WHERE IN THE WORLD IS MOUNT ELBRUS?
This is a question I have been asked constantly when people inquire about our next climbing trip. The easy answer is it is the highest point in Europe and located in Russia, but since Russia is the largest country in the world (almost twice the size of Canada!) this response doesn’t provide very much help.
Elbrus is located in the Caucasus mountain range, in Southern Russia. The mountain is on the border between Russia and Georgia, to the south. The easiest way to describe the location of the mountain is to say it is 200 kilometres due east of Sochi, the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics – people have at least heard of Sochi!
The Caucasus are the gateway between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, so the area is rich in many different types of cultures and races. This has contributed to the area being a strategic point for the military and for trade which has resulted in periodic instability in the region over the past 500 years – the latest being a border war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 and skirmishes with Chechen rebels on and off for the past 20 years.
Mount Elbrus is not the easiest place to get to. You must first fly to Moscow or St. Petersburg, and then take a 2.5 hour flight into the city of Mineralnye Vody. Mineralnye Vody was voted the worst airport in the world by one magazine, and “a lower circle of hell” by Economist Magazine (you can read some hilarious articles on the airport HERE, HERE and HERE). From Mineralnye Vody, it is a 3 hour drive into the Baksan Valley, where we start our climb.
We plan on spending 3 nights in Moscow sightseeing prior to our departure for Elbrus, as neither of us have had the opportunity to travel to Russia.
Judging from other trip reports, the cultural part of our trip will be as interesting as the climb itself…
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain