Elbrus Ascent Hazards

 
Elbrus Ascent Hazards

Mount Elbrus

Ascent and Hazards

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Diesel Hut
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Priut 11
Priut 11

Elbrus ascent and associated hazards.
The normal summer season is late June to mid-September. In this period nearly 50% of the days might produce suitable weather and conditions for a successful climb. Acclimatisation and fitness are equally important, and the best clothing possible. While the usual South-East route involves little more than walking, above the Saddle a short steeper section is encountered where an ice axe is needed for balance, safety and arresting a fall which otherwise could result in a long slide onto a boulder-strewn slope. Crampons are also advised, and ski sticks are valuable for comfort and rhythm as far as the Saddle. Winds across the summit area can rise quickly; they can become so strong, and accompanied with piercing cold, that a person might be blown over. Remember that conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Even at the Diesel Hut in summer, arctic blizzard conditions with near-zero visibility and white-out can occur. Many people have died on Elbrus from exposure in bad weather.

A very early start is recommended from the Diesel Hut so that the Pastukhova rocks (4690m) are reached just at sunrise (2h). This landmark is often the objective of a training walk the day before, and a way over the gentle snowfield is indicated with markers. A trudge now follows ever upward on moderate snow slopes aiming for the south side of the Saddle. Usually throughout this long middle section the best line is indicated with frequent coloured plastic sticks. Passing below the broad East summit we enter the Saddle area in 2-3h (5416m). The steeper final haul to the main West summit rim immediately above should not be tackled in poor visibility or a high wind. Allow 1h30 for this last part. With an average of 6h from the hut excluding halts. It is possible to descend in half this time. An ascent to the lower East summit is slightly less fatiguing; it is attained by a longish rising traverse starting from just below the Saddle area. Throughout the ascent the waymarked route is crevasse free over a wide band but outside these limits there are many dangerously crevassed zones.

Coming down, the route from the Pastukhova rocks back to the Diesel Hut is straightforward in clear conditions because the hut is seen all the time. However, this section is rather badly way-marked and great care should be taken in poor visibility when it is advisable to walk on a compass bearing.


ALW 5/06/13