Russia 2019 – Elbrus
Climb and do science on one of the world’s 7 summits!
US $4500 from August 10 – 20, 2019
Includes: hotels in Moscow during the itinerary (single supplements apply); lodging in Azau and Pilgrim Hut; round-trip flights from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody; group transportation; breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
Excludes: international airfare; travel and rescue insurance; excess baggage fees; airport taxes; visa fees; meals in restaurants; bottled water and personal drinks; customary guide and educator gratuities
Interested in trekking in the beautiful Caucasus Mountains? If so, then join Science in the Wild for our expedition to Elbrus (18,510 ft./5642 m) in August 2019. You’ll learn about the geology of the landscape, help us collect snow samples towards understanding how the snowpack is changing in the high alpine region, and participate in studies to understand how our bodies acclimate to such extreme altitudes.
Deposition of dust and black carbon or soot (pollution) is a problem on accumulation zones of valley glaciers and on snowpack worldwide. This soot is the result of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels (e.g., Goldberg et al., 1985), while dust is released from devegetated or dry soils due to land use changes. These dark contaminants absorb more solar radiation, much like you do when wearing a dark versus light t-shirt, thereby reducing the natural albedo (reflectivity) of snow and ice, and leading to enhanced melting (e.g., Kaspari et al., 2011). Help us study these effects firsthand and add to our global database of samples!
Goldberg, E., (1985), Black carbon in the environment, Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.
Kaspari, S. D., Schwikowski, M., Gysel, M., Flanner, M. G., Kang, S., Hou, S., and Mayewski, P. A., (2011), Recent increase in black carbon concentrations from a Mt. Everest ice core spanning 1860–2000 AD, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L04703, doi:10.1029/2010gl046096.
Day 1 - Travel Day
This will be a travel day from your home country to Moscow, Russia. Plan to arrive to Moscow in the late afternoon or early evening. We will greet you at the airport and provide transport to our hotel for the night.
Day 2 - Moscow, Russia
Today is a rest day and a chance to explore the culture and character of Moscow! Take time to visit Lenin’s Tomb, Red Square, the G.U.M., St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Kremlin. We’ll have a team dinner and discussion in the evening, to prepare for the climb and science ahead.
Day 3 - Azau (7,500 ft./2,300 m)
Today we’ll fly to Mineralnye Vody from Moscow’s domestic airport. 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 ft.
Day 4 - Azau (7,500 ft./2,300 m)
After an early breakfast, we’ll begin our acclimatization hike. Today’s goal is to reach 11,000 ft., on the grassy slopes of the Cheget ski area, where we’ll get beautiful views of Mt. Elbrus across the valley. We’ll chat about geology here and how Mt. Elbrus came into existence. After descending on foot or via ski lift back to Azau, we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon organizing our gear for the climb.
Day 5 - Pilgrim Hut (12,600 ft/3,850 m)
From Azau, we will take two trams up to the Mir Station, and then a chairlift to Pilgrim Hut (12,600 ft.) at the foot of Elbrus’ glaciers. The Pilgrim Hut is where we stay while on the mountain. After an acclimatization hike and discussion about science on the lower reaches of the glaciers and snowfields to approximately 13,000 ft., we’ll return to the hut for dinner and sleep.
Day 6 - Pilgrim Hut (12,600 ft./3,850 m)
We will build upon our acclimatization by climbing to Pastukhova Rocks at 15,000 ft., gaining familiarity with the route and reviewing basic mountaineering techniques. We’ll chat about geology and glaciology while we’re here and a demonstration on how to do snow sampling. We have dinner and spend the night again at Pilgrim Hut.
Day 7 - Pilgrim Hut (12,600 ft./3,850 m)
Today we’ll spend the morning reviewing more mountaineering techniques such as ice axe arrest, crampon techniques and roped travel. We’ll also collect snow samples and process them back at the hut. The primary focus of the day, though, is to rest and pack for the summit attempt.
Day 8 - Summit Day! (18,150 ft./5,642 m)
We begin our ascent with an alpine start to Pastukhova Rocks (15,000 ft.). From there, we climb low-angled snow slopes as we traverse towards the Saddle at 17,700 ft. Mt. Elbrus has two large summit domes, separated by a saddle. Both are comparable in size but the West Summit is slightly higher, and, thus, our target. The route gets somewhat steeper as we gain the upper summit plateau where we then follow the ridge to the summit. After enjoying the summit and its views of the Caucasus mountain range, we descend back to the Pilgrim Hut, collecting snow samples along the way (easier to carry down than up!). 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. Expected climbing time is 10 to 12 hours.
Day 9 - Azau/extra summit day
This extra day is scheduled into the itinerary in case we encounter bad weather or need additional time for acclimatization. If we don’t use this day for our summit attempt, we’ll spend the day in Azau relaxing, horseback riding, swimming, and/or visiting the local market. Overnight in Azau.
Day 10 - Moscow
After driving to the domestic airport from Azau (about three hours), we fly back to Moscow. The rest of the day is yours to further explore the culture and character of Moscow!
Day 11 - Departure*
Today you will depart for home!
*In case of bad weather on the mountain, it is good to budget a few extra weather days. These extra days, once back in Moscow, will be at your own expense.