kabardino-balkaria republic – республика кабардино-балкария

The Kabardino-Balkaria Republic is one of the Russian Caucasian republics. Many travelers come here to climb Mount Elbrus the highest peak in Europe. The mountain has two summits – the western at 5642 m and the eastern at 5621 m. The area around Elbrus is a paradise for skiing, snowboarding, trekking and rock climbing.

Mount Elbrus at a distance.

Mount Elbrus at a short range.

The road to the foothills of Elbrus from Nalchik – the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria – runs through the Baksan Valley. The road is scenic as surrounding mountains although smaller than Elbrus are picturesquely shaped.

Visitors who are not mountain climbers can use the chairlifts to go as high as 3500 m for better views of Elbrus and surrounding area. At this altitude it is snowy all the year round and often foggy.

In July 1995 I was among a small group of eight people who not only climbed the mountain but skydived over Elbrus and landed on the eastern summit (5,621 m ASL) having exited a helicopter at the altitude of 7,000 meters ASL. July 20, 1995. Before boarding the helicopter. Left to right: Vyacheslav Golovushkin, Vladimir Halo, Sergey Insarov, Olga Medvedeva, Tatiana Sadolina, Mikhail Rybochkin, (kneeling) Vladimir Alekseev (all Russia), Max Dereta (The Netherlands).

Mt. Elbrus summits as seen through an open helicopter door. (The below 4 photos are by Max Dereta).

Gliding over Elbrus.

Rejoicing the safe landing.

A short video of the Elbrus jump.

On the top after landing.

Our helicopter (MI-8 MTV) is landing on the eastern summit to pick up the mountain skydiving team.

Views from the helicopter.

Climbing to the top.

On the slopes of Mt. Elbrus.

Before climbing the mountain it is advisable to stay several days at high altitude for acclimatization. "The Shelter of Eleven" was built in 1939 at 4,200 m ASL and gave refuge to climbers till August 16, 1998. On that day the shelter was burnt to ashes by careless climbers.

Acclimatization included long walks, sunbathing, snow-rubbing and shots of vodka to thin blood.

A lonely climber.