View on Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

Journey around Mount Elbrus

So it turned that my very first trip to the high mountains was a trip to the Caucasus, Elbrus.At that time we had a goal to ascend to the top of it, and we have successfully completed it. I carried a small DSLR camera and a tripod, and for a good reason humbly carrying this extra weight. At that time I made a good shots of rare event for me – time during sunrise and sunset. After that I would go back only just to walk with a camera and soon this idea was realized.

We decided to get around Elbrus on the one side, starting from Karachaevo-Cherkessia and finished in Kabardino-Balkaria, Terskol.

This idea has been successfully completed.

Sure, I again picked up a camera, and this was almost the first frame when the snow cap of Mount Elbrus appeared behind the mountains, welcoming to come closer 🙂

View on Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

The first night of our trek, beside the bus, was at the sources of Gil-Su. Yes, I know they should not be in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, because the real source, which attracts thousands of people are in Kabardino-Balkaria, that very far from the place we were standing. Nevertheless, we stopped at the sulfur springs, even a plate with the name “Gil-Su” indicates that. There is no so much people here. It either tourists or elderly people, who came to bathe in the sulfur baths and recuperate. An image of peace and quiet. The endless hills with green grass and Elbrus is surrounding us, showing it top time after time. As if I did not want, he stubbornly hiding in the clouds. As a result this photo was taken – a secretive Elbrus 🙂

Elbrus in clouds, Karachay–Cherkessia

I did not want to spend the first day evening at the Gil-Su source just sitting in a tent. There dense clouds hanging above the valley and there was no hint for a beautiful light. So I decided that I have a time to soak in a warm sleeping bag and I went for a walk through the hills with my camera and a tripod. And not without a reason! Suddenly the sun was burst through the clouds, covering all with the soft light. It happens after rain: when a lot of moisture in the air and the rays of the sun became unreal soft. Grazing horses were perfectly fit in a picture.

Horses on hills of Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

Next photo was taken after a sunset when the last rays illuminate through the clouds and all around for a moment. But what happened before that? A slow climb to a height of about 3600m, and this place is called the Balkbashi pass.

It’s like a two seasons in one day: summer and winter. A green meadows, sun and the warm at the bottom, and the icy wind, snow and tea, which was just poured into a cup instantly cools at the top. It must to go under the pass about 200m down to the stop place, which is protected from the piercing wind and we thoroughly frozen instantly teleported in it.

There are solid rocks is arond, cliffs and impenetrable clouds. Those who are getting to spend the night in this place before, built and finish building stone walls around camp, which creates a quite comfortable image. Sure , we make a contribution to the building of the century.

Аnother interesting day of our trek almost around Mount Elbrus was finished with this picture 🙂

Elbrus in clouds, Karachay–CherkessiaAs it typical for Caucasus – it is clear in the morning, and all in the heavy clouds in the evening.

In a typical morning Elbrus appeared with unprecedented side for me. Everybody usually looking at it from Terskol seeing familiar shapes, so quite so pleasant and familiar (I hope you understandd what I mean).

Snow and stones on Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

Stones on Elbrus, Karachay–CherkessiaMorning sky was clear and the day promised to be hot. We began the descent into the valley, where it was unreal hot, especially when you suddenly get here from the permanent cold. I, as usual, walk little behind:

Tourust team in mountain valley, Elbrus, Karachay–CherkessiaWe quite quickly came to the river. The river was shallow and had a lot of areas for crossing, but its rapid flow could knock down at any moment, so we must be especially careful.

River in mountain valley, Karachay–Cherkessia

Today we had a long passage to the sources, the name of which I forget. But this is not just a place in the rock where the water flows (for example), it is specially equipped “bath” of stones where is always some amount of water. People who have any health problem should visit a “bath”. I must say that this place is very popular near close lying hills, many square kilometers of them occupied tents, camping and just cars. People come here for a long time in hope to recruit their health. Usually I don’t like to make such photos, where human presence is, therefore, to assess the extent of all the action you only have in person. Yet, in the rainy afternoon was again the ray of light and a rainbow made this shot:

Rainbow, Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

For those who are going to walk this route, and it is quite popular, must take into account that a good place for tents are very difficult to find, especially if you have 5 tents for the whole group. So it will be very far from any source of drinking water, or it will be a steep slope or in the mud from cars. Therefore, it will take a time to find a good place.

By the way, since the place is popular, there is a traditionally occurred simple places, built on the basis of a body of an old truck, where you can taste the local cuisine. Inside them you may find the kitchen itself and the tables. Pretty good interior and most importantly – food tastes delicious!

The next day we decided not to go anywhere, but to make “a day’s rest.” So we slept half a day, dried wear that completely drenched yesterday, make several visits to a local restaurant for cakes with different fillings (they were really very good). Another half of the day we gather strength before tomorrow, when we have to climb to the top.

We teleported again, if you can call this movement with a large backpack, in the cold and desert. For some reason just that word I always liked to apply for transition. Because sometimes you did not really notice how everything changes dramatically. Usually you think about the trek or in search of good landscape. And in the evening suddenly you realize – here you feel different than at the bottom. Therefore I call it teleportation. It was very cold on our roost and muddy shore of the river at night covering with ice.

Cold river and Elbrus top, Karachay–Cherkessia

There is no other source of water here, so we settle the water for a long time, to precipitate more or less settled on the bottom of the pots and bottles. So it turns that a good idea is to have a portable water filter. But who will carry it was a question. After all, you always want to pack yourself the smallest possible size and weight of backpack.

Milky river, Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

Overnight in these places is not very comfortable It is impossible to rest in really cold environment, so we don’t feel strong next morning as expected . Therefore, people don’t stay in such places for a long time, so what we did is to move out early next morning.

Today we had to cross the glacier and the pass. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a records in this trip and forget many names and titles. So I just introduce this photos – maybe someone recognized these places. I think I remember this rock called “peak of Kalitsky” but I could be wrong.

Nek near Elbrus, Karachay–Cherkessia

There are many streams and rivers with tasty water flows through the glacier. The pass is not hard to cross. A glacier free of fractures and big cracks.

The pass afford a fine view on both valleys. It’s wonder but someone made up a camp here. Tent place was surrounded with fence of stones, to have a minimal protection from wind, which blows almost every time. I hesitated to spend a night here and we moved down the hill.

Valley, Kabardino-Balkaria

During moving down the hill we were covered with cloud but some of the gust opened us the field with huge flock of grazing horses. From the way they playing was seen they have mating period. And sure it was a lot of moments to shot and I must to get closer. Not throwing my travel bag I moved to the horses. Once I made this shot the couple instantly and resolutely rushed to me. Perhaps I was too obsessive and broken their idyll. As a result I was like tourist with big backpack entangled in high grass with a camera in a hand and a pair of horses behind. Everything ended well, no one has been bitten or not get a hoof to the head. But what expression I had you can only imagine. So do not disturb the peace of pair with you presence – use telephoto lenses instead. 

In a place of our overnight, as it seen from fallen trees, avalanching two years ago. Flat fields, a source with fresh water and a lot of mushrooms it all you can find here.

Trees in valley, Kabardino-Balkaria

Small farms come along the way, were you may buy milk, cheese sour cream or ayran. Ayran is quite bracing drink I strongly recommend. The shepherd sold us a cream and we picked mushrooms cook delicious mushroom sauce for porridge. After a tiring day’s journey is nothing tastier. We can see shepherd’s houses on photo. 

Monochromic mountains, Kabardino-Balkaria

In the morning we left the valley and went to Treskol by car to restock food to walk through the pass VCSPS. All went well until our leader dislocated shoulder during the climb, so the pass had to be postponed for another trip.

Mountain valley, Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

At the hospital his shoulder was put in place and we went to the old woman Baluzhan in Treskol We spend a few days with she dried all things and began to gather for ascent to Mount Elbrus. In general the ascent was successful: a lot of guys in our group reached the summit, they were able to find the strength. This year were a lot of people and tents places at any free place, such as in this photo. But in the morning you can enjoy the beautiful landscape without getting out of bed.

Camp on rocks, Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

I didn’t go to the top because I was there two years ago and at the moment it was interesting for me to take pictures of the sunrise. We spent 3 days at the top, and one of them was wonderful morning for photography. 

The main Caucasian ridge during sunrise, Kabardino-Balkaria

So our journey came to the end but not finished. There was downhill, trip to the local market for souvenirs, walking, grand dinner but that’s completely different story.

Elbrus at morning time, Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

Elbrus in morning time

Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, the Russian Federation, near the border with Georgia. Mt. Elbrus’s peak is the highest in the Caucasus, in Russia. Elbrus has two summits both of which are dominant volcanic domes. Mt. Elbrus (west summit) stands at 5,642m (18,510ft) the east summit is slightly lower at 5,621 metres (18,442ft). I was on eastern top of Elbrus:)  Great place at any time of the year for tourism, climbing and landscape photography!

Elbrus at morning time, Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

Journey to Mount Elbrus

 It was my first trip to the Caucasus and to such high mountains also. For me has always been native the mountains of the Crimea, which so impressive for its beauty, but difficult to compare with the Caucasus – they are much bigger and greater.

I’m with the group was planned climbing Elbrus by common ascent route. That means that we can’t use the cable cars and or adjuvants, such as porters or horses. Therefore, we carry all of the load on itself, and its been quite a lot due to the fact that the expedition assumed complete self-contained life, that means, we had a base camp and tents, we cooked in a traveling kitchen. It was quite other-worldly lifestyle from all of the people.

As a starting point and a base camp we chose wood near the Terskol village at the foot of Mount Elbrus in Kabardino-Balkaria. Suitable place was near the stream, river and mineral spring water which is very useful for health. There are many aromatic and fresh berries grew not far away from our base camp, which undoubtedly adds flavour to our gruel and afternoon tea . We had a huge, roomy tent for 4 persons . The entrance was covered with tent of the same size, with the equipment and mobile kitchen in it. Even in the mountains it is essential to organize comfort rest place.

Mist, valley of mountain Elbrus

Stones on the river Terskol, valley of mountain Elbrus

In the first days we equipping the camp and training by simple walk for acclimatization. All the climbers knows that not only a good physical preparation, but acclimatization is one of the conditions for a successful climbing to the peak of the mountain. All these days we did not climb above 3000 meters because it’s enough for the first time, as explained our instructor.

Clouds, valley of mountain Elbrus

Stony hill, valley of mountain Elbrus

Rocks, valley of mountain Elbrus

valley of mountain Elbrus

River, valley of mountain Elbrus

Our climbing route looked like this: Terskol – alpine meadows at the waterfall “Maiden Spit” – Ice Base – stopping place at “Priyut 11” – peak of Elbrus .
Stones on the field, valley of mountain Elbrus

herd of a sheeps, valley of mountain Elbrus

River on the field, valley of mountain Elbrus

Lake, valley of mountain Elbrus

To make the work easier we left our equipment and food in the ice base. This will not only facilitate our final ascent to the peak, but will also provide additional acclimatization, because ice base is at an altitude of 3655 meters. There’s already quite cold enough and you can literally jump from the summer at foot, to the winter at peak. Leaving all that was brought in a secret place , we went down to the base camp . I mean to say that at that place I take a pretty nice shots. A felt of the height of these mountains and rocks is amazing, and the light at dawn and dusk behaves quite differently than in the lowlands. And it’s good to know that you get up in a morning to make shoot and eventually get beautiful shots.

Stones, valley of mountain Elbrus

Ice base
House, valley of mountain Elbrus

High rocks, valley of mountain Elbrus

Sunrise rays, valley of mountain Elbrus

Bright sunrise, valley of mountain Elbrus

We went down to our base camp in Terskol for 2 days rest. During this time, we went to the village, to buy some souvenirs, which mostly made from sheep’s wool, ceramics and simple magnets. I get familiar with local cuisine, particularly liked the lamb kebabs and red wine, whose name i can’t remembered . In general, it is a tourist place, but in the winter Mount Elbrus serves like ski resort, which has lifts and many hotels. Locals are very friendly and always glad to answer for your question. Besides climbing and winter extreme sports it is a nice and calm place to stay.

After 2 days, we went to the familiar Ice base, arranged the night and the next day, plunging all the equipment we moved on. Our path led through the glacier “Terskol” in full fog. Glacier itself has a lot of dangerous cracks , so here it is necessary to remember about safety equipment during traveling.
Crossing in the mist always seem infinitely long but nevertheless after about 4-5 hours, we heard the sounds of snow groomers and snowmobiles, that means that “Priyut 11” is near.

Mountain in the mist, valley of mountain Elbrus

Among the rocks was not much space for a tent, it was occupied with other climbers. But we had a snow shovel, with which we have made for themselves a great place for a tent, smooth and protected from the wind. According to the weather forecast the next day promised to be clear and we decided that night to go to the peak, so after installing the camp we went to bed. At 1:00 am we were awakened by the alarm, and we decided to dress up slowly and drink tea with chocolate, which has a lot of energy. And certainly not without Ukrainian national product, such as ” fat”. We faced a serious work, so we had to eat it. At 2:00 we went out of the tent in the dark, it was around hundreds of stars and thread climbers with flashlights on the slopes of Mount Elbrus.
It is difficult to describe all the experience of climbing any mountain, it is necessary to feel by yourself. Despite the hurricane, which began at the moment when we came out, as it was the first serious mountain, we finally reached the peak of Mount Elbrus.

Mountain range, valley of mountain Elbrus

By all means try it by yourself!

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