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How to prepare for the ascent of Elbrus?

Preparing for the ascent of Elbrus

When planning to climb Mount Elbrus, many beginners ask the question - how to prepare for this program? To begin, let's highlight the main features of Mount Elbrus climb, which require special attention in preparation:

  1. The altitude of Mount Elbrus - 5642 meters, it is much higher than the usual horizon of human habitation. The oxygen content at this altitude is only 55% of the usual norm. For most climbers of Mount Elbrus, it is oxygen deficiency that is the key problem.

  2. The length of the route is 7.8 km (one way) from Gora Bashi shelter to the top of West Elbrus (route along the south slope) with an altitude gain almost 1900 meters. This is a fairly large distance, the average climbing time is at least 8-9 hours.

  3. The significant height and location of the freestanding mountain increase the risk of unpredictable and sudden changes in the weather and climbing conditions — development and strict following to the tactical plan of the climb is required.

What do we need for an effective and safe solution of our goal - climbing the highest peak in Europe – Mount Elbrus?

Adequate physical form.

The absence of chronic diseases and medical contraindications for mountaineering. The absence of diseases of the cardiovascular system and expressed problems with the musculoskeletal system. If your state of health does not interfere with intense physical exertion, then you will not need any special physical form for climbing Mount Elbrus.

However, the total physical load is very serious - approximately, a similar load can be compared with a running distance of 12-15 kilometers. If you cope with a similar task on the plain - that gives you a good chance that after proper acclimatization and luck with the weather, you will not have problems reaching the summit of Mount Elbrus.

The training schedule for any high-altitude climb consists mainly of the aerobic exercises - running, skiing, swimming, intensive walking. During these trainings, you teach your body to use oxygen intensively to maintain uninterrupted muscle tone. 2-3 workouts per week for 4-6 months will be more than enough even in the case of complete absence of initial physical training. Together with the elementary rules of a healthy lifestyle: proper nutrition, quitting alcohol and smoking, etc. - Your success is almost guaranteed.

Preparing for the ascent of Elbrus-2

Proper acclimatization.

As a rule, if you do not have sufficient experience of staying and physical work at high altitude, the reaction of your body to a low oxygen level can be harsh and painful. The development of the so-called "mountain sickness" is the result of a violation of the physiological schedule of the altitude gain, when your body does not have enough time to rebuild internal processes in accordance with the new conditions. The solution to this issue is to go through the acclimatization program - 5-7 days of climbing or training, spending overnights at the altitudes of 3500 - 4000m and descents to a comfortable altitude conditions for a complete recovery.

It is recommended to choose a mountain area for acclimatization with more favorable conditions than Mount Elbrus, where the combination of factors of low temperatures, gentle slopes and long distances, the oppressive properties of a huge mountain makes your acclimatization more tiring, boring and ineffective. The ideal areas for the acclimatization that we have been using for this purpose for more than 20 years are Bezengi, Adyl-Su, Irik-Chat. Also it goes well before climbing Elbrus to climb Bazarduzu in Dagestan or Kazbek in Georgia.

Proper mountain climbing tactics.

Not always your physical form is a key success factor when you are climbing mountains. Often much more important thing is the knowledge of the route, ability to navigate in the difficult conditions, ability to see and understand the signs of worsening or improving weather, to know the features of the functioning of your body at high altitude. All of these skills are collectively called tactical skills and are the key point for the safe and successful mountain climbing. Regarding the ascent of Mount Elbrus, we can say that this mountain, with all its technical simplicity, is a rather difficult tactical object for climbing, and most of the failures and accidents occur precisely because of the tactical mistakes of the climbers.

Among these errors are underestimation of the difficulty and length of the route, insufficient acclimatization, overestimation of one's power and experience, an unnecessarily high speed of ascent, shortcomings in the gear, and so on. Unfortunately, not all climbers understand the seriousness of the consequences of such errors, which often lead to very sad consequences. Definitely one can learn tactical skills in mountaineering only in practice. No advice and recommendations will help here - only regular trips to the mountains, increasing the complexity of the routes, independent guidance on the easy mountain tours can give you confident decision-making skills in the mountains. With regards to Mount Elbrus, the safest option, especially if you have little experience in the mountain climbing or not have it at all, rely on the ability of those who already well understand the features of this mountain and know well the route and conditions.

Preparing for the ascent of Elbrus-3

High-quality equipment.

Details on all the nuances of selecting gear for climbing Elbrus and other peaks of this class are written in the corresponding article. Here I want to remind once again that high-quality equipment is not only your comfort and pleasure of climbing in the mountains, but in certain cases - your safety. The main criteria for quality climbing equipment are lightweight, durability, usability. Modern technologies allow manufacturers to produce clothes and gear that make our ascents fundamentally safer than, for example, 50 years ago - this is a huge advantage that should not be neglected. When choosing equipment for climbing Mount Elbrus, special attention should be paid to the quality and size of shoes - even a small blister on your heel can cause the entire climb to fail, and frostbitten toes can remain a "souvenir" for all life.

Text — Alexey Trubachev, founder of the MCS AlexClimb mountaineering and climbing school.

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Our Principles

AlexClimb Rule #1 - Safety First

From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

AlexClimb Rule #2 - Leave No Trace

Closely interacting with Nature, working with the active programs in mountains, woods, lakes and rivers, we perfectly understand the importance of carefull and respectfull bahavior towards the Nature, for its resources. From the very beginning of our outdoor-activity we adopted rules of  Leave No Trace technique - the standard of behavior of the person accepted in all the civilized world in relation to environment and especially - to the wild nature. After all on the relation of people to the nature near which they exist, itself can draw dalekoidushchy conclusions on the relation of these people to... Where and as we didn't travel - we don't reserve any garbage, we try to reduce whenever possible our influence on environment to a minimum. We clear earlier zagryazyonny tourist parking of the left garbage, we take out and we take out to utilization places that to us other people left there. We consider that only thus, at personal individual consciousness of each citizen, each tourist, climber or autotraveller, we will be able to keep the nature surrounding us in its state, natural, suitable for life, - in it pledge of the healthy future for ourselves and our children.

AlexClimb Rule #3 - Sober Concious

The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.