hut standing for future generations. When news reached Adolf Hitler that a detachment of mountaineers was sent by the general officer commanding the German division to climb to the summit of Elbrus and plant the swastika flag at its top, he reportedly flew into a rage, called the achievement a "stunt" and threatened to court martial the general.
The Soviet Union encouraged ascents of Elbrus, and in 1956 it was climbed en masse by 400 mountaineers to mark the 400th anniversary of the incorporation of Kabardino-Balkaria, the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic where Elbrus was located.
From 1959 through 1976, a cable car system was built in stages that can take visitors as high as 3,800 metres (12,500 ft). There is a wide variety of routes up the mountain, but the normal route, which is free of crevasses, continues more or less straight up the slope from the end of the cable car system. During the summer, it is not uncommon for 100 people to be attempting the summit via this route each day. Winter ascents are rare, and are usually undertaken only by very experienced climbers. Elbrus is notorious for its brutal winter weather, and summit attempts are few and far between. The climb is not technically difficult, but it is physically arduous because of the elevations and the frequent strong winds. The average annual death toll on Elbrus is 15–30, primarily due to "many unorganized and poorly equipped" attempts to summit the mountain.
In 1997 a team led by the Russian mountaineer Alexander Abramov took a Land Rover Defender to the summit of the East Peak, breaking into the Guinness Book of Records. The project took 45 days in total. They were able to drive the vehicle as high as the mountain huts at The Barrels (3,800 metres (12,500 ft)), but above this they used a pulley system to raise it most of the way. On the way down, a driver lost control of the vehicle and had to dive out. Although he survived the accident the vehicle crashed into rocks and remains below the summit to this day.
In 1929, eleven scientists erected a small hut at 4,160 metres and called it Priyut 11 (Refuge of the 11). At the same site, a larger hut for 40 people was built in 1932.
A wilderness hut was built in 1933 in the saddle between the two summits but collapsed after only a few years. Its remains can still be seen.
In 1939, the soviet Intourist travel agency built yet another structure a little above the "Priyut 11" site at 4,200 metres, covered in aluminium siding. It was meant to accommodate western tourists, who were encouraged to climb Mount Elbrus in commercial, guided tours at the time to bring in foreign currency.
On August 16th, 1998, this hut completely burned down after a cooking stove fell over. After that, the new "Diesel hut" was built in the summer of 2001 a few metres below its ruins, so called because it is located at the site of the former Diesel generator station.
In addition, there is a collection of accommodations for six people each at the end of the short chairlift upwards of the second cableway section. Painted red and white, these horizontal steel cylinders (called Barrels, Russian bochki), are used as a base and for acclimatization by many mountaineers on their way to the summit. Beside the "Barrels", there are several container accommodations between about 3,800 and 4,200 metres.
The Normal Route is the easiest, safest and fastest on account of the cable car and chairlift system which operates from about 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. Starting for the summit at about 2 a.m. from the Diesel Hut or Leaprus mountain hut should allow just enough time to get back down to the chairlift if movement is efficient. A longer ascent Kiukurtliu Route starts from below the cable-way Mir station and heads west over glacier slopes towards the Khotiutau pass.
Elbrus ascent from the south takes about 6–9 hours, with a total height difference of 1700–2000 m (5718–6542 ft) between the Barrels Huts and the West Summit of Elbrus. From Terskol village one can walk 5 km (3 miles) to the first elevation, Azau (2350 m/7700 ft). A cable car service is available from Azau to the normal starting location for the Elbrus climb, known as Barrels Hut or Garabashi Station (3720 m/12,204 ft). The next destination – the Diesel Hut at 4050 m/13,287 ft – is located south from the Barrels Huts and up the slopes of Elbrus. From the Diesel Hut the route heads straight up towards the East Summit of Elbrus, continuing south up the slopes. The slopes that are surrounding the classical route to Elbrus from the South contain large crevasses. Heading towards Pashtuhova Rocks (at 4550–4700 m/14927-15419 ft elevation), Elbrus classical route becomes steeper after passing between two linear rock bands. After leaving this section, Elbrus route heads on – first to the south, to the East summit of Elbrus, or rather the Saddle between the East and West Summits of Elbrus (5416 m/17,769 ft), but soon takes left and to the West summit (5642 m/18,513 ft). Before reaching this Saddle, the route passes through a weakly sloped basin filled with snow. At the Saddle there is a shelter, from which the route heads west, then – left, in the direction of rocks forming the shoulder of the West Summit, in the form of a narrow, exposed snow path that allows for a straight dash to the summit ridge.
Elbrus descent takes about 3–6 hours. While returning from the Elbrus summit, the most common mistake that climbers make and that often turns out fatal is heading low and down too early after their half-traverse below the saddle, especially under conditions of low visibility in a stormy weather. On descent after the saddle, instead of going down the slope too early, one could stay high up on the slopes of the East peak, otherwise the route will become very steep and feature dangerous crevasses and falls.
The north climbing route is more committing and more remote than the south route. This is contributed to also by the fact that on the lower altitudes of the mountain this route can offer less in the way of infrastructure. However, this also means less human intrusion onto the landscape. With mechanical support brought to minimum, tour to Elbrus from the north is mainly camping, with the summit route being longer and harder, and requiring good teamwork and/or winter camping skills since, if the weather is favorable, it involves an interim camp at 4800 m/15,748 ft. or gaining 2000 vertical meters/6561 vertical ft up and down. Elbrus ascent by the north route offers rich ice and snow experience under unpredictable weather conditions.
Mount Elbrus is said to be home to the 'world's nastiest' outhouse which is close to being the highest privy in Europe. The title was conferred by Outside magazine following a 1993 search and article. The outhouse is surrounded by and covered in ice, perched off the end of a rock.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mount Elbrus.|
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- Computer generated summit panoramas North South. There are a few discontinuities due to incomplete data. Politically the Caucasus are in Europe but topographically they are in Asia.
- NASA Earth Observatory pages on Mount Elbrus: Mt. Elbrus (July 2003), Mt. Elbrus, Caucasus Range (Nov 2002)
- Mt. Elbrus Expedition Cybercast Archives
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- A trip report