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Mt. Elbrus Summit & Ski Descent

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    13 days
    Level 2

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Mt. Elbrus Summit & Ski Descent

Mt. Elbrus Summit & Ski Descent

Mt. Elbrus' consistent slope and moderate terrain make it an ideal ski mountaineering objective and the perfect opportunity to climb and ski one of the world's Seven Summits.


  • Visit Russia’s greatest cities during the expedition. We stay within an easy stroll of Moscow’s Red Square and in the heart of St. Petersburg.
  • Ski from the summit of Mt. Elbrus with an experienced RMI Ski Mountaineering Guide, benefiting from the background, training, and expertise of our guides as you venture to higher altitudes.
  • Improve your chances of success with time spent training and acclimatizing and with an itinerary that has the flexibility to accommodate for the uncertainties of Mt. Elbrus’ weather.
  • Base out of the Pilgrim Huts on Mt. Elbrus, enjoying the fresh hot meals prepared by the hut’s cooks and giving us access to ski one of the Seven Summits carrying only light daypacks.
  • Take part in an RMI adventure and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.

Mt. Elbrus (18,510' | 5,642m) is the highest peak in both Europe and Russia. Situated between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east, Mt. Elbrus rises majestically from the high green plains that stretch northward into the heartland of Russia. Just to the south of the peak lies the main body of the Caucasus Mountains, a range that rivals the Alps with its stark rugged beauty.

Our adventures begin several thousand miles to the north of Mt. Elbrus in Moscow - the political, economic, and cultural heart of Russia. We walk across the cobblestones of Red Square, beneath the shadows of St. Basil's onion-shaped domes, and cross through the thick walls of the Kremlin to visit the seat of Russian power.

We then fly south to the town of Mineralnye Vody, known for its abundant mineral springs. A three-hour drive brings us to the Baksan Valley, sitting at the foot of Mt. Elbrus and surrounded on all sides by the soaring peaks of the Caucasus. After adjusting to the altitude while hiking in the valley, we move to the Pilgrim Hut at 12,600’ on Mt. Elbrus’ flanks.

The mountain’s rolling glaciers surrounding the hut provide excellent ski mountaineering opportunities, skills review, and acclimatization. The route takes us up the broad flanks of the Mt. Elbrus southside to the West Summit, the mountain's highest point. The ascent is a moderate snow climb that presents minimal technical difficulty but the altitudes to which we go make climbing Mt. Elbrus a challenging undertaking.

The descent from the summit offers over 6500' of superb ski terrain back to the Garabashi Hut!

The descent route follows the climbing route closely, descending slopes up to 45° and is commonly a mix of snow conditions with cold winter snow up high and softer spring corn below. The terrain on our route allows us allows us to adapt the descent to all skiers' comfort levels and keeps the focus on finding fun turns from the summit.

After the expedition, we end in St. Petersburg. Sitting on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, this beautiful European-styled city is often described as the "Venice of the North". We spend a full day exploring St. Petersburg's stunning architecture, amazing museums, and many canals before returning home. Our time there is the ideal way to end our Mt. Elbrus adventure.


Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America's oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Denali and leaders in guiding climbs, treks, and ski expeditions around the globe. Our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips. We work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader.

Our Mt. Elbrus ski expedition is led by RMI’s foremost U.S. guides who bring years of climbing and skiing experience in mountains around the world and an intimate familiarity with the region to the trip. Working closely with our local partners, these ski mountaineering veterans make climbing Mt. Elbrus an unforgettable experience. Our trip preparation before departure takes care of the details for you, from hotels and airport transfers to arranging in country flights, so that you can focus on preparing for the climb instead of the distraction that comes with coordinating logistics.


The Mt. Elbrus Ski Mountaineering Expedition is operated in partnership with Pacific Alpine Guides, a small guide service run by RMI guide Tyler Reid. Our partnership combines the strengths of our guide services: RMI's decades of experience leading countless successful international expeditions around the world and to high altitudes, with Pacific Alpine Guides experience specializing in guided backcountry skiing, remote ski mountaineering, and AIARE avalanche training.

In Moscow and St. Petersburg we stay at hotels that have been hand-picked by our guides for their location and amenities, staying in the heart of the cities within easy walking distance of their greatest sites.

While on the mountain the Garabashi Hut provides us comfortable lodging and enjoyable meals, keeping us content, healthy, and strong throughout the climb. We use RMI's own climbing equipment brought from the U.S., ensuring that our expedition standards of safety, quality, and reliability are met. Our exceptional focus on detail, our unparalleled level of guest attention, and our genuine love of these adventures are what make our programs truly memorable.


Safety has always been RMI's top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI's experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful expedition without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our Mt. Elbrus guided expeditions. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, flexibility in our itinerary, daily weather forecasts via satellite, and diligent attention are taken as we venture into high altitudes. Comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the climb.

As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or [email protected].

  • Upcoming Climbs


    • Please call our offices at 1-888-892-5462 to inquire about availability.
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  • Price
    13 days
    Level 2
Table of Contents
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Day 1


Depart U.S.A. Depending on flight times and connections travel to Moscow, Russia typically takes almost 24 hours from the U.S.

Day 2

MOSCOW  •  512' | 156m

Arrive in Moscow (SVO). Hire a Yandex taxi to get to the hotel. Once we check-in to our hotel, the afternoon is free to rest and explore the city. A team orientation meeting is held at 7:00 p.m. We spend the night in Moscow at the Park Inn Sadu.


Day 3

MOSCOW  •  512' | 156m

We spend the day exploring Moscow, taking a guided walking tour to visit Lenin's Tomb, Red Square, the G.U.M., St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Kremlin. The afternoon is free to explore the city. We spend the night at the Park Inn Sadu. (B)


Day 4

AZAU  •  7,500' | 2,286m

We have an early morning transfer to Moscow's domestic airport for our flight to Mineralnye Vody. A three-hour drive brings us to the village of Azau at the base of Mt. Elbrus. Located in the Baksan Valley at 7,500', Azau is a small village full of skiers in the winter and a quiet center for climbers in the summer. We spend the night in a hotel in Azau. (B, L, D)

Day 5

AZAU  •  7,500' | 2,286m

We awake for an early breakfast and to begin our acclimatization hike. We climb up the eastern slopes of the Cheget ski area, bringing us to over 11,000’ and offering impressive views of Mt. Elbrus across the valley. Descending back to Cheget via a single chairlift, we have lunch in a local café before returning to Azau. The rest of the afternoon is spent organizing our gear for the expedition. (B, L, D)

Day 6

PILGRIM HUT  •  12,600' | 3,658m

From Azau we ride two trams up to the Mir Station, and then take a chairlift to the Pilgrim Hut (12,600') at the foot of Elbrus’ glaciers. The Pilgrim Hut is where we stay while on the mountain. We set off on a ski tour to acclimate on the lower reaches of the glaciers and snowfields to approximately 13,000'. (B, L, D)

Garabashi Hut

Day 7

PILGRIM HUT  •  12,000' | 3,658m

We build upon our acclimatization by ascending to Pastukhova Rocks at 15,000’, gaining familiarity with the route and reviewing basic ski mountaineering techniques. We pull off our skins at the Rocks and make turns back down to the Pilgrim Hut for the night. (B, L, D)

Garabashi Hut

Day 8

PILGRIM HUT  •  12,600' | 3,658m

We spend the morning reviewing basic mountaineering techniques such as ice axe arrest, crampon techniques and roped travel. Today's focus is on acclimatization and rest. Final preparations are made for Summit Day and we settle in early in anticipation of tomorrow's summit attempt. (B, L, D)

Day 9

SUMMIT DAY • 18,510' | 5,642M

We get an early alpine start for the summit. We begin our ascent with a snowcat ride to Pastukhova Rocks (15,000'). From there, we climb the low angle snow slopes as we traverse towards the Saddle (17,700'). We may use a mix of ascending techniques, including skinning, ski crampons, or climbing in crampons with our skis on our packs. Mt. Elbrus has two large summit domes and the Saddle separates the East Summit from the West Summit. Both are comparable in size but the West Summit is slightly higher, and our objective. Our route gets somewhat steeper as we gain the upper summit plateau where we follow the ridge to the Summit. After enjoying the summit and its impressive views of the Caucasus mountain range, we begin our 6,500' ski descent to the Garabashi Hut. We may vary our descent route from the ascent route in order to take advantage of better snow or ski terrain. Depending on our schedule, the time of day, and the weather we have the option of taking the tram back down into the valley or spending one more night on the mountain. Summit Day time is 8 to 10 hours. (B, L, D)

Day 10

AZAU  •  7,500' | 2,286m

This extra day is scheduled into the itinerary in case we encounter bad weather or need additional time for acclimatization. Having this extra day has proven to dramatically improve the team's success. If we do not use this day for our summit attempt, we can spend the day in Azau relaxing, horseback riding, fishing and/or visiting the local market. Overnight in Azau. (B, L, D)

Day 11

ST. PETERSBURG  •  44' | 14m

We have an early departure from our hotel to Mineralnye Vody for our flight to St. Petersburg. A transfer from the airport brings us to our hotel in the center of the city. Overnight at Hotel Arcadia. (B)

Day 12

ST. PETERSBURG  •  44' | 14m

We take a half-day tour of the striking city of St. Petersburg. Attractions include a visit to the State Hermitage, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and walking along the banks of the city's many canals. The afternoon is free to check out any of the numerous churches, palaces, museums, or parks that make up this wonderful city. We finish the day with an evening boat cruise on the city's canals. We spend our final night in Russia at the Hotel Arcadia. (B)

Day 13


Return flights from St. Petersburg (LED) to the U.S. (B)



Key: B, L, D = Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included.

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What You’ll Need

A list of required personal equipment accompanies every RMI program, and the thought process behind each item is much greater than simply “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” The list for your program takes into account factors such as: seasonality, route conditions, weather, elevation and more. As such, this list is framed within the broadest of contexts and is dynamic by its very nature. Therefore, certain variables (additions and/or subtractions) are inherent within such an all-encompassing list. We make every effort to recommend only top of the line clothing and technical gear and it is never our intention for you to buy or rent unnecessary gear.

The Guide Pick is an example of the listed item, giving you an idea of the material and specifications of the item. This exact item does not need to be purchased or used; however, any item you choose must have similar characteristics and performance abilities to the Guide Pick.

RMI Guides concur on the potential necessity of every item, thus every item on the list is required at gear check. However, guides may also have suggestions derived from their experience, some of which will vary from a given list. The guides’ recommendation whether to bring along or leave behind certain item(s) comes during the gear check, when the team first meets. Occasionally this recommendation comes at the expense of having previously purchased an item. If a guide presents the option of leaving behind certain item(s) on the list of required equipment, it is for a reason. Their recommendation may be related to the weather, route conditions, freezing level, perceived strength of the party, or desired pack weight.

Ultimately, there will never be a consensus for a “perfect” equipment list for an ascent. It does not exist because of the multitude of variables faced by climbers throughout the climb. Please follow this equipment list closely so that you will arrive for the gear check with all the required items. Keep in mind the list is not black and white, fine tuning will occur once you meet with your guide. Have a great climb!

  • Whittaker Mountaineering Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering when they use code RMI2023 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items, rentals, meal packages, and Feathered Friends.

Shop Your Equipment List // Rent new equipment for your climb

Equipment List

    • Image of ICE AXE
      ICE AXE

      We recommend a short, lightweight ice axe designed for ski touring and ski mountaineering. If you already own a general-pupose ice axe this will work as well.


      We recommend a comfortable, adjustable alpine climbing harness. Removable, drop seat, or adjustable leg loops are convenient for managing your clothing layers over the course of the climb and facilitate going to the bathroom.


      10-point or 12-point adjustable crampons which fit your ski boots and are designed for general mountaineering. If using a ski boot, a "fully automatic" clip-in crampon with metal toe bail works best. If using snowboard boots - a strap-on crampon with plastic toe and heel bails works best. These are essential-- check with the RMI Office if you need more information.


      All skis and boards need to have brakes or retention straps.

    • Image of SKI CRAMPONS

      A crampon specific to your ski binding which is used for ascending firm slopes with skis on.


      A UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) or CE (European Committee for Standardization) certified climbing helmet or a ski mountaineering helmet rated from both rock fall and skiing falls. Standard ski helmets are not acceptable. They are not rated for rockfall and are too warm to be worn during ascents.

    • Image of GLACIER GLASSES

      Glacier glasses are protective sunglasses that provide close to 100% frame coverage (wrap-around frames and side shields ensure no light can enter from the top, bottom, and sides of the glasses) and transmit less than 10% of visual light.

    • Image of GOGGLES

      Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. On windy days, climbers, especially contact lens wearers, may find photochromatic lenses the most versatile in a variety of light conditions.

  • Hands

    Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.

  • Guide Pick™

  • Upper Body

    We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light, and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, softshell, down, and synthetic options.

  • Guide Pick™


      Your expedition-style heavy parka must extend below the waist, have an insulated hood, and be able to fit over the rest of your upper body layers. While the parka is worn primarily at rest breaks on summit day, it also serves as an emergency garment if needed. We recommend down rather than synthetic fill.

  • Lower Body

    We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.

  • Guide Pick™


      Telemark boots flex at the toe for more efficient striding uphill and to allow the "telemark turn" on descent. Telemark boots should be of contemporary plastic design. No leather "Nordic" boots please. Alpine Touring boots are a cross between a downhill ski boot and a hiking boot. AT Boots have rigid, lug soles, and are crampon compatible for climbing steep snow slopes. If renting boots we recommend that you demo the rentals at your local ski area before taking them on this program. Please call our office to speak with a guide about ski and snowboard boot recommendations.


      We recommend you speak with your physician about which medications you should have for high-altitude climbing. These medications are only used in emergency situations, and if someone is showing symptoms of HAPE or HACE, our standard protocol is for immediate descent. We do not take any of these medications prophylactically, and please talk with your guide before taking medications.

      We require each climber to have the following medications:


      Broad spectrum antibiotics for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems like Azithromycin (250mg tablets).


      125mg tablets for the prevention or treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness. A normal prescription is 125mg tablets, twice a day. Recommend 15 - 20 tablets.


      4mg tablets for the treatment of altitude illness. Recommend 12 tablets.


      30mg slow-release tablets for the prevention or treatment of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Recommend 8 - 10 tablets.


      Our guides carry comprehensive medical kits, so keep yours small and light. We recommend a selection of adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, Moleskin and blister care, medical tape and/or duct tape, cough drops, basic painkillers, an antacid, an anti-diarrheal, and personal medications.

    • Image of MEALS & SNACKS

      See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.

    • Image of INSULATED MUG

      Insulated outdoor-style mug. We recommed a model with a removable lid, which helps retain heat and prevent spills. You may also choose to use 0.5L insulated bottle or a 0.5L nalgene.

    • Image of WATER BOTTLES
      2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES

      One-liter water bottles with wide mouths made of co-polyester (BPA-free plastic).


      Heavy-duty trash compacter bags for use as waterproof pack/stuff sack liners. You can also use a a waterproof pack liner.


      Include toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, and wet wipes. Bring a quantity appropriate to the duration of your trip.

    • Image of SUNSCREEN

      We recommend small tubes of SPF 30 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.

    • Image of EAR PLUGS

      Spare prescription glasses if you wear contact lenses/eyeglasses.

    • Image of CAMERA (OPTIONAL)

      Many smartphones have excellent cameras. Action cameras, small point-and-shoots, and compact dSLRs are lightweight and work well at altitude.


      For charging personal electronics while traveling internationally.


      Bring a small repair kit with parts specific to your ski or snowboard boots and bindings.

    • 2 STRAPS

      Voile style ski straps for you carrying your skis and poles, and longer straps for lashing foam pads and tents to the outside of your pack.

    • Image of TRAVEL CLOTHES

      We recommend bringing a selection of comfortable clothing to wear while traveling as well as pre- and post-trip.


      Valid for six months beyond your return date.


      The first two pages of your passport.

    • Purchase travel insurance.

    • Purchase airplane tickets.

    • Reserve rental equipment.

    • Be in the best shape of your life!

Provided Equipment

RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, stoves, fuel, climbing ropes, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).

Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a cell phone for emergency contact.

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