The Main Caucasian Mountain Range
extends for 1500 kilometres.
In its widest part near the Elbrus Mountain its width reaches
180 km. The total area of this mountainous country
is 145000 square kilometres. The height of the snow line
varies from 2850 to 3800 m. About 1400 glaciers occupy
the territory up to 2000 square km. More than 200 summits
are higher than 4000 metres. Out of that, 30 summits are
higher than 4500 metres and 15 are higher than 4810 m
that is the height of Mont Blanc.
8 summits are five thousand metres high. All of them but
two, Elbrus and Kazbek, are situated in the Bezengi area.
Bezengi is called 'the Presidium of
the Caucasus Mountains'. Two massives - the Northern
and the Bezengi Wall - make the fame and pride of the
Northern wall of the Mijirghi massif
Photo by V. Prostebi
pre-summit crest of the Ukyu peak
massif - Dykh-tau at the background.
by N. Kuvshinov
From this plato
the route along the Northern cres starts, the 4B category
of difficulty. To the left: the beginning of the route
of the 2B c/d to the Peak Kursantov. Behind it
- the crest of Dykh-tau.
Photo by I. Melnik
The Northern Massif is
a huge 15-km-long horseshoe consisting of nine main summits, five
of which are higher than five thousand metres. From east to west,
there are Koshtantau - 5151 m; Tikhonov Peak - 4670 m;
Krumkol - 4676 m; Eastern Mijirghi - 4927 m; Western Mijirghi
- 5025 m; Borovikov Peak - 4888 m; Pushkin Peak - 5100 m;
Eastern Dykh-tau - 5180 m; and the Main Dykh-tau - 5204 m.
Toward the South, the Northern
Massif falls in rock walls, counterforts, and crests. From the north,
the Massif is girdled with several layers of overhanging huge ice
falls. The crest of the Massif is covered with ice and snow with
sharp rock conglomerations, steep ice walls and snow cornices.
The northern side of the Massif receives a lot of precipitation
which causes considerable freezing of the crest from the north.
As a rule, strong gusty icy winds blow during the second half of
the day. Storm fronts and thick fogs are often seen. Snow storms
start and frozen rain falls down. One of the evident signs of an
approaching storm is the arriving of dark clouds from the Georgian
side from the 'muggy corner' - from Gestola and Lalver.
Nearly all routes from the north are classified as the 5 A-B
category of difficulty (c/d). Five routes have the 6-A c/d.
The routes from the south are easier (4-5 c/d) as the slopes
have less ice and are less steep. In all, the routes of the Northern
Massif are long with a large - up to 2000 m - difference of
altitudes and a large number of technically complicated combined
ice-snow and rock sections covered with ice.
The northern slopes of the Massif have often been used for large
competitions: the ice-snow classes of the Championships of the USSR
and Russia. Many times the mountaineers who had conquered these
routes became winners of the national championships.
The Krumkolsky Gap (4250 m) is popular among mountain tourists.
One can approach the circus of
the Northern Massif from both right- and left-hand side moraine
of the Kundyum-Mijirghi glacier. The march with rucksacks along
convenient marked paths takes from 3 to 5 hours on average.
Those who like tracking can be advised to enjoy 'Saratovskaya Krugosvetka'
('Saratov Round-the-World Tour') - a one-day route with an ascent
along a path at any side, crossing the glacier at the second level,
and the descent at the other side. It is the favourite walk route
of Yuri Sergeevich Saratov, The Head of the Bezengi rescue service.
Krumkolsky overnight camps situated on the second level moraine
of the Kundyum-Mijirghi glacier, a brave mountaineer would go across
the ice-fall to the third level and then to the so called camps
'3900'. Experienced people call the ice-fall "The Bezengi's Khumbu".
Being inferior to its Nepal brother in length and area, the Bezengi
ice-fall is as chaotic, unpredictable, and dangerous as Khumbu.
In some years, it was impossible to cross it.
Those who succeeded in it would come to the mark 3900 m where
they would make a camp at the slope of the moraine. A marvelous
view opens from here to the huge pyramid of Koshtan-tau. A number
of routes of 2-3 category of difficulty start from the circus. The
chain of summits (Panoramny Peak - 4176 m, Ullu-auz - 4675 m,
Kundyum-Mijirghi - 4500 m, Ptitsy (Birds)) is connected to
the north-east crest of Koshtan-tau, where the route 4B c/d
At present, the Bezengi area is not so often visited as before:
for all that, the march with the load from the base to the camps
'3900' takes from 7 to 9 hours on average and usually demands an
intermediate overnight staying at the second level.
UKYU CANYON - 'WARM CORNER'
in an hour and a half of an ascent along the left-side moraine of
the Kundyum-Mijirghi glacier, the traveller arrives to a turn to
the Ukyu canyon, better known as the 'Warm Corner'.
However in order to get there, one have to overcome a rather steep
ascent covered with grass and scree. After an hour and a half from
the crossing, you will see the red roof of the 'Ukyu' hut, 3900 m.
This durable spacious (for up to 20 people) two-store structure
was built in the beginning of the 1980s by ordinal mountaineers
from the Bezengi camp.
Those who are prepared to stay
overnight at the hut should remember that the nearby stream gets
dry in the morning and one should fetch some water in the evening
for the morning needs. Although the place chosen for the hut is
safe but not perfect. Having passed one more 30-minute ascent, you
get close to the main routes of this area. Here at the lower and
upper terraces, there are lots of comfortable places for tents and
another hut for 2-3 people. But you cannot rely on it; during the
high season it is usually occupied by the rescue service team for
it is their official 'working space'.
To the north of the canyon, there are Gidan - 4167 m, Small
Ukyu - 4240 m, Ukyu - 4346 m. To the right, one can see
the massif of the Archimedes Peak - 4100 m - with a glacier
hanging over the camp, Western Urals - 4300 m, Eastern Urals
- 4150 m, Maly Urals - 4200 m, Dumala - 4557 m. Bending
on its way, the Ukyu glacier leads to the 9th of May Pass. Up there,
behind one more pass, one starts a descent to the Dumala valley.
In the Ukyu area one can find routes from 1st to 5th category of
difficulty. This district is very popular; passages from the tents
are short (30-45 minutes), the routes are comparatively easy, the
altitude difference is not large. The place is good for the beginners
to pass their first classes (up to the 3rd class). Other visitors
can find interesting routes for them too.
This corner is called 'Warm'
because the Sun descending behind the opposite standing summits
of the Kargashilsky mountain range shines up to the end of the day.
Besides, the fog crawling over the place during the second half
of the day usually passes aside from the tents standing on the lower
terrace in complex air flows and, while it is gray and wet around,
you can see the blue sky above your head.
Having passed the turn to the
Ukyu canyon, in 30-40 minutes you will come to the 'Third lane'.
In this small canyon the ways to the southern wall of the Urals
summit as well as some popular routes of the northern wall of the
ALONG THE BRNO PEAK
the camp along the path of the right moraine of the Kundyum-Mijirghi
glacier, in one hour you will reach a glade called 'the 1st football
field'. This place is convenient for climbing lessons. Further you
will walk along the slopes of the Brno Peak; after that, in 1.5-2
hours, you will arrive to the '2nd football field' where you can
set up a camp. Also, you can find places for tents 15 minutes higher
than that place. While on the glade, try to keep to its left half
as from the overhanging wall some occasional stones can fall down.
However, they do not reach farther than the middle line of the lawn.
Every evening, one can watch the same TV program - 'In the World
of Animals' with the same goats as the main heroes. They are rude
and vulgar in this region as well as everywhere throughout the Bezengi
district. Sometimes one can enjoy another TV program - 'Extreme'.
It is when the goats travel above the tents on the rock wall that
looks virtually upright. I suggest you to look at it!
From these camps it is convenient
to go for ice-climbing trainings. The path goes higher, to the 5th-category
route to the Misses, and along the bed of a stream to the circus
where the 1-2-category routes start leading to the Brno Peak (4100 m),
Kursantov Peak (3850 m) or to the 4th-category route to Misses-tau
THE BEZENGI WALL
left to right: Katyn - Gestola - Lyalver.
by I. Melnik
first hours of the climbing by the moraine pocket along
the tongue of the Bezengi glacier.
Photo by S. Ornitsan
view from the route of 4B grade, Jungi-tau, to the Northern
massif from south (from Dych-tau to the left to Koshtan-tau
to the right)
view to the Bezengi Wall from the tongue of the Bezengi
Photo by V. Prostebi
on the Shkhara rib"
The Main of Shkhara
the weather allows, the residents of the Bezengi camp can see the
same picture from morning till night: a nearly regular triangle
towering in the alignment of the canyon. It is the legendary Gestola,
one of the gems of the famous Bezengi Wall.
From the camp one can see only
a small part of the 12-km-long mountain range called the Bezengi
Wall. To reach it, you should descend from the camp straight to
the tongue of the Bezengi glacier, walk along the moraine pocket,
get to the glacier a little below the way up to Misses-kosh and
walk along its wide plane surface for several hours. In 3-4 hours
you are to get to the bottom of the Wall.
one hour walk from the camp, to the north from the glacier, there
is the legendary Misses-kosh: a glade on top the green moraine,
which had served as a Base Camp for many generations of climbers
ascending the Bezengi Summits since 1930s.
Now it is not used any more after the mountaineering base was built.
The glade became memorial: on the lower terrace there is a mountaineers'
cemetery (including the graves of famous brothers Maleinov - Aleksei,
died in 1935 at Dykh-tau, and Andrei, died in 1984); on the upper
terrace there is a memorial rock with individual memorial boards
of Russian and foreign mountaineers as well as a habitable cabin
for 8-10 people. In this corner in fine weather you understand what
the paradise on earth is: sun and sky, flowers and grass, the views
to snow-white summits, volume and air…
BARAN-KOSH. KARGASHILSKY MOUNTAIN
In a 2-3
hours walk from Misses-Kosh (but in the pocket of the right-side
moraine of the glacier) there is another paradise place called Baran-Kosh.
It is a notable place with two lakes; you should only accurately
pass from the glacier to the moraine ridge and move along it towards
the Wall while the path leads you straight to the lakes.
From these overnight camps one can ascend the Kel pass. From this
place mountaineers of old times used to ascend to the summits of
the Kargashilsky mountain range which you passed while walking along
the Bezengi glacier. Shaurtu, Salynan, Orto-Kara had good routes
of 2-3 grade of difficulty. However, due to the general warming
of the climate, these routes and even approaches to them became
rather dangerous. That is why, nearly nobody visit the summits of
the Kargashilsky mountain range nowadays.
THE BEZENGI WALL. JUNGI-KOSH
the traverse of Baran-Kosh, in about 30-50 minutes, you are to come
to the place where one could install a guiding stone: "To the right
- you'll get to Tsanner; to the left - you'll get to Jungi-kosh".
The wall has already opened, but you still cannot see its left shoulder
- the shoulder of Shkhara. Here you can turn to the Tsanner pass
and to the overnight camps on the Black Screes. These are where
one could climb the western wall from and go the Lyalver and Gestola
The way to the right leads to the Austrian overnight camps and to
the Jungi-kosh hut. To get there you should ascend along the moraine's
nose as if changing your direction by 90 degrees. To the left behind
your back there is the Semenovsky peak. Part of the routes (to south-east)
has also become dangerous; but others are good to climb (some 1-2
grade routes from the circus). As you have come up the moraine,
have a rest. You are nearly in the centre of the Wall. Here it is,
In about an hour an even path
along the moraine ridge will lead you to a hut. The three-leveled
construction in the alpine style big enough to accommodate 20 people
is situated at the altitude of 3,200 metres. Around it there are
a lot of places for tents. These are so called Austrian overnight
camps. The hut is standing opposite the western summit of Shkhara
and a wonderful view to the whole Wall - up to the Tsanner pass
- opens from here. From left to right you can see the Main Shkhara,
5068 m; Western Shkhara, 5057 m; Shota Rustaveli peak, 4960 m; Main
Jungi-tau, 5085 m; Katyn, 4974 m; Gestola, 4860 m; Lyalver, 4350
m; 4310 Peak.
The Wall, mailed in a snow-ice armour, with a height difference
of about 2 km makes a great impression.
Routes of 4B-5B grade of difficulty (there are some of 2-3 from
Lyalver). Two routes of 6 grade.