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How long does climbing Elbrus last?

How long does it take to climb Elbrus?

"Climbing time" is the total duration of the ascent to the summit from the starting point of the expedition. It should be understood that the total duration of the ascent consists of the time required for approaches to the route and, in fact, the climbing the summit. In the case of Elbrus, the summit climb on the all routes except the West one starts from the level of 3800 - 4100 m and takes approximately the same time - 7-9 hours. But the time required for climbing to the last camp differs on all the routes – below you can read some info that later.

Depending on which ascent route you choose, the total time required to climb Elbrus is from 2 to 6 days. However, one should not forget that in order to successfully and safely get to the top of the highest mountain of the Caucasus and Europe, acclimatization is required - climbing Elbrus in the “flash style” means exposing your body to a serious danger of acute mountain sickness, which not only endangers the success of your climb, but can also seriously damage your health.

Specifics of the Elbrus routes

The schedules for climbing Mount Elbrus listed below do not include acclimatization programs and differ depending on the route. I offer to your attention a brief overview of all the 4 classic routes.

1. The shortest of Elbrus routes is from the South – this climb can be done in only two days – depending on the weather.Specifics of the Elbrus routes
The tourist infrastructure is well developed on the southern side of Elbrus. Having reached the foot of the mountain on a good road, you can get to the starting point of the climb by cable car – this is the only there is practically no need for approaches. Ascent, as a rule, begins from high-altitude camps 3800-4100, many climbers prefer to use a snowcat to move to the level of the beginning of the "oblique shelf" - 5100m. Ascent to the West summit of Elbrus usually takes 7-9 hours, in case of good health condition you can descent on the same day. The logistic simplicity and accessibility of the Elbrus South route is an indirect reason for the lowest level of successful ascents - many climbers, trying to put their climb into the extremely short deadlines, ignore the need for acclimatization and do not have a reserve of time for the schedule flexibility in case of adverse weather conditions.

2. The next in its duration is the route to the top of Elbrus from the north, this route will take 4-5 days.
Specifics of the Elbrus routes
From the point accessible by car, to get to the Elbrus summit from the North, only one more day needed than from the south side. From the north there is practically no infrastructure, no cable cars nor snow cats, so you will need to climb totally at you own. This feature of the route makes it more favorable from the point of view of gradual gaining the altitude – climbing without using mechanical means, you do not expose your body to excessive overloads and sudden pressure changes. Climbing the West summit of Elbrus begins at the level of 3800 m and takes 7-9 hours. After the descent, as a rule, there is a need for one more overnight stay in the high camp. On this route, the percentage of successful climbs is much higher than from the south side, mostly due to the already mentioned lack of mechanical means of ascent.

3. The next if the Elbrus East route, which normally takes at least 6 days.
Specifics of the Elbrus routes
This is a real mountain expedition for which you will need 2-3 days of approaches just to reach the level of 3900 m, from where you can try to climb the summit. Long approach by the Irik Chat gorge, with two intermediate nights, partially compensates the lack of acclimatization - this significantly increases your chance of successful climb. The descent from this route follows the same line as the ascent route; it usually takes one day less than the ascent (one overnight on the descent). The climbing route starts from the high camp 3900 m and takes, on average, 8-9 hours. After the descent, it is possible to return to the village of Elbrus in one day, but usually this distance is divided into two parts, requiring an intermediate overnight. On the Elbrus route from the east, the percent of successful climbs is quite high, as a gradual altitude gain makes a favorable impact on the acclimatization process.

4. The longest of all the Elbrus routes is the route from the west.
Specifics of the Elbrus routes
Due to the remoteness of the starting point (Khurzuk, Karachay-Cherkessia), at least 9 days will be required for the whole expedition – both for approach and summit climb. This is the most serious climbing route to Mount Elbrus, complicated by technical difficulties. The duration of the approach is at least 2-3 days, the summit push is usually done from the high camp 4,500 m. Getting to the extremely high camping site with all the climbing and camping gear, and spending the night in severe conditions of altitude and extremely low temperatures require from participants to have a good acclimatization, physical fitness and altitude experience. However, the high location of the last camp significantly increases the chances of reaching the summit - from the last camp, the climb on the West route of Elbrus takes approximately 4-6 hours. The descent usually begins on the same day as the climb, getting down at least to the camp 3,700 m. The percent of successful ascents along the West route of Elbrus is quite high - due to its length, the route allows you to get used well to the altitude. Most of the groups which go for this rather difficult route are experienced climbers having preliminary experience in high altitude alpine climbing.

In conclusion, I want to say that the longer the climbing route to Elbrus, the more spare days you will need to lay in the schedule. This is done in order to have a reserve of time in case of bad weather or health problems of climbers. Thus, usually at least 1 reserve day is usually laid on the Southern route, and it is better to have at least 3 days of reserve on the longest Western route - this will significantly increase the chances of climbing success.

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

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