Pik Profsoyuzov is a modest snowy peak that forms part of the Shkhelda group in the Caucasus. It is located at the head of the Shkhelda Glacier on the Russian-Georgian border between Shkhelda West and Small Shkhelda. Nearly all ascents are made from the Russian side due to the greater familiarity and easier accessibility. The mountain’s base camp can easily be reached in two days from Nalchik and therefore a good choice for someone with limited time. The peak is also an ideal objective for acclimatisation if attempting the likes of Ushba or the main Shkhelda peaks.
The easiest route on the mountain is a Russian 2A. The route approaches from the Akhsu Left Glacier to the West, climbs the Western slopes of the mountain, and then crosses to join a North-Easterly Ridge. The climb from BC totals around 1500m vertical ascent so requires an early start to avoid soft snow near the summit. In European terms the route felt like an AD as it initially climbed 45 degree slopes. I’ll add a route page in due course.
If anybody knows the climbing history for this peak please add to the corrections/additions section, thanks.
Reaching the Caucasus region
From Moscow there are daily flights to Mineralnye Vody. From the airport take a taxi to the bus station from where minibuses (Rus: marshrutkas) depart for Nalchik throughout the day. Advance tickets can be bought inside the small building adjoining the bus stands, else pay on the marshrutka. Some drivers want more money if you have large amounts of luggage although this is negotiable. A major problem with Mineralnye Vody is the police who regularly attempt to gain bribes. I was taken into four backrooms whilst on transit through Mineralnye Vody in both directions. Make sure your paperwork is in order.
There are also flights to/from Nalchik. The only carrier I know is Elbrus Avia and generally flights seems to cost a little more and can be booked less-readily.
From Nalchik there is a daily marshrutka leaving the bus station in the afternoon towards Terskol (the jumping off point for Mount Elbrus). The trailhead for the Shkhelda Valley begins a short distance beyond the village of Elbrus (the place not the mountain), immediately after a bridge that crosses the river from the true left to the true right.
Trekking to Base Camp
Initially the way follows a paved road. Shortly after the border check post, Elbrus camp is reached. From here path up the Shkhelda valley begins. The start of the path isn't obvious so ask a local if in doubt. Once on the path the way is easy and there are no forks to cause confusion. If leaving Nalchik in the afternoon you will likely spend the first night below the Shkhelda Glacier. On the second day continue to climb the valley, mount the Shkhelda Glacier then follow its true left side. The glacier is covered in moraine between the glacier’s terminus and the base camp making going slow.
Russian visas are easy to obtain these days although you still need an invitation. Many hotels are able to provide an invitation but for an independent climbing trip the most hassle-free way is to obtain an invitation via travel agent such as waytorussia.com, VisitRussia.com, or Russianvisa.com. Application can be made online and for around $30 you receive your invitation promptly in PDF form. Print this out for your visa application. Make sure you put the same cities to be visited on your visa application as on your invitation. You don’t have to stick to these places and you can simply put Moscow and St Petersburg for simplicity as I did if you choose.
To climb Profsoyusov, and other peaks assessable from the Shkhelda Glacier such as Ushba you need to obtain a border permit. These can be arranged for free at the border guard office in Nalchik however they take a couple of days to process. The best bet is to contact a local travel agent who can arrange the permit for you in advance. This service will only cost around 100 Rubbles so definitely recommended. Email Boris at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a border check post on the access road to the Shkhelda Valley so don’t think about bypassing the permit requirement. There are also border guards in the lower portion of the Shkhelda Valley who will want to see your permit. Keep it to hand with your passport.
Camping & Accommodation
The Shkhelda Alpine Camp is located at the base of the Shkhelda Valley. I never stayed here so can’t comment on the facilities. In the summer many people camp close to the turn-off on the Terskol road.
A suitable base camp is Bivouac Aristova located above the West side of the Shkhelda glacier. The camp is not easy to see until at close quarters however my photos show its location clearly. Clear water flows from here and there is space for at least two medium size tents.
There are also good campsites further down the valley below the glacier in some wooded areas with clean water. I camped here on route to BC.
The Rosiyah Hotel is a cheap place to stay in Nalchik. It is located around the main town square. They can also register your visa if you are staying for a couple of nights.
Views from Base Camp
Food & FuelMoscow has a wider selection of food than Nalchik although the latter offers more than enough choice to adequately outfit a trip. There is a good supermarket near the main square in Nalchik and also a daily market nearby.
I don’t know of anywhere which supplies stove gas. We bought gas from Moscow. If anybody has information pertaining to this subject please add to the additions/corrections section.
Mountain Rescue & Medical FacilitiesThere are two rescue posts in the Elbrus Region: at Terskol (tel. 86638-71489) and at Shkhelda Alpine Camp. It is possible to hire a radio here for contact with the rescue service. The cost is about $5 per radio, per day. It is necessary to have personal insurance when climbing in the area.
The head office of the rescue service is in Nalchik: Tel: 86622 93-244 / 93-284.
Individual climbers are recommended to report to the nearest rescue centre. The staff are generally helpful and give good advice, some speak English.
There are first aid points in Terskol and at the Cheget hotel. The nearest hospital is in Tyrnyauz.