Among Russia's most beautiful and amazing natural sites, Эльбрус (Mount Elbrus) is worth a visit. This is самая высокая горная вершина Европы (the highest mountain peak in Europe). Mount Elbrus is a стратовулкан (stratovolcano) which means that it last erupted in 50 AD and so is considered inactive. So the residents of the Russian republics of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, feel totally secured in living on its borders.
Mount Elbrus has две вершины (two peaks): Западная вершина (the west summit) stands at 5642 metres and Восточная вершина (the east summit) which is slightly lower at 5621 metres. The first successful ascent of Mount Elbrus took place in 1829. At that time, the expedition led by Gen. G. A. Emmanuel, the head of the Caucasus fortified lines successfully reached the top of the east summit. Almost half a century later, in 1874, the west summit was reached by British climbers led by F. Grove. It is interesting to note that in both ascents, the expeditions were led by the same guide A. Sottaev.
In 1932 a wooden refuge was built on the southeast slope of Mount Elbrus at an altitude of 4130 meters above sea level. But in 1938, with the help of the local population, Приют одиннадцати (Refuge eleven), a three-strory building replace the wooden one. Alpinists stayed on the ground floor of the shelter, instructors and lifeguards lived on the first floor, and the third floor was reserved for scientists. A museum was also created on the third floor, thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of all. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a fire in 1998. Since 2001, a new refuge is under construction.
Being the highest point of Europe and having so great symbolic value, Эльбрус стал ареной ожесточённых боёв между Красной армией и фашистскими войсками (Mount Elbrus was the scene of fierce fighting between the Red Army and Nazi troops) in the battle for the Caucasus во время Великой Отечественной войны (during the Great Patriotic War or WWII). A German division even manage to climb to the top and plant the swastika flag for a short time.
Today, Mount Elbrus, and its extending from the foot of Baksan Valley (as well as several nearby peaks, the main of which - Mount Cheget) are developing a ski resort in the Caucasus. A cable car system takes visitor as high as 3800 metres. Skiers and snowboarders from all over Russia come here every year to test their skill and improve their health with open-air activities and local mineral water. It is best to get to the ski resort throught the town of Mineral Waters, which can be reached by train and fly on an airplane.