Located in the western Caucasus Mountains and near the border with Georgia, Mount Elbrus in Russia is Europe’s highest mountain. A dormant volcano, the highest of its two peaks reaches 5,642m (18,510ft). Notorious for it’s brutal winter weather, winter ascents are extremely rare, it offers superb skiing and climbing in the summer, with 100s climbing it daily.
And not to be beaten by their Alpine counterparts, Elbrus, and Russia, can now also boast Europe’s highest gondola, transporting passengers up to 3,847m (12,621ft), 7 feet higher than the famous Aiguille du Midi tram at Chamonix, France.
Completed last season, this third stage of the lift, ‘Mir to Garabashi’, cost $15m and improves on the mountains previous top, the Mir station at 3,455m (11,335ft). The development has opened further ski terrain, adding an extra 4.5km of defined trails and taking the skiable vertical to 1,275m (4,183ft). Initially the lift line has a capacity for 750 people per hour, including wheelchair access, but there are plans to double that number in the future by adding more cabins. The development is part of a massive $15bn dollar project to revitalise the Russian tourist industry and draw tourists to a region blighted by a terrorist attack in 2011.
The gondola serves all level of skier, and expert skiers can take a cat trip further up to 4700m (winter) and 5100m (summer) and be rewarded with even more vertical, steep bowls and vast open powder fields.
Future development is planned to construct a fourth stage, ‘Garabashi to Priut 11’, which will take passengers to 5,621m (18,442ft), making it the highest aerial lift on the planet. This would be to the summit of the lower east peak, leaving the higher west peak still available for those wanting to conquer the continent’s highest mountain.
Mount Elbrus is one of the seven summits (can you name the other six?!) and can also lay claim to the worlds nastiest outhouse!