Skip to content

Winter Ascent . Elbrus


The journey to Elbrus (in Caucasus Mountains) involved more than a trip to Russia which ended with a climbing. I am BornToExplore so, when I imagined my  journey to Elbrus, I didn’t set off East, where the mountain actually is, but West, then North.

The trip summed up 13,000 km (8,125 miles) throughout 15 countries, which touched down the Arctic circle in Lapland, Rovaniemi, known as Santa Claus’s home.

This was the itinerary: Bucharest – Vienna – Graz – Salzburg – Munich – Stuttgart –Strasbourg – Luxembourg – Brussels – Rotterdam – Amsterdam – Hamburg –Copenhagen – Oslo – Stockholm – Rovaniemi – Helsinki – Sankt Petersburg –Moscow – Elbrus – Odessa – Suceava –Bucharest.

Initially I planned to reach the North Cape – the northern point of continental Europe – but the last part of the journey was closed to automobiles traffic during winter, so I chose Rovaniemi, which crosses the Northern Polar Circle.

The fun part was when we had to decide upon the vehicle that would drive us to our destination. The idea to set off during the winter and go towards the Arctic Circle in a car that was only 20 years old and had rear wheel drive was appealing to only one person: myself. My travel partners and the people who knew me were just as worried as I was confident and relaxed. The E34 is my first car, purchased when I was nineteen.

It’s the third generation of the 5 Series, a very reliable car, robust and with surprising sports performance, considering it’s a sedan. Although it’s equipped with most of the gadgets that can be seen in a modern car (computer, air conditioning, electric mirrors and windows) it is build rather in a “raw” manner, and this in a positive meaning. There are not many electronic devices, and the ones that exist are not sophisticated, but of the highest quality. If any technical challenges had appeared, I could have solved them myself. We should also bear in mind that some sections of the road were in remote areas, where the cell phone signal was nonexistent. But before anything else, I knew I could count on my first BMW.

The whole journey meant more than 13,000 km done in three weeks, with one week spent in the mountains. That would mean on average, 600 km/day. From the outside it seems a bit puzzling, a lot of people are surprised to see the pictures and read about the touristic objectives we visited, because it seems impossible to go on the road in winter time for so many kilometers each day and still have time for sightseeing. The secret is that all four of us in the car were drivers and took turns driving it, and therefore traveled during the night as well.

The ascent on the highest peak in Europe was an awesome experience. It was very hard, because we did not have enough time to acclimatize since a storm was coming, but it was amazing. It is difficult to stay on the route and the temperatures were constantly  35 degree Celsius below zero.

There are moments when the Earth is the most beautiful planet in the universe. In these moments, if an alien from a far away galaxy landed here, he would be hypnotized by the magic and mystery in the air. People stop from running like crazy for survival and from fighting for things that disappear shortly after. Intolerance and aggression are left aside, like the armor and the sword of a samurai returned exhausted from the battlefield.

For a month, adults remember that they were once children and leave themselves caught in the story. It is when Santa gets his clothes from naphthalene and starts traveling the world, probably each year being surprised that this human side of people still exists. Then the passage of years follows and people move from stories to dreams. For each one a new beginning is arising. Winter holidays surround everything in a mysterious magic and, if an alien from another galaxy went home after he had spent Christmas and New Year on Earth he could only say: “I’ve found a dream world, a fairytale world!”

I wanted to see and feel Europe and Russia in these moments, so I jumped in my old BMW  with three friends and we left. We reached the Arctic Circle in the northern town of Rovaniemi, known as Santa’s headquarters and we successfully climbed Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe.

We have covered over 13,000 kilometers in 30 days. I could describe this adventure in several pages but I feel that it would be better to let the photos and speak. 

We took with us a little Santa Claus, you can see him in all the pictures below. If you would ask him his opinion about our journey, he  would certainly say: “I’ve traveled in a dream world, a fairytale world”.