Backcountry Skiing


Natasha Poletaeva

37 years, Russia

8 months ago

​Monsters of Snow

35 km with 5 thousand meters arise plus ascend to the highest European mountain. Only 6 from 18 teams had been succeeded to pass this route…

Red Fox Elbrus Race Festival likes to amaze. On 10th Jubilee year it amazed with new ski-mountaineering Elbrus Ski Monsters Expedition Race.

At 5 o'clock in the morning from the Azau Meadow 4 women's pairs, 2 mixed and 12 men's teams started. The winners spend 8 hours and 19 minutes to cover 35-km route with the ascend to the highest point of Elbrus. What’s interesting, that originally the organizers planned a way... about 43 km long. But oriented on the spot, “took pity” on the participants, and reduced the distance.

“Ski Monster Race idea appeared about six years ago, — says Eugeniy Kolchanov, Red Fox Elbrus Race Director. — Ski-alpinist pairs should proceed, counting only on theirs’s forces. Like in Mezzalama Trophy in Italy or Patrouille des Glaciers in Switzerland.

From the beginning the length of the distance was larger — 43 km, but already on the course we realized that athletes physically cannot meet the prearranged time, and decided to cut the route. We remove one of the circles 8-9 km long in order to finish the race in daytime; and considering that the sportsmen should participate in other Festival competitions after this race.

The Head Judge Alexander Ovchinnikov & Race Director Eugeniy Kolchanov (on the right).


If first man’s pair (Ivan Marchenko & Ruslan Kulmukhametov from Russia) finished Ski Monsters by 8 hours and 19 minutes, the best and strong Johanna Erhart & Veronika Mayerhofen (Dynafit, Austria) succeeded in 10 hours and 09 minutes. They were the only women’s pair who managed to ascent the summit of Elbrus; girls confirmed, that the race was very difficult.

Although just two weeks before the trip to Russia Johanna and Veronika took the third place in their age group in Patrouille des Glaciers, from Zermatt to Verbier. And it was not “a walk in the park” also with 26 and 53 km routes length and from 2 to 4 thousand meters ascending.

Veronika Mayerhofen and Johanna Erhart (on the right). 

“I think it was one of the biggest challenge we have ever done, — says Veronika Mayerhofen about Ski Monsters Race. — It was terrific and we were really excited. We try to give our best, we push for it, we work together and we happy to be back safe, and actually it works really well!”

Among other things, Veronika had participated in the Olympic Games in Sochi as the part of the Austrian Ski Team, so alpine ski is not a novelty for her.

“It was awesome to ski together in the summit like the highest in the Europe, it was really emotional, we push some cheers on the top and cry in the finish line, — Mayerhofen continues. — And it was a beautiful day — we were so lucky; in the finish we saw some clouds coming to Elbrus…

We just enjoyed to be outside all day and skiing and have some good supporters”.


On the race day, May 2, athletes were really extremely lucky with the weather. Normally during the first May days on Elbrus you can meet a blizzard, and rain, and frost as well; but the participants did not encounter such an extreme. Even the glacier crossing was not a big challenge, snow level in the season was so high that it hides the most of crevasses. And the biggest of them was secured by the fixed ropes.

“The glacier crossing was one of the legs of the race, — Eugeniy Kolchanov comments. — But it had not become a difficulty for the athletes. This year the snow situation was very safe, all the cracks were packed full. And the least of the obligated gear included crampons, ascenders, ropes, ice screws, ice axes, etc. In the case of crevasse falling the second sportsman should arrange self-arrest and extend the partner to the surface.

It is a rule: the more dangerous steps are carefully marked at any Expedition Race. The same is on Elbrus: all the potentially dangerous cracks were fitted with fixed ropes. The participant sees the fixed route, clips into the rope and walks through it. The safety is fully observed”.

“I think it was really awesome, — reminds Veronika. — I really like the course, and we were so lucky with the weather. I don’t’ know what do it look like when the weather was bad. And thanks for the check-points: we carried a lot and it was so hot, an in the elevation we had to drink. And it may be nice when in the next race will be the additional water on the check points. 

But everybody was very nice and helpful”. 


Besides new Expedition Race a traditional “Vertical Kilometer” competition took place on May 5. All the athletes who finished the distance from 2450 to 3450 meters’ altitude in a two-hours window, has been invited to participate in Sky Marathon — speed race to the highest European mountain. And for the first time in 10-year history of the Festival the renewed slack-liner Friedi Kühne traversed over the start zone on high slack.

The hottie Elbrus beckoned with the excellent weather on first days of Red Fox Elbrus Race, but showed its complex character during the Sky Race on May 7. Storming snow, the lack of visibility and high wind did not allow the athletes to climb to the top. The results had been calculated by the Elbrus Saddle access (5300 m).

And the quickest runner of Y2018 turned out to be also from Austria, it was Dominik Salcher (Intersport Team). After the finish he called his ascent “the main victory in his sports biography”.

Dominik Salcher (on the left) and the trio of the winners. 

With the start from Azau Meadow (2350 m) Dominik reached the Saddle and then returned and finished at “Barrels” alpine camp (3750 m) for a time period of 3 hours 29 minutes and 36 seconds. Therefore, he had not break the Y2017 record of Karl Egloff: Ecuador athlete covered a distance from Azau to the Elbrus Summit and then to “Barrels” for 3 hours and 24 minutes. Karl promised to return to Russia when he will be overtaken, however this will have to wait at least one more year.

Smiling and cheerful Shyngys Baikashev (Red Fox Kazakhstan Team) came second to the finish. Here is his emotional comment of the race day. …I’ll began to “eat” the Barrels starters in sequence. The most popular phrase of next two hours: give the trail! The Austrian man “sank into the abyss”, and what I learned from the start list later, he carried 3,5-minute leg-up from Barrels camp.

The third winner of “Vertical kilometer” was Russian Skyranning Champion Vitaliy Shkel, the holder of Y2014 record (Azau — Elbrus Summit ascend for 3 hours 28 minutes 41 seconds). The more offensive this year was the fact that Vitaliy loose to Shyngys… only 10 seconds…

The championship in Women Category has been confirmed by Oksana Stefanishina (Inov-8 Team Russia), it was her 5th record of Red Fox Elbrus Race. Azau — “Barrels” — Saddle distance she covered in the space of 4 hours 35 minutes and 25 seconds. Congratulations!

Altogether, summing up the results of Jubilee 10th Elbrus Race: there are athletes to run, who knows, where to run and with whom. So the competitors departed from the highest European mountain, promising to return next year…

Slack-liner Friedi Kühne.

Red Fox Elbrus Race-2018 Results

Ski-Mountaineering. Elbrus Ski Monsters Expedition Race


1. Ivan Marchenkov, Ruslan Kulmukhametov, Russia (8 hours 19 minutes 23 seconds)

2. Ivan Makaev, Ivan Fedorov, Russia (8:50.25)

3. Eugeniy Markov, Vasiliy Khrychov, Russia (8:58.47)


1. Johanna Erhart, Veronika Mayerhofer, Austria (10:09.58)

2. Svetlana Berezan, Diana Zelenova, Russia (10:26.32)

3. Anastasiya Scherbakova, Yana Kiryanova, Russia (9:55.24)

Sky Marathon® — Mt Elbrus, 2350-5350 м, Sport Class


1. Dominic Salcher, Austria (3:29.36)

2. Shyngys Baikashev, Kazakstan (3:38.50)

3. Vitaliy Shkel, Russia (3:39.00)


1. Oksana Stefanishina, Russia (4:35.25)

2. Elena Rukhlyada, Russia (4:41.16)

3. Nadezhda Ermakova, Russia (4:51.31)

The complete results of the Festival you can find by the link http://www.elbrus.redfox.ru/results/

Photo: Nikita Skorokhodov, Andrey Chepakin, Sergey Starchikov, Roman Barabonov, Oleg Chegodayev.

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