Mt. Elbrus represents two summits of the extinct volcano – the Eastern by an altitude of 5621m. above sea level, the Western-5642m. above sea level. The basic structure of the rocks is gneisse, granite, tuff and diabase of a volcanic parentage. It is located on the Bokovoy (Latern) Caucasian Ridge and joins the Main Caucasian Ridge by Hotutau Pass.
From an altitude of 3500m its surface basically is coated with the glaciers (there are 77 of them), the area of which is 144,5 sq.km. The glaciers are cut up with the cracks and in the bottom they end with the icefalls. There are a lot of cracks, vertical rocky-ice segments, and icefalls on the northern and western slopes.
On the free from glaciers surface there are moraines. The main part of the slopes are flat but from an altitude of 4000m. an average steepness reaches 35 degree. On the southern slope there are vertical rocky segments by an altitude up to 700m. The eastern slopes are flatter. Below 3500m. of a rock, there are a lot of stony deposits, which even in summer are coated with the melting snow tongues.
Climatic conditions in Elbrus region are quite different from continental air mass, as in Tibet and Himalayas one. They cause strong hypoxy. Arctic climate on glaciers demands much physical and spirit strength. It is covered with snow and ice and determines the climate and weather of a considerable area.
Climbing the peaks of Elbrus demand excellent techniques but gives much joy and satisfaction with reaching the top.
“Elbrus is the biggest skiing mountain in the world” is the opinion of mountain skiers.
Elbrus is a volcano with two crater peaks which was formed a million years ago. We seldom remember that it is a volcano. But here is what science says:
“The result of many years of research testify to the activity of volcanic processes proper on Elbrus in the Holocene period including historical time. Elbrus is a modern volcano which is quiescent at the present time. The absence of eruptions during the last millennium cannot be regarded as an indication that the volcano is extinct. The proof of the magmatic center is situated apparently some six or seven kilometers below the surface. Founding our view on geological data, we come to the conclusion that the volcano Elbrus is on an ascending curve of its development”.
This does not mean that Elbrus is likely to erupt at any moment. The geological processes are stretched out over time-spans where the dimensions of human life do not apply. However, the knowledge that Elbrus is alive sharpens our interest in this region.
The streams of lava emitted at various times, the outlets of hot gases and mineral springs on the slopes of the Eastern peak, the hot springs some 10 to 15 kilometers from the crater, testify to an active past of the volcano.
The peaks of Elbrus comprise two independent volcanoes, which have grown on a much older volcanic foundation. The eastern cone (5,621 meters) is very young and has preserved its regular volcanic form with a clearly discernible crater-bowl. The western cone (5,642 meters) is older and has suffered erosion – almost one third of its upper part has been destroyed by a vertical fault. The distance between the peaks is 1,500 meters.