Risks on Elbrus. We’ve been guiding on Mt. Elbrus for decades. And we’ve seen a lot.
Elbrus guiding is what we do every single day at RMH for years, whatever it’s climbing in summer or ski-touring and backcountry skiing in winter. From our rich experience in the mountains and especially on Mt. Elbrus, we have seen a lot. Unfortunately, it’s a true fact that the death rate on Elbrus is higher than on Mt. Everest. There are risks that you need to be aware of.
Usually, accidents on Elbrus happen due to the fact that climbers do not always predict all the risks in advance and simply do not pay enough attention to them. Looking from the foot of the mountain, it all looks easy. Those who don’t have enough experience in the mountains, especially experience of climbing at high altitudes, usually think: “Oh, come on, look at this, there are no any serious technical difficulties! It’s easy! It’s just walking! Let’s do this! Come on, buddy! It’s safe! Let’s Go!” And they go. But this is far from reality. In fact, Elbrus is a serious mountain. More than serious. It is not a high-altitude trekking. It is not Kilimanjaro. It is mountaineering and it’s a serious game. Mt. Elbrus is a real alpine style climbing. You climb on snow in crampons and with an ice-axe. The snow conditions are always different. Depending on the time of the year and the weather conditions, it could be snow, it could be firn, and it also could be just pure ice. There are also lots of crevasses all the way up to the saddle (5350 m.) and 7 fixed ropes sections at 5500 meters.
First of all, when climbing alone, you need to be experienced in understanding the mountain weather, and competent in calculating your strengths and energy, as well as be in great physical shape, trained for endurance. On the Summit Day, the climb takes about 12-14 hours on average. And you always have to keep in mind, that you are at a high altitude, where every little thing, such as sprained ankle, or broken crampon, or dehydration, or low-quality gear, or not properly selected clothing can cause serious consequences, and any serious mistake can cost you life. It is critically important to understand all of this and be aware of it.
The key factor is the weather. On Elbrus, the weather is very specific and extremely unpredictable. It can change completely in less than 30 minutes from bluebird sky to dense whiteout. In the whiteout, you are in a glass of milk, where it’s hard to indicate where is up and where is down, and if your team doesn’t have enough experience in such situations, as well as proper communication and navigation gear, you’re in trouble and the clock starts ticking.