Mount El’brus—located in the Caucasus mountain chain—is the highest peak in Russia.


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Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies, World History


El'brus Hikers

Hikers traversing the plains below Russia's Mount El'brus. Part of the Caucasus Mountains, it is the highest above-ground peak in Europe.

Photograph by Dean Croger, courtesy of the National Geographic image collection
Hikers traversing the plains below Russia's Mount El'brus. Part of the Caucasus Mountains, it is the highest above-ground peak in Europe.

Mount El’brus is located in southwest Russia and is part of the Caucasus Mountains. It is the highest point in Russia as well as the highest point in all of Europe. It makes up part of the Prielbrusye National Park. El’brus is one of the Seven Summits of the world, which are the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents.

El’brus is an extinct volcano that is around 2.5 million years old. Its last known eruption was in 50 C.E. Ancient peoples called the mountain Strobilus, which in Latin means “pine cone,” due to the mountain’s twisted shape.

It has two peaks, each of which rises over 5,590 meters (18,000 feet). The climate of El’brus is generally cold. Even during summer, nighttime temperatures are around -8°C (18°F). It is even colder above the snow line. Much of El’brus is covered by ice, and 22 glaciers can be found on the mountain. Water from glacier melt feeds surrounding rivers. The east summit of the mountain was first reached by the Russian army on a scientific expedition in 1829. In 1874, climbers reached the west summit, the highest point of the mountain.

Today, El’brus is a major tourism center. People mainly travel to the mountain for skiing and hiking. Reaching the summit of El’brus is highly challenging and should only be attempted at certain times of year. However, out of the Seven Summits, El’brus is considered one of the easiest to climb thanks to a cable car system that carries climbers up to an elevation of 3,658 meters (12,500 feet). Most climbers reach the peak in less than a week, but El’brus still has a high amount of deaths—around 30 annually—relative to the number of climbers who attempt to summit each year.

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
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Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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