Seven Summits: Mt. Elbrus

Mount Elbrus lies in Russia, rising near the political strife ridden border between Russian and Georgia. Mount Elbrus stands as the highest mountain in Europe and the west summit rises to 18,510 feet. The name Elbrus is a metathesis of Alborz. Alborz is derived from the name of a mountain in Persian mythology, Hara Barezaiti, which translates to 'High Watch' or 'High Guard'.

Elbrus is considered an inactive volcano, but beneath the mountain there still resides a supply of active magma. There has never been a recorded eruption of Mount Elbrus but scientists believe that between 0 and 100 AD. The mountain also has solfataric activity and many hot springs. Scientists do not know if Mount Elbrus will erupt again. According to myth, Mount Elbrus was known to the ancient civilizations as Strobilus and believed that Zeus had chained Prometheus, the Titan, to the mountain because had stolen fire from the gods to give to the people. Some speculate this is in reference to the historic volcanic activity.

Mount Elbrus also holds a more recent and interesting history. The mountain was engrossed in a warzone during World War II. During 1942, the Wehrmacht occupied the area surrounding the mountain with 10,000 soldiers. At one point a Soviet pilot was nominated for a medal for bombing the German fuel supply. In retaliation, the general commanding the mountain troops sent a climbing party to the summit and placed the Swastika flag there. Surprisingly, Adolf Hitler enraged by the act, calling it a stunt and threatened to court marshal the general if it was not taken down.

The summit of Mount Elbrus was reached in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Craufourd Grove. Russia has always encouraged ascents of Elbrus, in 1956 400 mountaineers attempted to summit to mark the 400th anniversary of the incorporation of Kabardino-Balkaria. In 1959, Russia began to build a cable car system to take visitors to various points on the mountain, the highest being 12,500 feet. The cable care was not finished being built until 1976. In 1997, a Land Rover Defender was driven to the summit, breaking into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mount Elbrus is one of the more deadly mountains of the Seven Summits. The average annual death toll on Elbrus is 20 to 30 lives. Death is so frequent because many climbers are not properly prepared or equipped. Many novice mountaineers see Mount Elbrus as an 'easy' climb because of the cable car. This leads to fatal mistakes on the mountain.

Climbers are required to attain three permits to attempt Mount Elbrus. Foreign climbers will need a Border Zone Permit to be in the area south of Badsan and will also need to be registered in OVIR in Tyrnauz. Prielbrusie National Park Permit is required for access to the park.


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