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Mt. Elbrus South Side

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    13 days
    Level 2

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Mt. Elbrus South Side

Mt. Elbrus South Side

Mt. Elbrus is a stunning volcanic peak located in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia and at 18,510' it is Europe's, as well as Russia's, highest peak.


  • Visit Russia’s greatest cities during the expedition where we stay within an easy stroll of Moscow’s Red Square and in the heart of St. Petersburg.
  • Climb Mt. Elbrus with an experienced RMI Guide, benefiting from the background, training, and expertise of our guides as you venture to higher altitudes.
  • Improve your chances of reaching the summit 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 hot meals prepared by the hut’s cooks and allowing us to climb 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.

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. We use the mountain’s rolling glaciers surrounding the hut to review our mountaineering skills and continue our acclimatization in preparation for our summit bid.

This is an ideal trip for climbers aiming to build their altitude experience while climbing one of the Seven Summits.

The route takes us up the broad flanks of 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.

We end our expedition 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 beautiful canals. 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 and treks 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 climb is led by RMI’s foremost U.S. guides who bring years of climbing experience in the mountains around the world and an intimate familiarity with the region to the trip. Working closely with our local partners, these 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.

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 Pilgrim 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.


We also lead climbs of Mt. Elbrus' more remote Northside. This program is slightly longer and entails expedition style climbing as we move camps up the mountain. Our Northside Expedition is ideal for climbers seeking a more remote experience away from the busier standard route and interested in building their expedition climbing skills.


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 climb without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our Mt. Elbrus guided climbs. 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 info@rmiguides.com.

Climber Reviews

Filter By
The climb is always a highlight, however the cultural aspect of the trips are what keeps me coming back to RMI.
Darla S.

Casey and Yuri - their leadership and dedication to each climber showed and they helped us all have a terrific time on the mountain. Russia - Moscow and St. Petersburg tours were easy going but thorough.
Zachary F.

The concept of starting and ending with a tour of two interesting Russian cities was excellent. In addition, the mountain and region were beautiful
Michael B.

I think we got VERY LUCKY; we had a single AWESOME weather day within our climb window. The climb was completed with an extremely easy pace and was well organized. It was a great addition having the "wagon"/"barrel" sleeping/living quarters instead of tents. The tours of, and overnight stays in, St. Petersburg and Moscow were excellent additions to the expedition.
Keith L.

The opportunity to summit both peaks. The overall cultural experience was more than I could have imagined.
Tony C.

Prep, camaraderie of group, pace and encouragement of the guides.
Carol C.

RMI is a great company with extensive experience and it shows in all facets of the trip - from the gear list to the itinerary I consistently enjoy RMI's dedication to every detail. It is this attention to detail that removes worries and makes for a very enjoyable experience traveling, staying and touring international cities, and climbing on remote high mountains. Keep up the good work!
Scott K.

The cultural integration of activities into the itinerary was great.
Scott F.

The mix of "touristy" parts along with the climb itself was great, and was part of the reason we chose RMI's trip. Our team was also great, but obviously that's just luck of the draw!
Jennifer B.

Getting to experience Russian cities and culture for the first time, and the amazing experience double summiting Elbrus in near perfect weather conditions.
Richard W.

The mountain was great, but the overall experience in Russia was the highlight of this trip. A great combination of climbing and cultural experience.
Michael H.

Honestly the entire experience, being in an exotic location and seeing a different culture, the physical activity, camaraderie among the team, etc. Wouild definitely do it again.
Brett B.

Meeting and climbing with JJ Justman was the highlight. The team was great, Russian guides very good, the overall experience was a nice adventure.
Kevin S.

The entire trip was amazing, aside from the climb itself the time spent in St Petersburg was a highlight!
Thom C.

The itineraries in Moscow and St. Pete's really put this trip over the top! And it's great being with a guide who has a passion for the local culture.
Josh C.

I had a great time on Elbrus! I would recommend this trip to other climbers.The highlight for me would be the summit and Masha's cooking!I enjoyed the city tours as well, especially St.Petersburg. I think it's great mix climb and culture and it felt like a complete trip.
Stephanie L.

Good planning takes the guess work out of what's next, combined with flexibility to address options we might have are key. Communication from JJ was informative and delivered well before the need. The fact that we had a team that got along with no issues really helps make the trip as well.
Dave G.

Being in the mountains and enjoying the views.
Sam H.

Learning about mountaineering from JJ. He was so experienced and always happy to answer questions or provide advice.
Michael H.

Being on the mountain and preparing for the summit day climb.
Peter H.

no one thing comes to mind, everyday was another adventure with something different to enjoy
Greg W.

The opportunity to climb with a world class guide.
Rebecca R.

The whole package. If I could get my son and son-in-law, the time to eventually do Elbrus in the future, I would go with them with RMI again!
William (Bill) H.

Great experience overall
Bob S.

I loved the actual climb, particularly summit day. I enjoyed the preliminary climbs as well. St. Petersburg was fascinating, especially Alicia the tour guide's political and historical views. The Hermitage building and its history was fantastic. St. Isaac's Colonnade was also a highlight of the trip. It was fun to see Lenin's Tomb and Red Square. The Kremlin itself was a bit of a bore.
Eric Y.

This was a great group, with a tremendous amount of mutual support - and that helped everyone reach the summit.
Peter R.

base camp life in the barrels
Greg B.

Team's synergy and guides patience and enthusiasm.
Fatima W.

Liked the tours of Moscow and St Petersburg. Loved every part of the climb, and my guide and fellow climbers were outstanding. The boat tour in St Petersburg was a great highlight.
Debbi L.

summit day and post climb celebration
John M.

Hard to answer. It was more fun than I had imagined it could be. Everyone had a great attitude, including our Russian hosts.
Larry S.

I thoroughly enjoyed time in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. I stayed an extra day in St. Petersburg and was very glad I did. I recommend RMI include an extra day in St. Petersburg as part of the itinerary.
Marty P.

Everything. Saint Petersburg is awesome!
Chris W.

Well organized with ability to have own time and touring time in cities -- as well as group adventure on the mountain.
Lilian M.

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    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. We take 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' | 2,300M

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 quaint hotel in Azau. (B, L, D)

Day 5

AZAU • 7,500' | 2,300M

We awake for an early breakfast and to begin our acclimatization hike. We climb up the grassy 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 our climb. (B, L, D)

Day 6

PILGRIM HUT • 12,600' | 3,850M

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

Day 7

PILGRIM HUT • 12,600' | 3,850M

We build upon our acclimatization by climbing to Pastukhova Rocks at 15,000’, gaining familiarity with the route and reviewing basic mountaineering techniques. We return to the Pilgrim Hut for the night. (B, L, D)

Day 8

PILGRIM HUT • 12,600' | 3,850M

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'). 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 descend back to the Pilgrim Hut. 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. Climbing time is 8 to 10 hours. (B, L, D)

Day 10

AZAU • 7,500' | 2,300M

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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Travel Consultant

RMI has partnered with Erin Rountree to provide comprehensive travel support. We have been working with Erin for many years. As an independent agent of the Travel Society, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe and is extremely knowledgeable about the travel needs of our programs. Please call (208) 788-2870 or send email to etravel@cox.net.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required for this trip. Due to the current political situation in Russia, we highly recommend you purchase insurance with “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage. Depending on the type of policy purchased you can protect against trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation, security and more. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or while traveling. Should you need to cancel from a program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason.

There are several things to note when purchasing trip insurance:

  • Cancellation Insurance is included in the standard Trip Insurance policy if you are injured, or have a medical or family emergency prior to or while traveling. Should you need to cancel your program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason.
  • Most travel insurance companies provide an option to include coverage that allows you to “Cancel for Any Reason”, but the initial policy must be purchased within 14 days of placing your deposit for the program. Cancel for Any Reason coverage will then protect you if you need to cancel due to a work or personal conflict, or change of mind. It will also protect you if RMI cancels the trip due to political instability or other situations that may undermine the safety and security of our climbers while traveling in Russia.
  • In order to cover your trip with RMI Expeditions you may need to include options such as an “Adventure or Sports” upgrade. Not all travel insurance will cover mountaineering, climbing, skiing or trekking adventures. Some will not cover due to gear used (crampons, ice axe), others will not cover above a certain elevation and/or region of the world. Check your policy carefully to make sure your activity is covered. Both companies listed below offer policies that are geared toward adventure travel.
  • Purchasing Travel insurance is also dependent on your state of residence. If one company doesn’t offer coverage for you because you live in Washington, another company might.


RipcordRipcord Rescue Travel Insurance is travel insurance designed for adventurers, including the best evacuation and rescue services available.


Benefits are tailored for adventurers and include:

  • Rescue and evacuation from the point of illness or emergency to your home hospital of choice.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption, primary medical expense coverage, sporting goods, baggage loss, emergency dental, Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) and more.
  • Completely integrated one-stop program with a single contact for emergency services to travel assistance and insurance claims.
  • 24/7 access to paramedics, nurses and military veterans.
  • Security extraction in case of unexpected dangerous and chaotic events.
  • Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) options and pre-existing condition waiver within 14 days of your initial trip deposit.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, a medical and travel security risk company. Their team is comprised of special operations veterans, paramedics, Stanford Medicine affiliated physicians, former intelligence officers, insurance actuaries and global security experts with dozens of years of experience in theaters around the world. The Redpoint network covers the globe, making them uniquely equipped to provide elite rescue travel insurance – in every sense of the word. Whether it’s reimbursing you for a cancelled trip, paying your travel medical bills or evacuating you home in an emergency, Ripcord takes the worry out of your travel.

Security & Medical Evacuation

Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s premier provider of medical and security advisory and evacuation services. Security Evacuation offers crisis evacuation services in non-medical situations. Examples include evacuations from areas affected by natural disasters, war or conflict zones, terrorism, and other areas in which participant security is threatened.


Travel Advisories / Warnings

Please confirm any current travel advisories/warnings as well as passport and visa requirements with the US Department of State.

Currently the US Department of State has a Travel Adivsory pertaining the the north Caucasus, including the Mount Elbrus area. Please review the Travel Advisory before registering for this program to ensure that you are aware of the non-climbing risks associated with this program.

Getting There

Travel to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) typically takes about 24 hours from the U.S. depending on your departure city, available connections, and flight times. Flights generally arrive in the afternoon on Day 2 of the itinerary. 

Departing flights from St. Petersburg (LED) may be booked for any time on Day 13, the final day of the program.

Entry Requirements

A valid passport is required when traveling to Russia. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the expected return date.

We suggest making a copy of the first two pages of your passport and keeping them in a separate bag as a backup. A copy should also be left with your emergency contact.

A Visa is also required for entry to Russia. This must be done prior to your arrival or you will not be permitted to enter the country.

Russian Visa

Our office will provide you with the current application form, a written itinerary and a letter of invitation from our hosting organization in Russia. You will need to submit these forms along with a valid passport, an additional passport photo and payment to your local Russian Consulate or a travel document company that can assist you in processing the Russian Visa. This generally takes place 2 - 3 months before the trip departure and will take 4 - 20 business days to process. Once your visa arrives, please check the date to ensure it covers your complete stay.

Airport Arrival

Upon arrival proceed to the Immigrations desk for foreign travelers. Proceed to Baggage Claim and then to Customs. There will be a random selection of bags for inspection. Be sure to keep all your bags together.

Our office will coordinate a group transfer from the airport to our hotel at 4:00 p.m. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, after 3:00 p.m., or if you are arriving at a different airport you can hire a taxi or Uber to get to the hotel.

In-Country Transportation

The provided transportation in Russia as stated in the itinerary is via private vehicle.

Immunizations & Travel Medicine

For the most current information on inoculation requirements and recommendations, please refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Traveler's Health

Travelers often suffer from upset stomachs when in foreign countries. There are some basic rules, however, that can help keep you healthy.

  • Hygiene - It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly before meals and after using any bathroom. If water is not available for washing, we recommend using a hand sanitizer.
  • Water - The number one rule is: don't drink the water, and that includes shower water and ice! Brush your teeth with purified water rather than tap water. You should check bottled water for a good seal and use a napkin to wipe dry excess moisture in drinking glasses. Take care with fruit juice, particularly if it has been diluted with water. Carefully clean the tops of bottled beverages before opening.
  • Food - If you can cook it, boil it, or peel it; you can usually eat it. Salads and fruits should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Be wary of ice cream and shellfish. Always avoid any undercooked meat.

Medical EmeRgencies

Elbrus is a remote mountain without easy access to definitive medical care. We are our own rescue team.

The medical facilities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other urban areas in Russia are limited except for routine, non-emergency needs. We will work with our tour operator to access an appropriate level of care should the need arise.

Russia Country Facts

Russia is the largest country in the world at almost twice the size of the United States. Officially known as the Russian Federation, its main attractions include art, magnificent (and newly restored) cathedrals and monasteries, treasures and palaces of the czars, the performing arts, health spas, river cruises, historic sites, spectacular scenery, Siberia, and Moscow's Kremlin.

Russia has a captivating history. Tradition says the Viking Rurik came to Russia in 862 and founded the first Russian dynasty in Novgorod. Through the 10th and 11th centuries, Christianity united the various tribes, but Mongol raids broke the Russian territories into smaller dukedoms. It was Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) who is credited with founding the Russian state. The succeeding period saw power wrested into the hands of the czars and expanded Russian territory. These actions ultimately led to revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) in 1922. The Union dissolved in 1991 and Russia became the federal presidential republic that it is today.

Russia will appeal to travelers who have a sense of adventure and an open mind. Don't expect a relaxing vacation and, unless you're in Moscow or St. Petersburg, don't expect deluxe accommodations - a trip through Russia requires determination, flexibility and plenty of patience.


The climbing season extends from May to September, with the highest summit success rate from mid-July through mid-August. September through April comprises the rainy and winter seasons.

The weather in Moscow and while traveling to and from the mountains can be very warm.

While there can be no guarantees of perfect weather in the mountains, our expeditions take full advantage of both the weather and route conditions for this expedition, and utilize prime months for optimal climbing experiences.

Cultural Etiquette

Although it is not expected that we dress formally, we should dress modestly. Casual and comfortable clothing and shoes are suggested. Showing expensive cameras, watches, jewelry, etc. is considered unseemly and may attract unwanted attention.

Men shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact. Women generally shake hands when meeting one another for the first time. In greetings between men and women, a light handshake is common. It is expected that you remove your gloves to shake hands, regardless of how cold it may be. The three alternating kisses used in greetings are common only between friends and family.

Chivalry, for the most part, is still valued in Russia. Men are expected to hold the door, offer their seat, or offer their coat.


Electricity in Russia is different than in the United States. Russia has standardized on type F (Gost) sockets and plugs. Type C plugs and power points are still commonly found in older buildings. Both are used for 230 volt, 50 hertz appliances. U.S. appliances will require plug adaptors, convertors or transformers. Remember to bring any necessary adaptors if you plan to recharge electronics.


The current currency of Russia is the Ruble. Currency can be easily converted at banks, hotels and kiosks. Check a financial newspaper or www.xe.com for the current exchange rate prior to departure.

We suggest bringing $600-$900 total for personal spending money including restaurant meals, drinks, pocket money, and the Support Staff Tip Pool.

Cash machines are still the best way to get money in country, so if you are in doubt, be sure to bring your cash card. Cash machines are readily available in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but become increasingly difficult to find outside of the main urban areas.

Credit cards are accepted in most, but not all, areas.

Everyone has a preferred way to carry money. Some use money belts, others have hidden pockets. Whatever you do, be aware of pickpockets in any area which caters to tourists.


Everyone approaches tipping a little differently. Whether or not a person tips, and how much, is completely dependent upon the individual; here are some suggested tipping guidelines for your trip.

Local waiters, drivers, and other service personnel expect to be tipped. Ten to fifteen percent is standard. Some restaurants and hotels add a 10% service fee to bills in which case, no further tip is required.

Support Staff Tip Pool: We recommend that each climber contribute $75 to the Tip Pool. This is collected at the beginning of the trip and will cover group tips for all our support and mountain staff throughout the program.

Our guides work hard to ensure your well-being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment. Tips for excellent service normally average 10 – 15% of the cost of the program. If you would rather not bring the guide gratuity with you on the trip, you can send a check or call the RMI office to pay with a credit card upon your return.


http://wikitravel.org/en/Russia and https://www.lonelyplanet.com/russia offer a wealth of information.

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This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition and is a great first trip to altitudes above 15,000'. Prior knowledge of, and comfort with, rope travel, the use of crampons, and ice axe arrest are required.

Our experience shows that individuals perform better and enjoy the adventure more if they have a high degree of fitness and comfort with basic mountaineering skills. This program’s high altitude and snowy terrain contribute to make this a very worthwhile challenge.

Qualifying Programs

Recommended climbing experiences prior to the Mt. Elbrus South Side climb include:

  • Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life
    And Then Go
    Climb A Mountain

    Create A Fitness And Training Program

    Go To Fitness Resources

Physical Fitness Training

Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.

  • Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
  • Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
  • Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.

For Elbrus southside, you are preparing for:

  • Hiking and climbing with a 20-25 lb load
  • A 10+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility

Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!

Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.


The key to climbing high is proper acclimatization. Our program follows a calculated ascent profile which allows time for your body to adjust to the altitude.

Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize as you ascend. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.

Finally, physical performance and acclimatization are also related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are all key factors in an individual’s success on an expedition such as this.

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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!

  • 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 RMI2020 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items, rentals, meal packages, and Feathered Friends.

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Equipment List


      Your backpack should be large enough to carry all of your personal gear, food and water, plus a portion of group gear. You will not need a separate summit pack.

    • ICE AXE

      The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.


      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.


      12-point adjustable steel crampons with anti-balling plates designed for general mountaineering use.


      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.


      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.

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

    • 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, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.

    • 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.


      A lightweight, synthetic pair of pants is a good option for the approach trek when hiking at lower altitudes and in warm conditions. These pants have no insulation, are typically made of thin nylon, and commonly feature zippers to convert between pants and shorts.


      We recommend modern hybrid double boots for this climb because they provide the best balance of weight, comfort, and insulation. Insulated single mountaineering boots are also adaquate but might result in cold feet. Bring one pair of chemical foot wamers per summit day if you are using single mountaineering boots.

    • DOUBLE BOOTS: Insulated double boots designed for mountaineering. Plastic-shelled models are acceptable, though modern synthetic models are lighter and more comfortable.


      See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.


      Insulated outdoor-style mug. We recommed a model with a removable lid, which helps retain heat and prevent spills.

    • 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.


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


      Spare prescription glasses if you wear contact lenses/eyeglasses.


      Practice using this before coming on the climb!


      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.


      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.

    • We recommend you speak with your physician about which medications make sense to have for remote international travel and/or high altitude climbing. At minimum, we require the following:


      Broad spectrum antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin (500mg tablets), Metronidazole, and Azithromycin (250mg tablets).


      125mg tablets for prevention or treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness.


      4mg tablets for treatment of altitude illness.


      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: huts, stoves, group cooking equipment, fuel, climbing ropes, climbing anchors, avalanche probes and shovels.

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

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On Mt. Elbrus South Side you will need 5 days of mountain snacks. All of your mountain snack items should weigh 3 - 4 lb.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals on the mountain are included as indicated in our Trip Itinerary. With the exception of hotel breakfasts, most restaurant meals are on your own. You are responsible for your own bottled water and drinks.

Mountain Snacks

You will want to have a few snack items with you everyday to fuel you up the trail. We continually snack to keep our energy levels up while we climb - lunch begins just after breakfast and ends just before dinner! Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.

The importance of having foods that are genuinely enjoyed cannot be overstated. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength while in the mountains. In order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude we aim to have a variety of foods that stimulate the whole palate, from sweet to sour to salty.

Recommended mountain lunch items: dry salami, smoked salmon, jerky (turkey, beef, fish), small cans of tuna fish, individually wrapped cheeses such as Laughing Cow or Baby Bell, crackers, bagels, candy bars, hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, Toffees, Life Savers), Gummy Bears, sour candies (Sweet Tarts), cookies, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, GORP mixes, and drink mixes (Gatorade/Kool-Aid).

We may have a chance to purchase additional food in Russia, but we recommend you take what you need and only supplement with local food if necessary.


The breakfast menu includes items such as instant oatmeal, cold cereals (granola), breakfast bars, hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, cider) and local fresh fruit.


Dinner usually begins with soup and ends with dessert, followed by a round of hot drinks. Healthy one-pot meals, incorporating fresh local food whenever practical, are served as the main course. There are limitations, but the menu is planned to offer good variety and ample portions.

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Deposit Payments: A deposit payment of $1,250 per person secures your reservation. Deposit payments $2,500 or less may be made via MasterCard, Visa, e-check, check, or wire transfer. Deposit payments over $2,500 must be made via e-check, check, or wire transfer.

Balance Payments: The balance payment is due 120 days prior to the start of your program. We will send a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment due date. If your balance payment is not received within 120 days prior to the start of your program, your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. Trips departing within 120 days must be paid in full at the time of reservation. Please note that balance payments may be made via e-check, check, or wire transfer only.


The $1,250 per person deposit is non-refundable. Written notification is required for all cancellations.

Once RMI receives written notification of cancellation, the following apply:

  • If you cancel 120 or more days before the start of your program, program fees will be refunded less the non-refundable $1,250 per person deposit.
  • If you cancel less than 120 days before the start of your program, no refunds will be issued.

Unfortunately, due to the time-sensitive nature of our business, and the difficulty in re-booking a trip close to departure, we cannot make exceptions to this policy.

Cancellation Insurance

We require that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.

Land Cost


  • RMI Leadership
  • Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary, based on double occupancy*
  • All park entrance fees
  • Sight seeing arrangements as indicated in the itinerary
  • Airfare from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody to St. Petersburg
  • All group transportation in country as stated in the itinerary
  • All breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain and other meals as stated in the itinerary
  • All group cooking, climbing and camping equipment


  • International airfare
  • Travel insurance, medical evacuation insurance and security evacuation insurance
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Excess baggage fees from U.S. or flights within Russia
  • Departure taxes
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Bottled water and personal drinks
  • Customary guide gratuities
  • Support Staff Tip Pool (we suggest $75 per person)
  • Additional room charges including laundry service and other personal expenses
  • Hotel accommodations not indicated in the itinerary
  • Transfer from Airport to Moscow Hotel on arrival
  • Transfer from St. Petersburg Hotel to Airport for outbound flight
  • Medical, hospitalization and evacuation costs (by any means)

* Accommodations are based on double occupancy.  A Single Supplement Fee will be charged to those occupying single accommodations by choice or circumstance. The single supplement is not available in huts, tents, or in all hotels.

Risk Management

Managing risk is RMI's number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering such as avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, inclement weather, and high winds, but they cannot eliminate them.

Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently a hazardous sport. You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risk and hazards of mountaineering, and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity.

Climber Responsibilities

Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Some of the responsibility for the team is carried by the individual climbers. For this reason, we ask that each participant:

  • is physically and mentally fit, properly attired and equipped, and continues to self assess throughout the program to ensure as safe a climb as possible. If a climber's own physical fitness limits his or her ability to safely continue upward, that can have a negative impact on the summit experience or opportunity of other climb participants.
  • honestly and accurately describe themselves, in terms of fitness, health and skills, and their equipment to their guides, and that they adhere to the advice of their professional mountain guide.

If the Participant decides to leave a trip at any time after the start of the trip and prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be entitled to a refund.

RMI reserves the right to dismiss the Participant from a trip or to send the Participant to a lower altitude at any time if RMI determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for or capable of participating in the program.

Age-Appropriate Guidelines & Restrictions

In the interest of the safety and well-being of all participants, RMI adheres to the following age-appropriate guidelines:

  • Ages 15 & under: No participants age 15 & under
  • Ages 16 & 17: Accompanied by parent or legal guardian
  • Ages 18 & above: No restrictions 

An individual’s birthday must precede the departure date of the program. For example: a 15 year old who turns 16 on July 1 may participate on a program beginning July 2.

Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.

Both the parent or legal guardian and the Participant must sign all forms. A minor climber must be accompanied by their parent/legal guardian throughout the entirety of the program. If either climber must descend at any time during the program, both climbers must descend together. 

Summit Attempt

RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person’s own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.’s responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.

General Policies

RMI's program schedule and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, terrain, or other environmental factors, currency fluctuations, changes in outfitting costs, government instability, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including but not limited to increases in program fees, changes to program schedule or itinerary, and changes to guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program.

We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions, or other environmental factors, government instability, unpredictable social, political or military conditions in countries that we travel. In such a case, you will receive a full refund of program fees paid to RMI, less any non-refundable payments that have been paid to our outfitters prior to the cancellation of the trip. When a trip is cancelled, RMI cannot be responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).

The Participant understands and agrees that RMI assumes no responsibility or liability in connection with any travel and hospitality service provided to the Participant by others in connection with the trip, including but not limited to the services provided by airlines, hotels, and motor vehicle operators, and that RMI is not responsible for any act, error, omission, or any injury, loss, accident, delay, irregularity, or danger by a supplier of travel or hospitality services to the Participant in connection with the RMI program.

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