The taller west summit is 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the east summit is 5,621 metres (18,442 ft). The east summit was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, and the west summit in 1874 by a British expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, and the Swiss guide Peter Knubel of St. Niklaus.
Khachirov's nationality is claimed both by Kabardians and Karachay and used by nationalists of both sides. He was a guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Georgi Emmanuel.
While authorities differ on how the Caucasus are distributed between Europe and Asia, most relevant modern authorities define the continental boundary as the Caucasus watershed, placing Elbrus in Europe due to its position on the north side in Russia.