Elbrus North Route
Avg: 3.5 from 2 votes
|Type:||Snow, Alpine, 10200 ft, Grade II|
|Page Views:||420 total · 24/month|
|Shared By:||Chris C. on Aug 23, 2016|
DescriptionMount Elbrus is typically climbed from its south side route where a significant amount climber support is available. The North Route is typically done by climbers looking for a more challenging climb with harsher conditions and an almost 2000m (6500’) summit push. Note even though this is a more challenging route than the South Side Route, many climbers on this route are still “7 Summiters” and are particularity unprepared and unfit for this climb. This route has the reputation of being next to impossibly hard, but this is clouded by the ease of the South Side and the general lack of preparedness of its average climber. With a good weather window and a reasonable acclimatization plan, the North Route is extremely achievable by a fit and prepared team, not too dissimilar from the basic routes on Mount Rainier.
The climb is broken down into a few key locations. Climbers typically do acclimatization runs up to 4600m and begin their summit bids from 3700m.
Base Camp - 2700m
North Hut area - 3700m
Lower Lenz Rocks - 4600m
Upper Lens Rocks/Saddle begins - 4800m
Saddle ends - 5100m
Summit - 5642m
With good conditions and a fit team, a summit day from the North Hut area should take around 12 hours. However, it is not uncommon for teams to take up to 18 hours. Be prepared for a long summit day, especially if your team does not have endurance training under their belt. The saddle is typically very windy and can be particularly brutal for individuals who are not used to harsh mountain conditions. Unprepared teams may find themselves in 20+ hour summit days.
North Hut to upper Lenz Rocks - 4hrs
Upper Lenz Rocks through saddle - 4hrs
Saddle to summit - 1hr
Descent - 3hrs
The significant majority of climbs on this route are supported in some fashion or another, especially because a tour operator can provide you with an invitation letter to Russia. The crux of this climb actually seems to be the logistics rather than the climb itself. ElbrusTours operates most of the North Route mountain facilities and full trips can be booked directly through them. Because this is a 7 Summits climb, beware that many climbers on the mountain will arrive extremely unprepared. If you are a reasonably experienced climber, joining a group climb can be very frustrating because of this. The company New Route has particularly elite mountain guides. Booking with a western company, such as Jagged Globe, is a very popular method to easily get the logistics in line for this route. Prominent western companies will typically be up to date on which guides and huts are best.
As of 2016, Base Camp is essentially operated by ElbrusTours. There is a restaurant (with plenty of booze), semi-permanent lodging, wireless internet, bathrooms, showers, running water, and a modest gear shop. The restaurant is not “walk in”, so you must book your meal times the day before you arrive. There is also mobile phone signal at Base Camp. It is possible to camp in the vicinity without support of ElbrusTours, but many of amenities will not be available to you.
There are several huts higher up on the mountain at approximately 3700m. This is typically where summit pushes begin. Like Base Camp, the main north hut is operated by ElbrusTours. Food, lodging, bathrooms, running water, and a shower are available here. Running water does freeze overnight, so do not plan on having access to running water early in the morning. Food supplies are relatively limited here, so bringing your own food supplements can be a good idea. It is highly recommended to bring your own summit food if you are a western climber. Russian climbers have a tendency to eat and drink very little while on route up the mountain! If you have dietary restrictions, it is impractical to rely on the available food. There is spotty mobile phone reception in this area that comes in from the south side. Look to see where the girls who live/work at the huts go to use their phones to figure out where you can pick up some signal. Keep sanitation in mind at all times when staying at the North Huts. It is common for individuals to get stomach illnesses here because of immune weakness due to poor acclimatization. Generally healthy, eating, hydrated, and properly acclimatized individuals are fine.
Lenz Rocks Camp:
It is possible to camp at Lenz Rocks between 4600m-4800m. This area sees very high winds and should not be relied upon for a camp site in all conditions. Regardless of your plan to camp here, know that summiting from the North Hut area is a real possibility. Camping here also requires extra days of acclimatization. There are plans to place a hut at Lenz Rocks in the future. Without a hut here, a summit attempt from Lenz Rocks is not seen as a practical method.
Porterage is available from the North Route Base Camp. As of 2016, porterage costs approximately 3.50EUR per kilogram and can be booked onsite. Porters will typically load carry to the North Hut areas.
Regarding ice axes and poles, because the moderate nature of the slopes climbed, most climbers will climb with ski poles in both hands rather than holding an ice axe for the majority of the climb. Although this is atypical for glacier travel, it does make sense for this particular route. Consider bringing a very lightweight ice axe that can be stashed away rather than something you would normally carry all day.
Other gear to be carried would be similar to that of Mount Rainier. Double boots are ideal. Even if you are on a supported climb, it is recommended to bring your own supplemental food as food on the mountain is very limited.
Elbrus is the significant largest mountain in it’s vicinity, therefore has extremely volatile weather. Be sure to spend enough days on the mountain to understand the weather patterns and keep a keen eye on the forecast. Prepare for the wrath of harsh mountain conditions.