Elbrus: deadly tragedy on Europe's highest mountain
A 19-member group of climbers was caught in a heavy blizzard on Mount Elbrus in Russia last week. Five of them died while eleven were rescued and hospitalised with injuries. The climbers had booked their ascent through a tour operator. At 5,642 metres, Mount Elbrus is the highest mountain in Russia and Europe. Commentators criticise unregulated commercial mountaineering in the Caucasus.
Mountain guide licences like at Montblanc needed
Alexei Ovchinnikov, executive director of the Russian Mountaineering Federation's rescue squad, calls in Izvestia for clear rules:
“Anyone can lead people up to the summits, there are no restrictions. Mountain guides should have to have a licence to do their work - just like doctors. And changes in the law are needed so that anyone who leads people into the mountains without a licence and qualifications, fails to register groups or commits other violations is liable to prosecution. ... There should be a mountain police squad on the highest peak of the Caucasus, just as there is on Mont Blanc, which is as popular with climbers as our Elbrus. In France, the mountain police check the licences of mountain guides and prohibit ascents in bad weather. We need the same kind of regulations here.”
Commerce and mountaineering don't mix
Political scientist and passionate mountaineer Alexei Tokaryov criticises commercial mountaineering expeditions in Vsglyad:
“What companies want first and foremost is to turn a profit. If people who have paid good money to make the ascent in pretty red jackets are allowed to turn around and come back down without reaching the summit, the company gets bad reviews online. That's why customers are taken up in cable cars and on snowcats and provided with greenhouse-like conditions which ultimately work against acclimatisation. ... Commercial alpinism is bad. If you love the mountains, join the hiking club that's run by your company, union or university. ... If you're promised a 'guaranteed ascent', stay away. Because there are no guarantees in the mountains.”