Rob and Jo Gambi
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Rob and Jo on Elbrus Summit

Height: 5,642 metres / 18,510 feet
Location: Russia


Summit date: 20th July 2004
Our route: Terskol normal route


Elbrus is situated in the Caucasus mountain chain, which itself runs between the Black and Caspian sea and is nearly 1500km long. Despite being near these huge seas the Caucasus are land locked and although they are on the same latitude as the Pyrenees, they experience quite a different climate because of this and temperatures above the snow line can fall below - 30 degrees centigrade even during the day.

Elbrus itself is an extinct volcano and has and east and west peak, the west Peak being the highest and the actual true summit.

The Caucasus region is where east meets west and this has led to conflict and unrest that still burdens the region to this day. Only 100km away from Elbrus there has been much civil unrest in Chechnya and this is in part responsible for the British foreign office often advising against travel in this area of the Caucasus. However, the high mountains of the central Caucasus are normally easy and safe to access from the North through Russia which is the approach option of most climbing parties.

Whislt being a technically straight forward mountain in climbing terms, Elbrus can still be subject to sudden changes of weather and violent winds, which combined with its uniformly steep snow slopes, glaciated terrain and demands it places on climbers due to altitude, it is not uncommon for climbers to become disoriented in poor visibility and get lost in the dangerously crevassed terrain that lies just alongside the normal route.

Although Elbrus (west peak) was first climbed in 1874 by Grove, Gardiner, Walker, Sottajev and Knubel there were only a few more ascents over the following years leading up to the 1917 October Revolution. However, after 1928 the Germans and Austrians started returning to climb in the region and this is when Elbrus had its first winter ascents completed by teams from both nations.