Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in both Europe and Russia, located in the Caucasus Mountains. It stands at 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) tall and is considered one of the Seven Summits, the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
Humorously, the mountain is said to be home to the "nastiest outhouse" in the world, called "Pruitt Hut." It's also thought to be one of the highest toilets in Europe at 4,200'). When investigated by Outside magazine, they found that it was covered in ice and on the edge of a rock.
Mount Elbrus: At a Glance
Location: Border of Georgia and Russia
Height: 18,510′ (5,642 meters)
Prominence: 15,554' (4,741 meters)
First Ascent: East summit on July 22, 1829, by Khillar Khashirov & west summit in 1874 by a British Expedition
Notable Facts: Elbrus is one of the Seven Summits
Mount Elbrus is located in the Caucasus Mountains, which stretch between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It lies in the southern part of Russia, specifically in the Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia regions.
The mountain straddles the border between Europe and Asia, with its western slopes falling within Europe and its eastern slopes in Asia. The nearest major city to Mount Elbrus is Mineralnye Vody, located approximately 150 kilometers to the northeast.
History of Mt. Elbrus
The mountain was known as "Strobilus" by ancient peoples, meaning "pine cone," referring to the mountain's shape. The mountain is completely covered by ice and includes 22 glaciers that feed rivers around the mountain.
The east summit of the mountain was first climbed in 1829, and later the west summit was climbed in 1874. Today, it's a major tourism center that's usually visited by those hoping to hike and ski.
Mount Elbrus was formed millions of years ago through tectonic activity. It is a stratovolcano composed of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and other volcanic materials. Its last known eruption was in 50 C.E.
The region around Mount Elbrus has a rich history dating back thousands of years. It has been inhabited by various cultures, including the ancient Narts, Scythians, and Alans. These early inhabitants likely revered the mountain for its imposing stature and mythical significance.
Climate Around Mt. Elbrus
The climate around Mount Elbrus is characterized by its alpine and subarctic conditions. The winters in the vicinity of Mount Elbrus are long and cold.
Temperatures often drop well below freezing, with January being the coldest month. The higher elevations of the mountain experience extremely low temperatures, sometimes reaching as low as -30°C (-22°F) or even lower.
The area receives significant amounts of snowfall, particularly during the winter months. The snow cover on Mount Elbrus can be substantial, with deep snow drifts and snow accumulation on the mountain slopes and surrounding areas.
Summers in the region are relatively short, with July and August being the warmest months. However, even during the summer, temperatures on Mount Elbrus and its surrounding peaks remain cool, especially at higher elevations. Daytime temperatures in the summer range from around 10°C (50°F) to 20°C (68°F).
The region around Mount Elbrus receives moderate to high levels of precipitation throughout the year. The precipitation primarily occurs as snow during the winter months but can also include rain during the summer.
The mountain's height and location make it prone to weather changes, and sudden storms or blizzards can occur.
Fauna near Mt. Elbrus
At higher elevations, you'll find alpine meadows with low-growing plants that are adapted to harsh conditions. These include mosses, lichens, and various types of grasses and sedges.
In the lower elevations, subalpine forests dominate the landscape. The forests consist of coniferous trees such as spruce, fir, and pine. Birch and aspen trees are also present in some areas.
The region is known for its vibrant display of mountain flowers during the summer months. You can find a variety of species, including edelweiss, rhododendrons, primroses, and various types of wildflowers.
The area around Mount Elbrus is rich in medicinal plants used in traditional medicine. Herbs like mint, thyme, St. John's wort, and chamomile can be found in the region.
The avian fauna in the region includes various species of birds adapted to alpine habitats. These include birds of prey such as golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and owls. Other notable bird species are choughs, nutcrackers, and various songbirds.
Several mammal species inhabit the region. These include the Caucasian tur, a wild goat species that is adapted to the rugged terrain. Other mammals include the Eurasian brown bear, foxes, wolves, mountain hares, and small rodents like voles and pikas.
Reptiles and Amphibians
While less abundant, reptiles and amphibians can be found in the lower elevations. Common species include lizards, snakes, and frogs.
The region is home to a variety of invertebrate species, including butterflies, beetles, spiders, and various insects adapted to the alpine environment.
Mt. Kazbek (5047 meters) is located directly west of Mt Elbrus and is the second-highest peak in the Caucasus mountain range.
Mt. Dykh-Tau (5204 meters) is located southeast of Mt Elbrus and is the third highest peak in the Caucasus mountains. Its broad summit plateau provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Mt. Shkhara (5193 meters) is situated south of Mt Elbrus and is the fourth-highest peak in the Caucasus mountain range. It is well known for its steep face and icy slopes.
Mt. Ushba (4710 meters) is located east of Mt Elbrus and is the fifth-highest peak in the Caucasus mountain range. Its twin-peaked summit offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Mt. Bazarduzu (4458 meters) is situated north of Mt Elbrus and is one of the most prominent peaks in the Caucasus mountains. It is a popular destination for mountaineers due to its easy access and dramatic views.
Climbing Mt. Elbrus
As mountaineering gained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries, Mount Elbrus became a coveted summit for climbers. The first organized climbing attempts took place in the late 19th century, with expeditions led by British explorers.
The mountain's accessibility and relatively straightforward routes made it a popular destination for climbers from around the world.
The mountain's most popular route is free of crevasses, making it a relatively straightforward route for climbers. It's not uncommon to see more than 100 people on the mountain every day during the summer. The climb is arduous, though, if not technically difficult. Those who have died on the mountain's slopes are usually unorganized and not prepared.
Other routes up the mountain include Kioukiourtliou-Kolbachi via the Dome of Koupol. This route is much longer but includes a section by cable car. There are also routes from the north and east that can be more hazardous.
Out of the seven summits, it's regarded as the easiest to climb because of the cable car system. It takes climbers up to 12,500' or 3,658 meters. Still, around 30 people die on its slopes every year.
Soviet Speed Races on Mt. Elbrus
Interestingly, during the Soviet era, the mountain was used to host speed-climbing competitions.
The first major race took place in 1990 between Soviet and American climbers. Anatoli Boukreev, the famed Kazakhstani mountaineer, won the race with a time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. He tragically died only six years later in an Avalanche on Annapurna, one of the most dangerous mountains in the world.
Additionally, mountaineers came there from around the world to Elbrus to train for larger mountains in the Himalayas.
Facts about Mt. Elbrus
Mount Elbrus is a dormant stratovolcano composed mainly of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and other volcanic materials.
Mount Elbrus stands at an elevation of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) above sea level, making it the highest peak in Europe.
Mount Elbrus has two main summits.
The western Caucasus, including Mount Elbrus, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Azau cable car transports visitors to elevations above 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) and serves as a starting point for many climbers.