Conquering the true summit of Mount Elbrus by car

Located in the highlands of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic of Russia, Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano. Set high in the western part of the Caucasus, it’s one of the highest roads in Europe.

Mount Elbrus

One had to be original and different from the rest, Alexander Abramov, the Russian adventurer who stars in this particular story, must have thought. He wanted to reach the summit of Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus, considered the highest in Europe at 5,642m (17,919ft), even though many people had done it before him. The solution? Let's climb in a Land Rover, and you'll see how we become record-breakers.

Thus, the idea of conquering Europe astride a fully equipped Land Rover Defender emerged to deal with everything that such an ascent could entail. As Rusadas rightly puts it, there is no double-lane road to the top of Elbrus since it is a dormant volcano with over 22 glaciers, claiming about twenty lives annually.

After a long year of training in the Caucasus mountains, Abramov set out to reach the summit of Europe in August 1997. Apparently, reaching the altitude of 3.883m (12,739ft) at Gara-Bashi station was not very difficult, thanks mainly to the favorable conditions of the terrain up to that height. However, the toughest part was yet to come.

Conditions worsened as snow and ice took on a more prominent role. The Land Rover was equipped with studded tires, chains for them, and even a winch system used in off-road situations to extract vehicles stuck in challenging places.

Nevertheless, the car caused many problems for the ten members of the expedition. On numerous occasions, they had to descend from altitudes close to 5,000 meters to repair the vehicle or replace some faulty parts.

After 45 endless days battling snow, ice, and mechanical issues, Abramov and his team managed, on September 13, 1997, to reach the summit of Europe aboard a Land Rover—or rather, to take a vehicle to that height. Either way, they achieved the Guinness World Record.

Once they conquered the summit and celebrated the feat with some zeros, corresponding photographs, and Russian-style skidding, the team decided that after so much effort, they deserved a break and took it on the shores of the Black Sea. However, they left the Land Rover at the top of Elbrus, meaning they had to go back for it.

After their break on the so-called Russian Riviera, Abramov's team set out in late September to rescue the Land Rover from its icy location. Unfortunately, the weather had worsened, and it was colder than when they managed to reach the summit. Upon arrival, they found the car too frozen to drive it down to the mountain's base. Therefore, part of the team had to descend in search of chains and other tools to bring the car down.

For some reason, the driver decided he could bring the car down to the base and went ahead without waiting for reinforcements. Shortly after, he found himself rolling down the slope of Elbrus, witnessing the Land Rover plummet to 5,400 meters, where it completely shattered against rocks. The Defender still rests in that location, and all expedition members returned home safe and sound, albeit with many stories to tell their grandchildren.