What better way to experience the highest peak in Europe than on skis? After exploring Moscow you will travel to the the Caucasus' Baksan valley for 3 days of acclimatization ski tours to spectacular mountain passes. You will then travel to Elbrus for another day of ski touring on the mountain before making your summit bid.
On this 11 day trip we take care of all of the logistics, hotels, and local transportation so you can enjoy the scenery, the skiing, the climb, the culture, and the adventure! Your guides will be Pro Guiding Service founder, owner, and IFMGA guide Martin Volken along with an english speaking Russian guide.
Upon landing in Moscow you will be greeted at the airport and driven to your hotel by the English-speaking Russian guide who will be with you for the duration of your time in Moscow. When you arrive at your hotel you will also meet your Pro Guiding Service guide who will be with you for the entirety of your trip. On day 2 you will travel around Moscow to see many famous, historical and impressive sights. The morning of the third day you will travel to the Baksan valley in the Caucasus for 3 days of ski touring to spectacular mountain passes before moving to a lodge in the village at the base of Mount Elbrus. Day 7 you will take a chairlift to basecamp, and day 8 is your final acclimatization ski tour. Now summit day has finally arrived! You will ride on a snow cat to Pastukhov rocks then ascend on your skis the final 842m/2,800ft to the highest point in Europe!
If you are considering joining us on this adventure, please let us know by mid-January. While we have created a streamlined and easy process for you to apply for a Russian visa, it may take up to 45 days for the Russian embassy to process the paperwork.
Day 1: Arrival in Moscow
Welcome to Russia! You will be greeted at the airport by an English speaking Russian guide who will transfer you to your hotel, giving you a mini-tour as you drive into Moscow. This guide will be with your for the duration of your time in Moscow. The goal today is to get you to your hotel as quickly as possible so you can get a good nights sleep & prepare to see majestic Moscow tomorrow! Today you will also meet with your Pro Guiding Service guide guide who will be with you for the entirity of your 11-day trip.
Day 2: Sightseeing in Moscow
Today you’ll experience the must-sees for anyone traveling to Russia: Red Square, the Kremlin, and of course the famous St. Basil’s cathedral and its onion domes. Standing in the middle of Red Square, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the weight of both history and modernity surrounding you: the Kremlin walls, Lenin’s Tomb, Gum Mall. You will have a guided tour inside the world-renowned Kremlin, seeing the Armory and its fascinating collection of national treasures. After lunch, your guide will take you through Moscow’s world-famous metro system, which is a like museum in and of itself. Finally your tour will take you to the New Maiden Convent and a view of the city from Sparrow Hills.
Day 3: Arrival to the North Caucasus
After flying into the Mineralnye Vody airport (MRV) you can settle in for the scenic, 3-hr. drive through the Baksan valley, home of Mt. Elbrus. Along the way your guide will brief you on the history of the Balkar people among whom you will be spending the next week. Your final destination today is the Adir-su gorge. To enter the gorge you’ll need to take a vehicle elevator (not many can say they’ve done that before!). Don’t blink, because you will rise 7,000 feet above sea level during this 3-hour drive without even noticing! In this awe-inspiring Check into your lodgings and enjoy some free time to explore the area and take in the views around you. Today you say farewell to your Moscow tour guide and meet with your English-speaking Russian ski guide who will go over the plan for the next 8 days and for a successful Elbrus ascent!
Day 4: Acclimatization Ski Tour
After breakfast you’ll start with some very important mountain and avalanche safety training including the use of your avalanche rescue equipment. Following training will be your first acclimatization ski tour to the Mestia Pass (3,500m/11,480ft). Before turning in tonight, your guide will check your equipment to determine what (if anything) needs to be rented to complete your Elbrus summit.
Day 5: Acclimatization Ski Tour
Today you’ll explore a new route on skis to Koiavganaush Pass (3,500m/11,480'). If you can pronounce the name of this pass by the time you return to the lodge it’ll be a great accomplishment! You’ll be back to the lodge around lunch time in order to avoid being on the mountain when the risk of avalanches is the highest.
Day 6: Acclimatization Ski Tour / Transfer to Elbrus
This morning you’ll ascend to one more pass on your final day in the Adir-su gorge - Gumachi Pass (3,575m/11,730'). After lunch, you’ll be driven to Mount Elbrus at the head of the Baksan valley and check into your hotel where you’ll stay for one night.
Day 7: Move to Base Camp
After breakfast, you’ll check some of your personal items into storage before you ascend to basecamp at 3,800m/12,470ft where you will stay for the next 4 nights. We will take the famous cable car system up three levels to the climbers’ base camp. As riveting as you’ll find Elbrus itself, the surrounding Caucasus range is maybe even more so, stretching into Georgia and all the way to the Black and Caspian Seas. Your body will continue to adjust today, as the elevation has doubled, not to mention the significantly colder weather (there is snow here at base camp year-round). Your mountain guide will daily be walking you through practical precautions for summiting Elbrus safely and successfully. Your private cook on Elbrus will make sure you are getting the nourishment your body needs.
Day 8: Acclimatization Ski Tour
During your second day on the mountain you will get a good feel for the ascent route as you do a 4-5 hour acclimatization ski tour up to the Pastukhov Rocks, around 4,800m/16,500'. After dinner you’ll have a final debriefing before the summit push in the morning. Your guide will also introduce any additional guides that will accompany you to the summit (summit day guide to climber ratio is 3:1).
Day 9: Summit Day
It’s Summit Day! You have an 8-12 hour ascent ahead of you, so you will start your climb in the dark between 2 and 3 AM. Teamwork is a beautiful thing as you work together with your group up the mountain. The early morning hours of your climb is quite the sight with a long line of climbers ascending Elbrus, lit up by a highway of head lamps. You may never have experienced quite the sunrise as you do on your ascent, as you leave the rest of the Caucasus range behind on the way to Elbrus’s gentle summit. Your climb won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, with altitude sickness, extremely cold temperatures, and unpredictable weather all real possibilities, but it will all be worth it when you reach the top. Once you have a quick celebration of your success, you will begin your thrilling ski descent of almost 2km/6,000ft vertical descent back to basecamp. Dinner never tasted better than it does on this night.
Day 10: Weather Contingency Day or Rest Day
Rest day! You’ve earned it. Sleep in as long as you want. Today you will want to peruse the charming local souvenir markets full of tempting local goods, including Caucasus Papakha hats, beautiful hand-knit slippers, shawls, and tasty local jams. Or, if you’re up for it, go on a local horseback excursion, see a beautiful waterfall, or explore a Soviet-era abandoned titanium mine. Enjoy reliving and retelling your Elbrus ascent with your fellow climbers and guides at your celebration dinner on this night. In case there was inclement weather on Day 9 (yesterday’s planned ascent), today will be your summit day up Elbrus.
Day 11: Departure
Pack your bags and say goodbye for now to the North Caucasus, a place we hope you will come back to for another adventure very soon. Fly out of the local Mineralnye Vody airport (MRV), through Moscow, and back to wherever you call home.
• 1 long underwear bottom - midweight or lightweight
• Soft Shell pants - fully synthetic climbing, hiking or ski pant (ex: Outdoor Research cirque)
• Gore-tex Waterproof Pants - Full side-zip is ideal, 3/4 side-zip minimum (so you can get them on/off without taking off
your boots or crampons)
• Non-Cotton Underwear
• 2 light to midweight baselayer tops - synthetic or wool - (ex: 1 sun hoody with 1 wool baselayer; 1 synthetic T-shirt with 1 long-sleeve base layer, etc)
• 1 lightweight insulating layer (ex: OR Deviator Hoody or a light fleece)
• 1 midweight insulating layer (ex: OR Ascendant Jacket or OR Refuge Jacket)
• 1 Windshirt or Soft Shell jacket (ex: Outdoor Research Ferrosi)
• Gore-tex Waterproof Jacket
• Hooded Down Parka - suitable for weather well below freeing
• Heavy weight or expedition weight socks
• Warm Hat - should cover ears
• Sun Hat - baseball type or visor
• Lightweight Gloves - wind block or fleece/wool (ex: ORStormtracker)
• Midweight Gloves (ex: OR Alti Gloves)
• Expedition Mittens or very heavy-weight gloves (ex: OR Alti Mitts)
• Gaiters - full size - make sure they fit over your ski boots
• Casual clothes for sightseeing and meals in retaurants
• Appropriate luggage for transporting everything and for storing items in town while on the mountain
• Talk to your doctor about obtaining medications to treat possible altitude problems:
Acetazolamide 125mg tablets
Dexamethasone 4mg tablets
• Russia does not require immunizations, however we recommend Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Tetanus/Diphtheria
There are three major international airports within 50 miles of each other around Moscow. You should purchase a ticket that takes you to Sheremetyevo (SVO). This is the most common airport for flights from the US. If you land at SVO, your transportation to your hotel from the airport is included in your trip. If you arrive at one of the other nearby airports you will need to arrange your own transportation to the hotel.
When shopping for a plane ticket to Moscow, be sure to select a flight that ARRIVES at SVO on the first day of the trip. Departure days/times from the US may vary widely due to transfers and layovers. If you buy a round-trip ticket to Moscow, you will also need to purchase a flight from Mineralnye Vody back to Moscow. Your one-way flight from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody on the 3rd day of your trip is included in the trip price.
You will be driven to the Mineral Waters airport on the last day of your tour (Day 11). It is about 3.5 hours from the base of Elbrus to the airport, and you can expect to arrive at the airport around 10:30 or 11am. Therefore the earliest you could fly out of MRV will be 12:30pm. However, with flight schedules as they are, most people usually don't fly out until the evening. Most international flights out of Moscow to the US (direct or through Europe) depart before lunch or early evening, so most people will need to spend the night in Moscow. We do not include the return flight to Moscow from Mineral Waters because people often have their own post-trip travel plans. If you would like us to arrange your return flight to Moscow, overnight accommodations in Moscow, and/or transportation to/from the airport from your hotel in Moscow post-trip, please let us know. We are happy to help arrange these logistics and add them to the price of your trip.
Please note that while tipping is not a requirement, it is considered standard practice in the guiding industry and is appreciated by our guides. We generally recommend 10-15% of your course or trip cost, or a flat amount that you feel comfortable with.