Elbrus and a pinch of Kabardino-Balkaria

A small group gathered to visit Elbrus, they called my friend, and he called me. He writes to me once, saying that there is such an opportunity, tickets are cheap, departure in a week, but it is necessary to decide today. It was unexpected! My first thought: “How to go on a trip without preparation? … probably I will refuse,” but after thinking a little, I decided, why not? 🤔 At work, I found out that I can take days off , so I bought tickets.

Travel for 5 days, but the first and the last had to be spent on the transfer.

Day 1

Arriving in Mineralnye Vody, we went to Terskol, where hotels were booked. At the beginning of the journey, there was no snow on the street, and the temperature was +2 °C, I was afraid that skiing would not be able. But at the end of the route the altitude was already 2200m, and there was snow all around. The way to Terskol is very beautiful! Especially closer to the destination when you enter the Baksan Gorge. Mountains surround you on your right and left, and the road gradually goes up. At the beginning of the gorge, the weather was cloudy, but at some point we rose above the clouds, it became clear, the sun illuminated the slopes of the mountains, a delight for the eyes.

The Baksan Gorge is very large, it even has a whole city, Tyrnyauz. There are also sources of Narzan Water there.

The road to Terskol was long, 4 hours. So after check-in, there was no thoughts of skiing that day. But we had to eat. The hotel was a 15 minute walk from the Cheget ski resort where there were enough restaurants. So, we went there and found a cool restaurant where we had dinner on this and following days.

Day 2

The next morning I rented skis, the friend – a snowboard, and we went straight to the top. The rest of the guys took boards and an instructor, they did not know how to ride, so they had training. There are several cableways working on Elbrus, each subsequent one takes you higher and higher to the next station. In the ski resort of Elbrus, there is the Azau station (2350m), from which the first cableway begins. This cableway leads to the Stary Krugozor station (3000), from there second cableway lifts to the Mir station (3500m), and from there the third cableway to the Garabashi station (3840m) lies.

The first ascent is extremely inspiring and uplifting! After all, unreal landscapes of snowy mountains open from a comfortable cable car! I wish this rise did not stop 😌 But here it is the top (actually, the upper station, not the top of Elbrus, is still far away), we put on the equipment and go! We rode until the cableways closed. And they close early, the top one closes first, it happens at 15:30. All due to the fact that it gets dark very quickly.

Day 3

The next day we devoted to visiting several tourist places of Kabardino-Balkaria. To do this, the day before, we found a driver with a minibus and agreed with him. We drove to the first place at least 3 hours. It was the village of Upper Balkaria. Of all the places, we liked it the most. A feature of this place is the ruins on the side of the mountain. And at the top of the ruins there is almost intact watchtower of Abai-Kala. We walked up to it, from there a wonderful view of the Circassian gorge opened up. Photographs can’t show a beauty of nature fully.

On the way back, not far from Upper Balkaria, we stopped at the blue lakes. Another sight. But these lakes were not included in our plans, so we took photos of the lake that was by the road, and went on. The color of the lake is really blue, but at some angles it seems greenish. And the water is very clear. A beautiful lake! As I understand, there are still lakes, but to see them you have to climb the mountain.

We drove for a very long time. On the way we passed through the city of Nalchik. From the car window, I got the impression that it consists of forest parks and car markets. We got to the second planned point: Chegem waterfalls. They were frozen, but the water still flowed. They looked very nice. But the impression from them was not very exciting. Probably because there is nothing else to see. Come, take a picture of the waterfall, leave… Well, we, however, took a lunch break at the restaurant overlooking the waterfall. It was interesting to watch how giant icicles broke off and fell down with a crash.

And again, a long sitting in the car on the way to the last planned place for today. This time we went to the thermal sources of Geduko. This is a whole health complex with a hotel and many swimming pools. But it was only possible to swim in 2 pools. The big one had warm water, the small one was a little hotter (but I won’t call it really hot). We sat in a small pool. Close to it was the same mirrored pool, but with ice water. From time to time we jumped into it, and back to hot. It was nice when it’s winter outside ☺️ However, for me there was nothing unusual here, in Kamchatka I was in many similar complexes with thermal sources.

Day 4

We devoted the last full day to skiing on Elbrus. Either a little snow fell on the mountain, or due to of other temperature conditions, but it was more pleasant to ride that day. But in general there was still little snow, in places there were even pebbles on the track, everyone was scratching their skis and snowboards. It was a pity for people who spoil their individual expensive equipment. In some places, the track was turned into ice, and since the rental skis had poor edges, it was impossible to carve on the ice. Vacationers themselves are partly to blame for the formation of ice. I noticed that the average level of a skier (I will not evaluate snowboarders, because I don’t ride on the board) is not very high, from observations about 10% of skiers are able to do carved turn, the rest do skidded turn, thereby shoveling and turning snow into ice.

Day 4

Early getting up and transfer to the airport in Mineralnye Vody.

Equipment rental and resort slopes

About rental. On the first day of skiing, I rented equipment at the Azau ski station itself. It cost me 1600 rubles per day (about 23$). The skis are badly scratched, but they sharpen edges on the spot, if you ask (it takes half an hour). On another day, I rented equipment in another rental (there are many different rental houses in Azau resort), where the skis were even more damaged. However, the skis themselves were cooler, although their condition was worse, I liked to ride them more. The rental cost me 800 rubles per day (about 12$).

The cost of a day ski pass on the first day was 1700 rubles (one of the slopes was still closed that day), on the second day it was 2200 rubles (24$ and 31$ correspondingly).

As for the configuration of the tracks, to be honest, I didn’t like them. The track consists of very steep and very gentle sections. There is very little optimal slope, from my point of view. Perhaps, in part, my impression was bad because the steep slopes were icy, and you had to suffer, not enjoy.

Altitude sickness?

Both days of skiing started well, but the second half of day was suffering from headache. I suppose it was a mild form of altitude sickness, because we have essentially not been acclimatized since arrival. When I had a headache I felt my pulse rise strongly from the slightest effort. Interestingly (I noticed this on the second day of skiing) that the pain in the head began abruptly after eating. We had chebureks and khychins (a national dish, very tasty, but quite a fat) for lunch at a cafe at Mir station. By the way, we didn’t have breakfast both days. Perhaps, if we had delayed eating until the end of skiing, we would not have experienced headaches.


Kabardino-Balkaria amazed me with its beauty! Now I understand why Lermontov wrote so much about the Caucasus, I think every visiting writer finds enough inspiration there. Do I want to go there again? Yes, I do! Perhaps at other season, to see what the mountains look like in summer, and to go trekking with a backpack and a tent. There are many beautiful places that I want to visit. As for skiing… yes, it would be possible to go again, but choose a more snowy time for this.