Elbrus Climb Frequently Asked Questions
This information should answer many of your initial questions and also guide you through the next stages of preparing for the expedition. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Climb and Route
Why should I choose International Mountain Guides?
IMG is widely recognized as one of the top expedition services in the world. Our US and international guide staff is second to none and will bring years of experience and expertise to your climb. On the home-office front, IMG partner and expedition organizer Phil Ershler has over thirty years of experience leading and coordinating high altitude expeditions to the most remote and difficult ranges on the planet. We now have over three decades of experience successfully guiding Elbrus through all kinds of world events and challenges. You'll be hard pressed to find any guide service with a comparable history in this part of the world. In the end, you can be confident that on any IMG program you'll be well supported at all points during your expedition by a staff with a proven track record and a love for sharing the mountains with our guests.
What is the route like?
Our route on Elbrus itself is a fairly straight-forward glacier climb. Several thousand feet of snow and ice travel on relatively lower angle terrain can be expected. The final slopes below the summit plateau are the steepest and most challenging but are typically protected by clipping the rope teams into several hundred feet of fixed lines.
Often the challenges of climbing Elbrus revolve around the environmental factors of cold temperatures and/or wind as much as anything else. Come prepared with clothing systems, experience and fitness to deal with real-deal mountain weather and you'll be well positioned for a successful summit effort.
Many climbs are now opting to hire a snowcat to take the team higher on the mountain from the huts on summit morning. While fully optional for the team or individual members, we feel that the option is well worth considering for most teams. Your guides will give you a full run-down of the positives and negatives, but for now, suffice to say that a 6,000 foot summit day is a big day for any climber. The snowcat option can significantly enhance both the climbing experience and the likelihood of summit success (and is certainly a unique experience in its own right!). Your guides are there to help you make any final decisions on this prior to your team's summit effort.
How should I train?
Remember that good physical conditioning is always a necessity for high altitude climbing. Any Seven Summits attempt involves several thousand feet of continuous effort and may entail 10-12 hours or more of sustained physical output. Your training plan should be focused on these expectations. Follow a conditioning program that focusses on consistent and frequent "base building" exercise (long trail runs at an easy pace work well for this - 3-5 per week is a typical training load range). Include a series of strength exercises for your lower body as you progress (leg press, squats, etc). When possible, add in occasional longer training climbs with significant elevation gain (2-3 per month is ideal). If you live in an area without good access to hills or peaks to train on, we recommend options like stair climbing, box stepping, bike riding and stair sprints. Conditioning is a process that should continue throughout the year but give yourself a week to so of rest and easy maintenance level exercise prior to departing your home for the climb.
What skills do I need?
Experience with cramponing, ice axe arrest and rope team travel are required. We will brush up on them together as a group before the climb but keep in mind that your technical skills are integral to the safety and success of the entire team. IMG guides will work with you to shake off the rust and get things dialed, but will still expect you to show up with some prior experience or training.
Additionally, any previous experience dealing with challenging, windy and cold mountain conditions will be HIGHLY valuable on Elbrus. While we can all hope for calm and comfortable conditions (and it sometimes happens!) Elbrus can also be a quite challenging environment. Good familiarity with your cold weather clothing systems is necessary and can dramatically up your chances of success.
Travel and Insurance
Is a visa required?
Yes, a visa stamped into your passport in advance is required for entrance into Russia. IMG will obtain the visa "invitations" from Russia, forward them to team members, and then help guide you through the actual process of obtaining your Russia Visa.
How do I get there?
Take our advice and let CTT Destinations handle all your flight reservations. They know our programs, and it is so much easier and more convenient for you when you work with them. Flights are typically in short supply so it is also important that everyone makes their reservations as early as possible.
For help with your plans, we urge you to contact Pirjo at CTT Destinations: 800-909-6647 or email@example.com
There are numerous connections now to St. Petersburg. Our guides typically fly through Frankfurt on Lufthansa. Same on the return from Moscow. We recognize that there are many flights into St. Petersburg, but it is super helpful, and better for you, to either be on that Lufthansa flight or arrive as close as possible to the same time in St. Petersburg. Our contact in St. Petersburg will be at the airport to meet us, help with any issues and this work best, obviously, if everyone is arriving at or near the same time.
Return flight should be made for the afternoon of our last day in Moscow. Again, IMG guides will be on the Lufthansa afternoon flight. Let's make good use of our time and not leave Moscow early and cut short our time to explore the city. Any forced overnights on your return are your responsibility.
CTT Destinations can do a great job making reservations for your flight from St. Petersburg to Mineralnye Vody and the outbound flight to Moscow. Logistical difficulties are common in Russia and Pirjo has many years of experience monitoring and adjusting for these challenges. Again, we strongly recommend you make all travel arrangements through CTT Destinations. Use them and put your minds at ease.
What kind of insurance do I need?
Medical care and evacuation in remote locations can be expensive. IMG requires that team members secure medical/rescue/evacuation insurance for every trip. Additionally, we strongly suggest you consider Trip Cancellation Insurance, too. It is not required but many of our climbers choose to protect themselves if case they are forced to withdraw from a trip unexpectedly. For more information, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
We again remind you that no insurance of any kind is provided for trip participants.
Gear and Misc Expedition Details
What gear will I need?
The PERSONAL EQUIPMENT LIST is for your guidance. Most items are REQUIRED, a few are optional. Please consider each item carefully and be sure you understand what each piece of equipment's function is before you substitute or delete items from the list. Keep in mind that this list has been carefully compiled by IMG. Check with your equipment outfitter if you are unsure about a particular item. If that doesn't answer your question, call us.
How do I pack?
You will have ample time to organize your gear and mountain kit after your arrival in Cheget at the base of Elbrus. Organize your duffels, backpacks and climbing gear mainly to accommodate easy airport travel up until that point (i.e. airline carry-on with enough overnight supplies and city tour clothing for St. Petersburg and a separate duffle with your trekking and mountaineering equipment).
What is the food like?
All mountain food is being provided for you as are all meals while we are in the Caucasus region. Also included are team meals in St. Petersburg and in Moscow. You are responsible for any bottled drinks and alcohol. We also recommend and encourage everyone to bring a bag of snack foods with them. It's always nice to have a personal stash of your preferred candy bars, snack items, and powdered electrolyte drink mixes with you. Selection and availability of these kinds of snack items will be more limited in our village in Russia and we'd recommend arriving with your own stash already packed and ready.
How much cash should I bring?
We typically carry personal cash in smaller bills, but ATMs are readily available in the major cities as are money changing kiosks (change money in St. Petersburg as it gets more difficult in Cheget and Terskol). We recommend taking about $500 (or more if you intend to shop a lot).
What is the weather like?
There is no way to predict what the exact weather conditions will be during our ascents. Temperatures should be comparable or a bit lower than those experienced on Mt. Rainier. In other words it can be quite cold and windy. Previous experience dealing with challenging mountain weather will serve you well.
Keep your street clothes for Russia casual and light weight. Days in St. Petersburg and Moscow can be quite warm in the summer but rain is also common. A light jacket or sweater will be needed during our travel days and in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
What's included in the expedition fee?
Costs Included in Trip Fee:
- guide fees including our Russian staff
- all sightseeing in Russia
- double accommodations in hotels
- shared accommodations in huts
- group transportation
- group equipment including stoves and fuel, ropes, cooking gear, group first aid kit, technical climbing equipment, radios, etc.
- meals while climbing (except snack foods and bottled drink or alcohol) and restaurant meals in Russia
Costs Not Included in Trip Fee:
- airport taxes and airport taxi if arriving/departing at times different from the group
- international airfare and the flight to/from Mineralnye Vody
- visa fees
- excess baggage fees
- personal equipment
- bottled drinks
- items of a personal nature
- hotels/meals on forced layovers during international flights
- REQUIRED Travel Insurance: IMG requires that all* trip participants purchase Travel Insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation, repatriation and medical expenses for the duration of their IMG program. Trip Cancellation Insurance is strongly recommended. Trekking and mountaineering programs are true "adventure travel." *The insurance requirement does not apply to IMG customers on programs within the continental USA, but is strongly encouraged.
What medical details should I consider?
While it's always nice to have a doctor as a participant on our trips, we cannot guarantee one's presence, and you should be aware of this. We do ask that you carefully fill out the Medical Information form that is part of the sign up packet which you complete as part of the registration procedure. We need to be informed of any allergies you may have, medicines you are currently taking and any medical conditions which could possibly affect your ability to safely participate on a climbing expedition.
In addition to the first aid items listed on the equipment list, there are a few additional medications that you should consider. These should be discussed with your personal physician and will require his prescription. We want everyone to bring a course of the prescription antibiotic azithromycin. You should also bring some Imodium for treatment of traveler's diarrhea. Please consider both of these medications as part of your REQUIRED equipment list. We do not recommend the automatic use of Diamox for altitude sickness but you can also discuss this with your physician and he can make this available to you if you and he deem it appropriate. Any medication should be used only if necessary and its use should be discussed thoroughly with your physician (and with your guide) before you take the medication.
Water purification is also a consideration. Iodine tablets are the quick and easy consideration but we have also had good experience with the UV light treatment options available from most outdoor stores these days. Generally speaking the water in the areas we travel is reliably safe to drink, but it is still a consideration (your guide will give you advice along the way). If nothing else, bring those iodine tablets as a simple backup if you decide it is necessary. Bottled water is also readily available throughout the trip.
There are some immunizations that you should consider. Your local health department is the best source of information. Think of these as cheap insurance. Start preparations now so that these vaccinations can be spaced out appropriately. We strongly suggest you receive the Hepatitis A vaccination and a tetanus vaccination. Most people like to be current with these vaccinations regardless of whether they are traveling or not.
We also recommend that each participant brings a small bottle of a hand disinfectant such as Purell. Anything that we can do to stay healthy and protect the whole team is worthwhile.
Health issues will be discussed during the expedition and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions before or during the trip.
What immunizations will I need?
No immunizations are currently required to enter Russia. It is recommended that you consider the following:
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: There is no natural immunity to the tetanus toxin and since it is found throughout the world, immunization is a universal recommendation regardless of age. A combined tetanus/ diphtheria booster is available, good for ten years.
- Hepatitis Vaccine: New vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B.
Please consult your physician or local health department for their recommendations.
You should also ask your physician for a prescription for a course of the antibiotic azithromycin ("Z-Pak"). Please consider this to be part of your required equipment.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.