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Are there avalanches on Mount Elbrus?

Avalanche danger on Mount Elbrus.

An avalanche is considered to be one of the typical dangers that threaten the safety of climbers in the mountains. However, in order to understand the real level of danger and how to avoid it, first of all, you need to figure out what is an avalanche?

An avalanche is a snow mass that, under the influence of gravity, at a certain moment begins to move down the slope, often creating serious problems and danger people and infrastructure in close proximity. Avalanches differ in the mechanism of formation, speed, kinetic energy and degree of danger. Without delving into the topic of various types of avalanches, it is necessary to highlight the main thesis concerning the avalanche hazard in general - an avalanche is a seasonal phenomenon. The greatest danger level of avalanches is during and after heavy snowfalls - for Elbrus these are winter months and early spring. Consequently, if you plan to climb Mount Elbrus during the official season - from June to September, then there will be no danger of avalanches during that time.

Elbrus avalanche

It is traditionally believed that mostly affected by the avalanche danger are the different types of skiing, especially in the form of freeriding (off-piste skiing). Of course, skiers are at a much greater risk of falling into an avalanche than climbers. Firstly, the peak of the ski season coincides with the peak of the avalanche danger, and secondly, skiers often provoke avalanches by riding on the slopes overloaded with snow. A large number of different devices have been developed specially for skiers, reducing the risk of falling into an avalanche and simplifying the search of the victims in the event of an avalanche accident. These are various types of avalanche backpacks and pneumatic systems that allow to stay on the surface of an avalanche in case of getting into it, numerous electronic devices and beacons indicating the location of the victim. All these devices are used in professional skiing, but are of little use for mountaineering. The climber is armed against an avalanche with his own rationality, tactical training. Even at the peak of the avalanche season, with a properly planned route and schedule, you can reduce the chance of getting into the avalanche almost to zero. However, this statement also works in the opposite direction. When analyzing climbing accidents associated with an avalanche, as a rule, the fact of serious violations of elementary avalanche safety rules is revealed - deviation from the safe route line, selection of unfavorable climbing schedule, crossing of avalanche-hazardous slopes roped.

During during the high avalanche danger period, there is a high probability of avalanches at the very foot of Mount Elbrus, where the steepness of the slopes of the gorge allows the accumulation of large amount of snow and, in the case of avalanches, acceleration of snow mass to a dangerous speed. In this regard, the Terskol - Azau area is considered to be the most dangerous, and the avalanches happen there every winter. In this region, the local administration took measures to prevent the accumulation of great snow masses - special artillery guns were installed along the entire line of the road, and during snowfalls with firing with a special shells they provoke the descent of small avalanches, preventing the formation of a larger ones. Even during the winter season, the slopes of Elbrus are considered less dangerous in the terms of avalanches than, for example, the slopes of Mount Cheget, which is located opposite Mount Elbrus in the Main Caucasian Range. Mount Cheget is of little interest to the climbers, but skiers are very fond of the slopes of this mountain. In 2017, when a large avalanche broke down from Mount Cheget, 8 skiers were in it.

Avalanche accidents with climbers are much less common, and, as has already been said, they are the result of tactical errors when choosing a route and schedule. In order to maximally protect yourself from the avalanche danger, first of all, you should choose the right season for climbing - the probability of formation of avalanches during the summer season is close to zero. In case you climb Mount Elbrus in the winter season or off-season, you should keep to a safe route line and avoid avalanche slopes especially in the lower part of the route. The upper part of all the Mount Elbrus routes - above the level of 3500-4000 meters, does not pose a significant avalanche hazard - the gently steepness of the slopes and constant strong wind do not allow snow to accumulate in the amount necessary for avalanches formation.

MCS AlexClimb Mountaineering School organizes all climbing programs on Mount Elbrus by 4 classic routes, only at the season when there is no risk of avalanche danger both on Mount Elbrus and on the approaches to it. Thus, for the participants of our ascents, the subject of avalanche danger is just for the informational purposes - over 20 years of work on climbing routes of varying difficulty, we have not had a single case that any of the participants of our programs got to any avalanche kind accident.

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.