You can find accommodation for every type of budget in Azau, the departing point for the cable car for Elbrus, in Terskol (situated at 4 km away from the station) or in Cheget.
The fares vary from 20 USD/person/night to50 USD/person/night. You can make a reservation through the Pilgrim travel agency very easily.
We checked in Hotel Semerka, in the village of Cheget and after the summit in the camping Saklya .
If you want to camp I strongly recommend the camping Saklya- Elbrus, situated at the exit from Elbrus Village, in a marvelous pine forest, on the right side of the road. It is the starting point also for the valleys of Adyl-Su, Shkelda Azau Meadow.
361603, Rusia, Republic Kabardino-Balkarya, Raion Elbrus,
tel./fax. – 7 (866638) 78-162, tel. mobil: -7(928)985-12-56
E-mail: Osman Apsuvaev
We paid 200 ruble person/night.
Facilities in the camping: Showers, toilet, parking, garden kiosk, café-bar, TV, store, internet, electricity for charging phones; Transfers (din Mineralnye Vody–> Camping or Azau)
There are also some stores on the way to Elbrus village and in the village. I strongly recommend you buy the vodka Elbrus from the camping store for celebrating the victory. It is cheap, very tasty and if you add a group of Romanians and Poles you can have a pretty good picture of what happened there. A historical moment.
If you are on a low budget you can get accommodation in the village, but this can complicate terribly the OVIR registration.
You have to make this registration whenever you spend more than 3 days. So if you are going to get accommodation in a private home, the host should do the thing.
It is quite complicate and the only office is located in Tyrnauz. Eventually negotiate with a hotel to stamp your form, but still you will have to travel to Tyrnauz. There is a bus going from Tyrnauz to Elbrus sat. If before that you spent more than 3 days in another area and you do not have the registration you will be fined. So take care cause the Russians are not famous for their sense of humor.
- Changing money: You can have money changed at the bank, (there is one in the area) or at the hotel, for smaller amounts. I would advise you to have some rubles on you when arriving in Russia and also some dollars. I noticed Euro is not very praised. Also have some dollars in small banknotes in case you have to bribe somebody. It was not the case with us, on the contrary I was extremely happy with the Russian behavior toward us. There is a Western Union and an ATM for Visa and Master only , but I would not count on them. Cash is a magic word.
- Internet: at the postal office, some of the hotels and at the office of Pilgrim, if you are their client and ask them politely.
- Phone coverage : There is coverage up to 5000 m. Upper than that the signal is very weak, due to the distance to the relay. After the saddle the signal dissapears. I would recommend you buy a Russian BeeLine card from Min Vody. They work very well in the area. The stores open around 10 in the morning and you need the passport in order to buy the sim card. The number for emergencies on cell phone is “112″.
- Authorities: The main conclusion I drew from my readings of tens of stories about Russia and Elbrus was that the corruption is a huge issue over there. I read horror stories about Russian and Ukrainian police, bribery and etc. Well I do not question the truth of these stories, I just want to point out the fact that we had no problems whatsoever. We were to asked to produce our documents just once, in the station of Rostov on Don, which we did and everything went OK. Another matter you have to pay attention to is the existence of military check points, soldiers and guns in the Baksan Valley. The republic of Kabardino-Balkaria is Muslim territory and there were some issues in 2011. As long you stay correct, keep your distance to the military and do not start religious discussion I think you will be OK.
- Communicating with the locals: In the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria there are 3 ethnical groups : Kabardin , Balkarian and Russians. The Russian language is used and spoken by all these groups while English or other European language NIET. So, unless you speak Russian, try to prepare from home all kind of scenarios in writing. Do not try to speak Russian cause they will not understand a word. But if they see something written they understand. Most of the inscriptions are in Russian with the exception of the numbers.
- Cable transportation:There are 2 modern cable cars and an out of date, ancient and historical cable seat that looks like a swing actually. I enjoyed it. Pure Russian style. Or the way I perceive them. They take you up to 3700 m (Gara-Bashi), near Barrels Huts. The trip takes about an hour. Do not lose the card cause the money you paid for as a guaranty is reimbursable The cable car works till 16:00.
- Accommodation and water at the Barrels: The famous The Barrels consists of 11 containers, barrels actually that can house up to 6 persons each. The dirt inside is anthological, I do not think they have ever seen a broom, but it is part of the dirt one can see outside, cause everywhere there are broken bottles and littering. Also pay attention to the toilets, named in a very appropriate way the House of Pain. You must have patience. Time goes by differently here and if you insist and blame them it will not help you very much. If you want to check in at the Barrels, you have to make the reservation through Pilgrim. In July or August you run the risk of not finding anything available. Water runs from a pipe and comes from the glacier but you will clearly have to boil it. If you are polite you can go to the kitchen and boil it over there. Do not forget you will have a lot of water to boil. This is what we did. We were polite and respectful and were allowed to use their facilities and also were offered Tchiorba Ruska. Spasibo tovarisci. And thank you very much.
- The Ascent:
I learned a very valuable lesson on Elbrus: a 2000 m long difference in altitude is too long and demanding an ascent for one day. We learned this by attaking the summit directly from the Barrels, which once again was a big mistake
So my recommendation for you is to try and reduce this distance as much as you can. In order to do this you have 3 possibilities
1) You settle down at the Barrels and take the ratrak up to the Pastuckhov rocks (4700 m). It cost us 50 euros by person.
2)You go further up the mountain and settle for the Diesel refuge (former Priut) at 4000m
3) You go further up the mountain and peg your tent, usually at the Pastuckov rocks. You can also peg your tent in the saddle but the winds are very strong over there. Sincerely I do not recommend this. The mountain is fulls of craks and hazards. We met a Polish guy that fell into a crevasse and spent an entire night there fighting for his life just because he went round the rocks the wrong way. Also you should be very well acclimatized if you want to spend the night on the saddle. Not to mention the quality required for you gear
The trip back and forth from the Barrels takes 10 to 14 hours. The itinerary is very well marked with flags by the Russians mountain guides. You have to follow this path and do not go astray. The itinerary was established this way in order to avoid the crevasses. Take special care if you have to navigate in the fog or snow storm. A GPS would help a lot. We made the ascent on very difficult weather conditions. A snowstorm combined with a heavy fog made our progress very slow and painfull. At every flag we had to stop for a long period trying to locate the next one. This thing has a very negative impact on the moral, but due to our heavy training we managed not to panic, be patient while the wind was howling around us and we could not even see our legs and keep our course.
A Romanian climber from our group and a Slovak one got lost in the fog. Many people have a tendency to keep going, without checking anymore the surroundings, due to the fatigue and weariness and lose their way. The Slovak climber fell into a crevasse and died.
If you are a Pilgrim customer and you are in need of rescue services, the advantage is that every available guide will participate to the operation together with the specialized mountain rescuers which increases a lot the odds for a successful one.
The itinerary up to the saddle goes directly up the mountain, Russian style. Try to be patient, pole pole and breath a lot
Clearly you will need to use crampons, ice ax and a rope. We did not use the rope but this is up to you.
Also do not forget that the weather is very tricky on Elbrus, with strong winds and fantastic drops of temperature. Have with you the down jacket and some extra fleeece. Do not forget to keep the water recipient wrapped up in some clothe and stuck to the body. Also the batteries should be kept in the pockets of your tights to prevent them from freezing.
The most important thing in case of bad weather is to keep your cool. Stay on the marked path, do not lose the flags and stick to your colleagues. In heavy fog and storm the terrain can change its configuration without your realizing it, the crampons do not bite the proper way and one can slip downhill very easily. One of our girls made this mistake and took a 10 m downhill slipping. Fortunately it was only 10, it could also have been a 100 m.
I suggest to you to consider at least 4 days for the ascent. The weather changes a lot and the forecasts do not come true very often. If you have the chance of good weather when getting on the mountain, go for the peak as fast as you can. The shark strategy. We did this on Kazbek in Georgia and it work very well. If you attack quickly and pull out as soon as you come back you avoid the negative effects of the altitude.
To wrap it up I just want to tell you not to underestimate this mountain. The ascent is not technical but very demanding and tricky. As many people die on Elbrus as on Everest so take care.
And do not forget. You don’t conquer a mountain, he gives you permission to climb it.
Please do not hesitate to contact us in case you have any questions.