Looking East from Camp 4 on the East Peak of Mount Elbrus. Chatkara is the peak directly South (right) of the main glacier below, with its top in the clouds and a snow / ice covered North face 26 Aug 2005
Chatkara lies on the Eastern side of the Irikchat Pass. On the other side of the saddle lies the mightly mass of Mount Elbrus, the highest point in Europe.
The Irikchat pass is usually reached by parties climbing the Eastern Slope, or Askeryakolski Lava Flow Route of Elbrus. From the pass, Chatkara makes for an excellent acclimitization climb before the ascent to higher camps on the way up Elbrus's Eastern Peak. The route is enjoyable, and made up of a mixture of easy hiking, some scrambling, easy snowfields, and a couple of short YDS class 4 and low class 5 rock sections.
Views from the Summit
The following information is taken from Scott Patterson's Mount Elbrus Page.
Now days, partially because of the red tape involved when climbing in Russia, most non-Russians will be going to Elbrus with a guided group. In that case, transportation is usually arranged before arriving in Moscow, at least if you are coming from overseas.
If you are traveling independent of a guide service, here are the directions:
Most people climbing Mount Elbrus will first arrive by plane or bus in either Mineralnye Vody or Nalchik. From either of those two locations, there are usually 4-8 buses a day headed for Terskol, but it is highly recommended that you make transportation arrangements ahead of time. This is usually easy to arrange.
For Chatkara and the Askeryakolski Lava Flow Route on Elbrus, you will want to get off the bus in Elbrus Village, which will be reached before the end of the line (in Terskol). You will, however, probably want to register with the Mountain Rescue office in Terskol before beginning your climb.
Pilgrim Tours is one recommended company which can be used to arrange transporatation from the airport to the Baksan Valley. Regardless of weather or not you use Pilgrim's services, it is a good idea for foreigners to arrrange for some kind of transport before arriving at the airport in Mineralnye Vody.
When To Climb
Chatkara would generally be climbed during the same season as Elbrus - mid-May to mid-September. Weather is generally considered the best from mid-July through August. That being said, be prepared for winter-like weather at any time of year. During our approach up the Irikchat Valley in early August, we were rained on for a couple of days, and experienced night time temperatures below freezing even at the lowest camp (~2400m).
The Irikchat pass at the base of the route up Chatkara can be reached from Elbrus on a ski tour during the winter months. The climb could be quite challenging from there, depending on snow and ice conditions.
Camping is allowed anywhere along the route up the Irikchat Valley. In general, between 1 and 3 camps will be made along the route towards Chatkara. The first logical campsite, known as "hard rock biv.", is approximately 3 hours up the trail from Elbrus Village. This is a beautiful site, in a large, flat grassy meadown with wonderful views of the main Caucasus range. There is a small Shepard's Hut located here.
The second logical campsite is located another 3 hours or so from Camp 1. This is another large grassy meadow located in the flats above the long climb which begins at the confluence of the Irik and Irikchat rivers. Ample water is available at both of these campsites.
The third logical camp is located on the Irikchat pass between Mount Elbrus and Chatkara. There was no water near this camp, although during the heat of the day we were able to catch drips from overhangs on the glacier which falls away on the Northern side of the Irikchat pass. There are a few rock walls built for wind protection at this camp.
Current conditions can be obtained from the Climbing Rangers / Mountain Rescue Office in the town of Terskol. The links below may also be handy.
It is certainly a good idea to register in rescue service in Terskol if you are not traveling with a guide service. Registering is free of charge.
Advice: To obtain a visa you will have to have a formal invitation from a tour company in Russia. Apply for your visa as far in advance as possible. We almost didn't receive ours on time because the application was returned with a minor problem with the tour company number. The Russian visa process is notoriously slow. Apply at least a few months in advance!