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A dormant volcano and the highest summit in Europe

Mount Elbrus the second on my list of the seven summits, the highest mountain in Europe and Russia. Not particularly a technical mountain, however don’t let that fool you. This mountain will challenge you both physically and mentally. This mountain taught me many skills with the introduction of crampons, and the ice axe.

This was a group climb which can be another challenge by itself. The team you choose is very important, each member will either help or hinder you mentally and physically. Leadership skills come into play a lot and you need to maintain a good rapport with each other. Each one of you will encounter many challenges and giving encouragement and support to one another is key. There are no bosses on the mountains, you need to know when to lead and be led, working as one team will decide your success.

This climb was of significance to our group, who consisted of like minded Qatari adventurers; not only did we want to succeed to the summit but we were on a mission to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing, part of the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy (QNMHS) — the pledge to raise public awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. It was a great achievement for us all when we reached the summit to fly our flag of support, a great photo opportunity to get some press attention for the cause.

You can climb Elbrus by one of two routes, the northern route through a wide and remote landscape of rolling green hills, and the southern one, from the narrow Baksan Valley which backs onto the rest of the Caucasus Range. Our plan was to do a full traverse of the mountain from the south side, climb the main summit and descend down the northern route.

Stressing again the importance of the physical, it’s not about your fitness level, running marathons, and being gym fit will not prepare you for the altitude, giving time to acclimatize on any climb is critical to part of your success to reach the summit.

The first few days of acclimatization was spent in the village of Cheget, a tiny ski resort in the Baksan Valley at around 3352 meters going on alpine walks, which was most enjoyable to experience the beauty of trekking in Russia. Once acclimatized we moved onto the mountain, carrying only day sacks (main bags are taken by cable car and snow machine), we spent a few days practicing with crampons and doing further acclimatization.

The equipment is essential, and the trekking agency provides most of the essentials for the climb, however your clothing items, like your jacket are your own responsibility. One tip of advice is ensuring you wear in your boots well before you wear them on the mountain, blisters are not fun when you are trekking all day and can be an early end to the climb.

This climb gave me the experience of climbing in a much colder environment, despite this being a long ascent route, the moderate incline allowed for good acclimatization with few technical difficulties or dangers like crevasses. However, it can still be dangerous with variable weather conditions, and low temperatures. As well as crampons, ski poles and an ice axe, a harness, slings and karabiners are used for safety especially on the rising traverse where there is a fixed line to clip onto.

From the final base hut to the summit this can be completed in one day, prior to this there is an additional acclimatization trek to Pastukhov Rocks which is around 4876 meters. The morning of the summit a snow machine took us back up to the rocks just at sunrise, giving us time to summit at around midday, and then to descend in the afternoon which was a lot quicker than the ascent.

Agency:

Ox Adventure – www.oxadventure.com

Getting There:

Qatar Airways direct flights to Moscow, 5hrs 15 mins then you need to take an internal flight from Moscow to Mineralyne Vody (URAL Airlines), 2hrs 20mins.