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Common information about Elbrus area. (Under construction. Last edited: 01.03.2017)

1. Elbrus area and how to get there.

The nearest airport is in Nalchik city (NAL). However this airport is not big and not many flights come there.
Vast majority of people come to Mineralnye Vody (aka MinVody) airport (MRV).

Some direct international flights come to MinVody airport in summer. Most people come to Moscow or St.Petersburg and after this have local flight to MinVody airport.

There may be 15-17 flights a day from Moscow and 1 from St.Petersburg. Many flights from Moscow give the opportunity to proceed to MinVody on the same day without overnight stay in Moscow.

There are 3 main airports in Moscow and international flights may come to any of them. Also flights to MinVody may go from any of these 3 airports. If you plan to fly to MinVody on the same day it is reasonable to plan same airport for both international and local flights to avoid changing airports. 2 hours is minimal gap between international and local flights within one airport, but you should have 4 hours if you change airports.

From MinVody airport one can go to:
- South side Elbrus area via Piatigorsk and Tyrnyauz towns to Baksan river valley, Terskol village. Travel time 3-4 hours by car. Public transport is available but requires to change buses.
- North side Elbrus area via Kislovodsk town to Emmanuel meadow base camp. Travel time 5-7 hours by car. Public transport is not available.
- West side Elbrus area via Karachaevsk town to Khurzuk village. Travel time 4-5 hours by car. Public transport is available but requires to change buses.

South side: good road from MinVody (300 m) up to the high end of the valley. There are Terskol village (2100 m) and Cheget (2100 m) and Azau (2300 m) spots. There are 2 lifts lines: Cheget lifts line (2 legs) goes from Cheget spot to Mt.Cheget slopes (up to 3050 m) and Elbrus lifts line (3 legs) goes from Azau spot to Elbrus slopes (up to 3850 m).
There are many hotels along the valley. Climbers can stay in a hotel or in tents. There are some special spots for tents but formally there is no prohibition to put a tent anywhere. For the standard route climb people normally go to Azau, take lifts up to 3850 m and stay somewhere there. There are number of huts from 3700 m to 4080 m. Tents may be put anywhere but not right near huts to avoid disputes with keepers.

North side: good road from MinVody to Kislovodsk (850 m), bad road then to Emmanuel meadow base camp (2550 m).
Only tents. There is a hut at 3800 m. It is almost always occupied by guided groups.

West side: good road from MinVody to Khurzuk village (1500 m) and bad road to higher places in some valleys. Approaching from this side requires local (West side Elbrus area) border zone permit.
Only tents.

2. What is about safety in the region?

To our mind the area is safe.
We work here for 25 years, every season we act as a host for about thousand of foreign climbers in Elbrus area and there were no problems regarding political instability. Area is safe and tourists are not a target even in other (rather distant) areas which are not so safe. North Caucasus is not a war zone but a big area of Russian spa and ski resorts.

Generally speaking some local events happen sometimes in some places - Caucasus mountains are very big (800 kilometers length) but cases are really local and between locals, tourists are never involved.
After 3 years of Western economic and political sanctions against Russia even former local Caucasian Chechen rebels gradually became more Russian patriots than Russians in Central Russia. We do not expect problems from this side as well.

From time to time some Western governments warn against traveling here because of terrorist attacks. The Foreign Office of UK warns against traveling in the Caucasus every year for the last 20 years. However in fact hundreds of climbers come from UK every season and feel good. Every season a dozen thousands of foreigners come to the Elbrus area. There were no problem for them before and we do not expect problems in future.

To tell the truth the persistence of the Foreign Office looks inexplicable. I suppose there should be thousands and thousands evidences on the Internet from people who traveled here. Tourists feel safe here.

People often think that this is a kind of distant lonely place and and nobody in other countries knows how things go there. However sometimes in July there are around 100 foreign climbers only in our own groups simultaneously on the route, thousands of foreign tourists.

Normal precautions like in any unfamiliar place should be made though. Do not get drunk at night in a dark cafe with strangers, do not leave your gear unattended for long time and so on.

3. Is this region enough safe for women?

The region is an ordinary region with rather patriarchal custom. Smiles and several compliments to a woman are not considered to be sexual harassment here but no one will move further if the woman does not provoke.
A woman should make just normal precautions like in any unfamiliar place - not to walk alone along the dark road at night, not to drink much alcohol with strangers, be discreet with local men in a local bar and so on. Prudence is a key.

4. What is the best month for climbs?

There is no monsoon period or something. We consider all the days of season from mid May till mid September have same chances for sunny or rainy weather.

However there are other different features.
June has fresh good snow cover, best for ski climb, less garbage on the routes and places, 'fresh' service.
July is the warmest and most crowded period, snow becomes wet on lower slopes.
August in common has less people than July and temperature becomes lower. There may be areas of frozen snow in the morning.
September is colder but cold weather often means sunny weather. There may be a couple of weeks of Indian summer with excellent weather.

In all case one must be prepared for temperatures from +28 Celsius in the valley to -25 Celsius in the early morning on higher slopes.

That was about the summer season. In winter Elbrus is cold, windy and icy mountain and regardless on weather only experienced climbers can have reasonable chances for success.

5. Do I need a Down Jacket?

Not necessarily a 'down' jacket. Any really warm jacket combined with good windproof cover is ok. Be prepared for -20 Celsius. It may be colder but hardly it may make sense to climb if the temperature is noticeably lower.

6. What about tips in the Elbrus area?

It is better not to give tips in local cafes. Drivers and room service also do not expect tips. However nowadays in Russia incorrect tipping is not considered too offensive so if you wish you can tip any service.

About mountain guides and other personnel. Tipping guides is NOT a must (although expected). In Africa you hardly may be allowed to leave Mt.Kilimajaro area without tipping local guides but here on Elbrus you can make a decision yourself. Normally people collect money from the group and give to the leader guide in 'one piece' - it may be 20 USD from each participant. (depends on number of guides and people in a group). Leader guide spreads money between assistant guides.
However if an assistant guide carried you from the summit on his shoulders and/or you feel special gratitude it is better to give a tip personally.

Tipping cooks (at huts) is also acceptable if you are satisfied with their service. It is better to tip cooks directly before you leave huts, because most likely you will not see them again in the valley.

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