How to climb Elbrus (I)

Sureanu_2011 (98)Hello, I am Dan (Alexandra’s father) and today I am going to tell you about my ascent on Elbrus, the highest peak and volcano of Europe.

I summited this peak on August 2012, together with my daughter.

As I encountered plenty of unanswered questions regarding this expedition before setting off I decided to offer you some information rather than a plain description of our trip. I am going to tell you about different stages of preparation for the ascent and also I am going to offer you as many answers as I can to your many questions.

So let’s get started!

  • Geographical location:

Elbrus, situated in the  Caucaz mountains in  the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (Russian Federation),has two peaks, the Western one(5642,7 m) and the Eastern one(5621 m) and the most used itinerary is the one on the south side. The western peak is the highest one.

  • Russian Entry Requirements:

Requirements For Foreign Citizens To Enter Russia

Tourist Travel to Russia

  • Passport must be valid 6 months beyond intended stay
  • Tickets and Documents for return or onward travel
  • Russian Visa is Required
  • Vaccination – None Required
  • Russian Visa Requirements:

According to the law in Russian Federation, foreign citizen need visa in order  to enter the territory of Russia , exceptions being made for citizens of former Soviet Republics and some former Yugoslav Republics. Also Georgians have to comply with special regulation.

The following documents should be submited to the Russian Embassy or Consulate to obtain visa to enter Russia.


Starting with June 15, the Russian consulates located in Europe take 3 to 10 business days for the visa processing. In addition, Russian visas issued by the consulates in Europe now have a five day “waiting period” on entering Russia, i.e. the person can not travel to Russia for at least 5 days after the visa is issued.
This rule has been applied sporadically and it seems to largely depend on a consulate. If your travel plans are urgent, I strongly recommend you to contact the Russian consulate you plan to collect your visa at and make sure that your visa will be available in time.

Russian Tourist Visa

  1. Your original passport with at least 2 blank visa-designated pages (passport must be valid for at least 6 months after intended departure date from Russia).
  2. Two copies of Russian visa application form, completed and signed.
  3. ONE passport-size photo signed on the back.
  4. If Tour Group or Cruise Passenger: Letter from tour company or cruise line confirming itinerary and including a copy of the confirmation from authorized Russian travel company which shows the reference number and confirmation number for the visa.
  5. If Individual Travel: Confirmation of hotel arrangements from authorized Russian travel company, or directly from the Russian hotel, showing reference number and confirmation number for the visa.
  6. Medical/Health Insurance valid for Russia.

Note: Effective April 15 1999 all tourist visa support should be presented on the new Russian Visa Support Confirmation Form.

Help for the process of getting the visa can come from the travel agency or other organization accredited with the Board of Foreign Affairs. This is the easiest and fastest way for obtaining the visa

  • Documents for climbing Elbrus:

In order to climb Elbrus you will be asked to provide this documents:

1. Visa for Russian Federation
2. Voucher for the region of Elbrus
3. OVIR registration. ( Ussually the hotel you are going to check in or the travel agency takes care of this. In 2012 it cost 15 USD)
4. Elbrus area preserve permission (You can buy this permit from the agency that provide the voucher. In 2012 it cost 40 USD)
5. Immigration card. ( A document that you get in the train or plane or  at the customs in case you use your car and that you have to fill out before the passport check. You need to show this paper when leaving Russia too so take care of it.)

If you want to visit the zone of Adyl-Su, Adyr- Su or other valleys situated on the south side of Baksan Valley you need also Border zone permission, that you have to ask for 2 months ahead of time to make sure you get it. You can get this permit also through the travel agency.

If you do not have the permit go and visit the north side of Baksan Valley.This is what me and my daughter did, it was very beautiful and we avoided the military check points and the tension due to the proximity with Georgian border. Any way, this permit implies plenty of paper work, fines are big in case you do not have it, so in case you want it any cost my suggestion for you would be to ger in touch with Pilgrim agency. The Lite package consists of all documenst needed in Russia, a night in the hotel plus assistance in English from their representatives.

If you are on low budget you can buy on line the invitation and the voucher for the visa and you can get them in 24 hours for 24 euros. For the visa and voucher formalities you can read  this

Suggestion: before leaving make 2-3 copies of your papers and keep them in different places, in case you lose the originals. Also scan  them and save them on a memory stick.

  • How can you get on Elbrus:

By train , plane or own car you can get to Nalchik or Mineralnye Vody. (For the trains schedule in CSI . Do not forget it changes in May.) After that it ensues a 3-4 hours long trip by car from Mineralnye Vody to Azau (250 km)  or2,5 hours from Nalchik to Azau. Azau is the name of the village where the cable car station is situated. The cable car for Elbrus.Do not cont on public transportation from MV to Azau. It is sublime but unreliable. Plus that English language is not exactly a spoken language here . The best is to team up with other tourists and negociate the renting of a van. It can cost you up to 100 euros.

Elbrus august 2012 255We took the train from Iasi ( Romania) to Rostov and then another one to Min.Vody. It took 4 days to get there. Fantastic experience, I am not going to repeat it for nothing in the world. Not that it was a bad one. It was great and it it worth it for a first time. But tooo long also.

And now I am going to write for you some of the names of localities where you will have to step down from the train. I would not like you to get to Siberia by any chance and say it was my fault.  Rostov is Ростов and Mineralnye Vody is Минеральные Воды.

Mineralnye Vody means mineral water, and this is because the city serves as a collecting point for mineral waters from Caucaz.

In the second part of my article I will elaborate about accommodation, internet and information about the ascent, Russian Style that we performed.

Have a nice day.

P.S. Russians are great. I liked them a lot.

This entry was posted in expeditions, Seven Summits, Seven Volcanoes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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