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Russia

Mount Elbrus

Europe's highest peak is a key pillar of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge. 

One of mountaineering’s biggest challenges is climbing each of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. The honor of the highest peak in Europe goes to Mount Elbrus, which is located in southern Russia near the Georgia border. At 18,510 feet, Elbrus might not be an Everest (29,029 feet) or Aconcagua (22,837 feet), but it still makes for an impressive view from the top.

Mount Elbrus, a dormant volcano in the Caucasus Mountains, has two summits: one from the east and one from the west. The first climb up the east peak of Elbrus happened 1829, with the taller west peak having its moment in 1874.

Although its terrain makes it one of the more accessible Seven Summits, climbing Elbrus isn’t always an easy feat. According to a 2005 interview with Boris Tilov, chief of the regional rescue service, an average of between 15 to 30 people die on the mountain each year. It is generally recommended that inexperienced climbers go in a group with a guide.    

Not sure that you’re up for a rugged mountain-climbing experience? Elbrus has a cable car and chair lift to take riders a couple miles up the mountain. There are plenty of smaller day hikes around the area as well.

If you’re more keen on going down the mountain rather than up it, Elbrus is also home to a popular ski resort. And if you really want to get down the mountain fast, there is also the annual Elbrus race, where participants vie for the fastest downhill time.

No matter what speed you’re heading up (or down) the mountain, one Elbrus climber’s thoughts seem fitting, “Nothing is quite like being above the clouds, close to the heavens, ever-present and living an adventure.”  

Know Before You Go

The easiest way to get to Elbrus is take a flight to Nalchik (the nearest airport) and from there take a taxi or a bus to Terskol, the nearest town.