Elbrus Expedition: Equipment Checklist

Elbrus Expedition: Equipment Checklist
Climb Elbrus via the South Route_Soul Adventures_1

ELBRUS EXPEDITION EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

So you’ve decided to climb Elbrus and have no idea what equipment is needed. Well, as luck would have it…we can find of help with that dilemma. We have been involved in Elbrus expeditions for over 15 years. We have been through the learning curve and baptism of fire on the mountains of the world. We have compiled a comprehensive equipment list for your Elbrus climb as well as description on each category. Just in case this is your first mountain the you are climbing.

Things to consider

 Well yes sireeee…your equipment is going to cost you a pretty penny. And try not to skimp on the quality sunshine. You are dealing with Elbrus. The weather is very volatile and we have often reached temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius on the summit push. We like to follow a philosophy of ‘prepare for the worst case scenario’ in the Russian mountains. The level of equipment needed is way different to that of say Kilimanjaro or your fridge. You do not want to lose a finger or winky to frostbite. So rather spend a few bob extra and get quality equipment for Elbrus.

We will help you!!

If you are unsure of what equipment you need to climb Elbrus, let us help you. We would love to guide you through the process before the climb. In this way, we will both have peace of mind knowing that you not only have the correct equipment, but the correct quantity as well. We have been up Elbrus many times and know exactly what you need. We will even come to the shops with you to assist with your purchases. (no offence to the retailers of the world, but the sales staff have not been on Elbrus and do not know the conditions).

Renting vs Buying

So yes, you can save a bit by renting equipment. Items that are available to rent include mountaineering boots, crampons, ice axes, harnesses, ski goggles, snow gaiters and high altitude snow mittens. All of the equipment is readily available in the towns prior to us leaving for the base camp higher up the mountain. And yes…the quality id good. The Russians know how to make good mountaineering equipment. Strange that seeing as they live in -30 degree blizzards for 70% of their lives. The only snag might be the hygiene factor. You are going to have to put up with a mountaineering boot that has had 100 sweaty, athlete foot infested feet in them. Sounds dramatic I know. We like drama. And we like the look on our clients faces when they smell those boots. Okay, okay. Calm down. The equipment is cleaned after every expedition so they are not that bad. It was just a vicious ploy to get you to spend money at the retailers and make them rich and thus keep our economy going.

And so…without further ado…may we introduce you to…tah dah……..the much anticipate…..Elbrus Equipment list. (cheers and clapping ring out from the masses)

Body Wear

  • Waterproof/windproof outer shell jacket
  • Waterproof/windproof outer shell pants
  • Down jacket
  • 300 series fleece jacket
  • Lightweight fleece top
  • Softshell climbing pants
  • 2 pairs of hiking pants

□ 4 pairs of quick dry trekking shirts ( long sleeve)

  • 1-2 pairs of thermal underwear tops
  • 1 pair of thermal underwear bottoms
  • Underwear/panties/thongs/pink puffy bunny panties

Head Wear

□ Warm beanie

□ Sun hat

  • Balaclava
  • Sunglasses with massive UV protection. Preferably polaroid.

□ Ski goggles

  • Bandana and/or Buff

Hand Wear

□ 1 pair of Liner gloves

□ Outer gloves

  • Expedition mittens that can handle -20

Foot Wear

  • 4 pairs of liner socks
  • 5 pairs of trekking socks
  • 2 pairs of thermal socks

□ Lightweight shoes/sandals

□ Hiking boots

  • Mountaineering boots
  • Snow gaiters

Hiking bags

  • Large 120 litre expedition duffel bag
  • Daypack (30-35 Litres)

Sleeping Gear

□ Down sleeping bag (-10C/14F)

□ Sleeping bag liner

  • Inflatable sleeping mat (Optional)

Accessories

□ Headlamp and spare lithium batteries

  • Personal first aid kit and medication
  • Personal toiletries

□ Wet wipes

□ Sun block and lip balm

□ 2 x 1 litre Water bottles ( no camelback type things. They suck in the mountains)

□ Small Thermos flask

□ Stuff sacks

□ Pocket knife/Leatherman

□ Camera (Optional)

□ Ear plugs (Optional)

  • 2 x Collapsible trekking poles

Climbing Equipment

□ Ice axe (55 to 75cm depending on your height)

□ Crampons

□ Mountaineering Climbing harness

  • 2x Locking carabiners x 2
  • 2x 120cm climbing slings

Other

  • Copy of passport and visa page, travel agent contact details, insurance policy detail

Clothing and Equipment Information Guide

 Alrighty then. What does this all mean? We have broken it down for you. You are going to find a crap load of brands, fabrics and styles in the shops. Mountain climbing equipment is sometimes stitched together using a combination of things. You will need to know what you are buying is the correct gear for Elbrus conditions. The most important factor when it comes to choosing mountain equipment is functionality and adequacy. Bright pink colours with yellow dots are the best for Elbrus. They help us sneak past the Russian patrols easier.

Another key factor when it comes to equipment for Elbrus is to minimise the weight and bulk. You don’t need 45 pairs of underpants. Or 7 pairs of trekking pants. You will only be on the mountain for say 8 days so you will be just fine with wearing a pair of pants more than once. You will save on the extra baggage costs and your back will love you if you are doing the North route and have to carry your own equipment. Just ensure you choose gear that is warm and functional. Solar powered socks with a built in nail clipper is not functional.

Some of the best fabrics to choose when it comes to day thermal underwear include Merino wool ( it does not absorb body odour so you can wear it for days without stinking out your climbing buddies) or polypropylene. Do not bring any cotton based fabrics. They absorb sweat, do not dry and lead to you getting frikken cold as a result.

Your warmer garments will include Fleece or Primaloft which is a pretty cool material as they are warm, even when damp , water resistant and dry pretty quickly.

Waterproof /windproof OuterShell Jacket

The best fabric is probably Goretex. Yip…it is a tad expensive but lasts forever and does the job on mountains. It is breathable, windproof and waterproof. Just make sure the seams are sealed or it will leak. The jacket should be easy to move in and easy to put on and take off, when wearing gloves or mitts. Shell clothing made of PVC or similar totally waterproof but non-breathable material is not suitable, as moisture cannot escape when you are exerting energy and you become damp from the inside out! Fabric ‘breathability’ is very important when you are trekking in a mountainous environment. A versatile model with a full front zipper and an attached hood is ideal.

 Waterproof Shell Pants

The best Waterproof shell pants are the ones that have full zips along the legs. This allows you to put them on or take them off without taking off your mountaineering boots and crampons.

Down Jacket

We recommend a midweight down jacket rated to -10C with a hood for extra warmth.

Lightweight Fleece Top

A lightweight (100 weight) fleece top is a good thing to have. You can wear it when you get to hot for down and is good or around bas camp.

.Sunglasses

Do you want to go snow blind? No? Well good answer. So make sure you get the correct sunglasses then sunshine. You will need  “glacier” style sunglesses with side protection, although some wraparound glasses provide enough protection from reflected light. The lens should be dark enough to withstand the intense reflection from the snow and MUST filter 100% of UVA, B and C radiation. Snow reflects up to 85% of solar radiation and the UV index increases 10% with every 1,000m gain in altitude, so it is of utmost importance you protect your eyes.

Ski Goggles

High-quality goggles for sun and wind protection at altitude. The lens should offer visible light transmission (VLT) of no more than 30%. Those with light-sensitive eyes may wish to use a darker lens. Photochromatic models are ideal for use in changing conditions. If you wear prescription glasses, please ensure that they fit under your goggles.

Bandana and/or Buff

A bandana and/or buff are a useful addition to the cap to protect the back of your neck from the sun.

Liner Gloves

These form a base layer and are worn whenever climbing. Lightweight comfortable liner gloves are worn on hot days to protect against sunburn, as well as under heavier gloves and mittens on cold days. Wearing these gloves will prevent cold injuries in situations requiring full finger dexterity and they can also be worn doubled up.

Outer gloves

These puppies will be worn over your liners. They are perfect for most conditions but not really good enough for the summit nights they will not handle -20. The expedition mittens are best as they keep your fingers touching inside the glove thus increasing warmth.

Expedition Mittens

Choose expedition mittens with a down or synthetic (i.e., Primaloft) fill and a Gore-Tex or similar outer. When buying mittens, it is very important to ensure that you can easily put on and take off the mitten while wearing your liner and/or fleece gloves. And please……make sure the have a cord with them that allows you to fasten them to your down jacket. You do not want to drop them on the climb when you take them off for whatever reason. They are bulky and cumbersome and dropping them down a inaccessible and steep snow slope is a reality that you would want to avoid.

Socks

Various combinations suit different people. You need at least 3 complete sets of your personal preference. Some people prefer to wear just one pair of socks in their boots, while others wear two; a thicker pair over a thinner one.

Lightweight Shoes/Sandals

A pair of lightweight shoes, crocs or sandals that have a good sole to wear in the huts, as well as for when travelling. It is nice to put your feet in comfortable shoes after a long day in your (sometimes smelly) trekking or climbing boots!

Trekking Boots

You want a lightweight, comfortable pair of trekking boots with good ankle support and a reasonable sole for traction such as Vibram. Some people prefer a trekking shoe because they are lighter, but a boot offers much better ankle support.

Mountaineering Boots

An insulated plastic, synthetic or hybrid leather climbing boot is required, as they are warm and have a removable inner liner which makes drying easier. Make sure the boot is a comfortable fit and you have extra room to wiggle your toes on cold mornings.

Snow Gaiters

Gaiters are used to keep snow and small rocks out of your boots. They need a zip or velcro closure and a good tie down under the instep of your boot to stop them creeping up at the heel, when walking in soft snow. These should be a Canvas or Gore-Tex combination, sealing around the top of your boots and extending to the top of your calf without being too tight.

120 Litre Duffel Bag

Bring a large, lightweight duffel bag that is big enough to take all the equipment that you will use on the mountain. This will be left in the hut while you are making the summit attempt.

Daypack (30-35 Litres)

Bring a comfortable daypack with a capacity of around 30-35 litres to carry your jacket, camera, water bottle and snack food. Although the pack doesn’t need to be very big, it MUST have a system to secure your crampons and ice axe to it for when you are not using them.

Down Sleeping Bag (-8C)

A down bag rated with a comfort level of around -8 Degrees Celsius with a half or full zip. You will be sleeping inside the hut, so there is no need for any waterproof coatings.

Sleeping Bag Liner

Bring along a sleeping bag liner which can be made from silk, cotton or wool. Sleeping bag liners are great for keeping your bag clean, adding some additional warmth and useful when using your sleeping bag as a quilt on the hut mattresses.

Collapsible Trekking Poles

These are great for the acclimatisation hikes and are imperative for easy walking at altitude. Snow baskets are handy for when you are walking in the snow.

Ice Axe

We recommend a lightweight mountaineering ice axe rather than a heavy tool, as you only need it as a walking support on a small portion of the climb. The axe should be a walking length of roughly 55-65cm depending on your height. The axe should have a basic wrist leash of some sort.

Crampons

The clip-on style with a toe harness is best and do check that the set-up is secure, and that the strap is long enough. Avoid technical ice climbing crampons and ensure you have ‘anti-balling’ plates on them.

Climbing Harness

Bring a lightweight alpine climbing harness. This must have gear loops as well as adjustable leg loops and waist to fit over the varying clothing combinations that are worn during an expedition. Ensure you try your harness over your climbing clothing to ensure it fits BEFORE you leave home!

Locking Carabiners

Bring manually locking, pear-shaped carabiners that have a screw gate mechanism. Some climbers prefer to use a ‘twist lock’ style carabiner. Whatever you use make sure you bring the type with which you are most familiar and have used in very cold conditions.

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