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FAQ

Which is an air temperature on Mount Elbrus

On a hot summer day, when the sun burns the fields of the Stavropol region in Russia, and the mountains of the Kabardino-Balkaria are covered with curling clouds, the snow-white crown of the Caucasus - the double headed dome of Mount Elbrus invariably reigns in the sky. Snow cover does not leave these sky-high summits even in the hottest months of summer. Looking at the snow shining in the distance, many people are wondering - how cold is it, probably, at these heights? For an ordinary person, this question is just rhetorical, with a slight touch of romanticism - after all, for the normal people everything goes standardly - in the summer they suffer from heat and in winter shrink from cold.
But for those who are attracted by mountain peaks, for those who plan to expand their horizons upward to the top of Mount Elbrus, this question is of great practical importance. In order to choose the right set of climbing clothes and shoes, draw up a tactical plan, evaluate the seriousness of the route, you need to carefully familiarize with the features of the altitude temperature regime and understand the extent to which the weather and air temperature can vary.

Mount Elbrus climate and weather

The climate in the mountains is very different from the climate on the plain - it is influenced by such unusual factors as altitude, solar activity, abundance of glaciers, etc. In Caucasus Mountains at the altitudes of more than 3500 m begins the zone of eternal ice - grass does not grow at this altitude, and powerful glaciers are practically not affected by seasonal changes of the air temperature.

If we talk about the summer season - June - September, then, when climbing Mount Elbrus, you should be guided by the following temperature conditions: night temperature of 0°C (“zero isotherm”) under normal weather conditions corresponds to an altitude of about 3500 - 3800 meters. Daytime air temperature at the same altitude can rise up to + 20˚С. When calculating the further temperature regime along the ascent route, you should adhere to the standard conditional rule - every 100 meters of the altitude gain, the air temperature drops down to 0.5-0.8°C. Accordingly, at the altitude of the rocks of Pastukhov on the South route of Mount Elbrus (4800 m), the night temperature can be within -6 -8° C, and at the summit - about -10°C.

But, this is only in theory. In practice, the air temperature on Mount Elbrus can vary over a very wide range - depending on the general weather conditions. In bad weather, with the passing of a cyclone and low atmospheric pressure, the air temperature at all the altitudes significantly rises. But that does not give any advantage for climbing, as an increase in the temperature is usually accompanied by strong winds and snowfalls. And vice versa - the most favorable conditions for climbing Mount Elbrus are low air temperature and high atmospheric pressure (anticyclone). These conditions correspond to the periods of stable and clear weather, lack of precipitation and wind.
The graph below shows how the air temperature changes during Mount Elbrus climbing. For the calculation was used the average temperature drop for each 100 m - -0.6°C.

Graph of air temperature decrease in relation to altitude

However, it is far from always that the real air temperature in the mountains corresponds to its sensation at the altitude level familiar to us. Unfortunately, accidents on the Elbrus routes are not uncommon when, in the conditions of the relatively comfortable air temperatures, climbers suffer or even die from hypothermia. This is due, first of all, to the fact that our subjective feeling of the cold depends not that much on the air temperature, but, to a greater extent, on the accompanying objective and subjective factors – strength of the wind, humidity, physical fatigue and emotional state. In unfavorable circumstances, you may find yourself in a situation when even a conditionally comfortable air temperature of +10 will be low enough to create a danger to life.

Statistics of the FAR on the mortality in the mountains and the number of unexperienced climbers among those who die of hypothermia in the mountains indicate that the cold factor and the possibility of getting into the trouble are underestimated by beginners.

Graph of the accident causes in the mountains

Once, while working on the rescue operations in Crimea, the author of this text observed the signs of severe hypothermia among the victims, while the air temperature did not drop below +12. High humidity, moderate wind and the general depressed state of the group which got into an accident nearly led to the tragedy - at the time of the arrival of our rescue team, some members of the affected group were in so bad condition and froze so seriously that they could not move at their own.
When making a tactical plan of the climb, one should take into account the factor of the dependence of the subjective sensation of the air temperature on the real temperature and wind strength. This dependence gives a conditional idea of how our feeling of cold can change. But in reality, there are additional factors that can greatly affect our feelings. The indicated dependence is called Chill Factor. This is a graph that gives you a general idea of how dangerous are the combinations of low temperatures and high winds. For example, at an air temperature of -1°C and a wind speed of 27 km/h, the Chill Factor is -12°C, which will approximately correspond to our feeling of the temperature at the exposed skin. And at a temperature of -20°C and wind of 27 km/h, the subjective feeling of cold can correspond to a temperature of -38°C.

Chill factor chart

Taking into account the information above, the practical recommendations will mostly consist in the advice that when preparing for an ascent, you should be as careful as possible about the selection of equipment. General tips for choosing climbing clothes and shoes are provided in the corresponding article in this section. Here it is necessary to add that when climbing Mount Elbrus, you should not only be warmly dressed, but ready for the temperature changes in a very wide range, both in minus and in plus. Experienced climbers always take light dawn jacket as a reserve, even if the air temperature is comfortable enough to climb in a light set of clothes. However, the climbing experience suggests that even with a slight increase of the wind, slowdown of the pace, the need to make breaks and wait for slow walking people, the serious clothing warming may be required.

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

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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.

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