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The Caucasus mountain system is the territory between Black, Azov and Caspian seas, within the limits of the Alpine folded area. It occupies over 500 thousand êm2 and divides into Northern Caucasus, the Big Caucasus and Transcaucasia. The central position is occupied by a range of the Big Caucasus. The big Caucasus is extended from West - Northwest to East - Southeast between Black and Caspian seas. The extent is more than 1100 km, the width - up to 180 km. In an axial part there are located Main, or Water-separate, and Lateral ridges, which are accompanied by many headmost and diametrical ridges in height up to 4000 and 5000 m. The Big Caucasus is divided into the Western Caucasus (up to Elbrus), the Central Caucasus (between Elbrus and Kazbek) and the East Caucasus (to the east from Kazbek). There is the significant modern congelation (the area about 1430 êì2). The highest summits in Caucasus are: Elbrus (5642m), Dykh-tay (5203m), Koshtan-tau (5151 m), Dzhangi (5085 m), Shkhara (5068 m), Kazbek (5033 m), Mizhirgi (5025 m), Katyn (4974 m).
Ridges in the axial part are bordered from the north by lower ranges: the Skalystiy (Rocky) and Pastbischniy (Pasturable) ridges. The Stavropol elevation separates in Ciscaucasia Kubano-Priazovskaya lowland from Tersko-Kumskaya lowland. In Transcaucasia Suramsky ridge divides Kolkhidskaya and Kura-Araksinskaya (Kurinskaya) lowlands and connects the Big Caucasus with the Small Caucasus.
In the southeast of Caucasus Talyshskie mountains are located. The Transcaucasian uplands consist of the Small Caucasus ridge (the height up to 3724m) and the Armenian uplands (the height up to 5165ì - Big Ararat). The rivers belong to the basin of Caspian sea (Kura, Araks, Sulak, Terek, Kuma), to the basins of Black sea (Rioni, Inguri) and Azov sea (Kuban and others).
Van Lake is the greatest one from the lakes in the area. Slopes of foothills in Caucasus are covered deciduous (beech, oak) and coniferous woods, there are Alpine meadows higher. The vegetation of Kolkhidskaya lowland, the Black Sea coast of Caucasus, Talyshskie mountains is subtropical; the vegetation of plateaus of Transcaucasia is steppe and semidesertic.
Within the limits of Caucasus there are located: a part of territory of the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia; in the east - a part of territory of Turkey and in northwest - of Iran.
The Western Caucasus
The western Caucasus is a part of the Main Caucasian ridge located to the West from Elbrus. The Western Caucasus starts as a low ridge rising gently from the Black Sea, and gradually reaches Alpine character as it approaches the Central Caucasus. The warm, damp climate there is a product of the Black Sea. As the result there is thick deciduous and coniferous forest growth in the valleys and on the lower ridges. The highest summits of the Western Caucasus are: Dombai - Ulgen (4046m), Kukurtlu (4639m) (the western shoulder of Elbrus). A congelation of the area is insignificantly, abrupt rocky walls dominate there and their remoteness makes them difficult to access. The most popular areas for climbers and tourists are: Dombai, Arkhyz, Usunkol.
The Central Caucasus
The area named Prielbrusye is located in upper reaches of the Baksan river (173 km) and its inflows. The maximum point of Caucasus - Elbrus is located there. Elbrus is a two-peak cone of an extinct volcano. The altitude of the Western top is 5642 m, the East one - 5621 m. The general area of Elbrus glaciers is 134,5 êì2; the most known are: Big and Small Azau, Terskol. Adylsu, Shkhelda, Adyrsu Gorges, massif of Donguzorun and Ushba are very popular among climbers and mountain tourists. Prielbrusye is a magnificent mounting skiing resort in Russia.
There are eight summits exceeding 8000 m in Caucasus.
Except for two ones - Elbrus and Kazbek - all of them are located in Bezengi
Svanetiya is a historical area in Georgia, on southwest slopes of the Main Caucasian ridge. It's shared on Top and Bottom.
Digoriya is located to the east from Bezengi region in the basin of the rivers Cherek-Hulamsky and Psygansu. Sugansky ridge.
Karaugom is the one of the largest glaciers in Caucasus. It is located in the Main ridge of the Big Caucasus, in Urukh river basin (Northern Ossetia), to the east from Digoriya. It has the length of 13,5 km. There is the source of the Karaugom river.
Tsey is located to the east of Karaugom area. There are following settlements there: Verhny (Top) Zgid, Verhny Buron, Sadon.
Kazbek - Dzhimarai-Tepli
Kazbek is a top in the central part of the Big Caucasus, in Georgia (5033 m). There are subalpine meadows on its slopes, and higher there are eternal snows. The general area of the glaciers is 135 êì2. Dzhimara (Dzhimarai-Khokh, Gimarai-Khokh) is the top of the Big Caucasus to the West from Kazbek (4780 m).
Mountains of Dagestan
East Caucasus is extended on 500 km to the east from Kazbek up to Caspian sea. It consists of following allocated parts: Azerbaijan mountains, Dagestan mountains, Checheno-Tushetskie mountains and Ingusheto-Hevsuretskie mountains. Massif Erydag (3925 m), located in the Dagestan mountains is especially popular. There is a set of difficult rocky routes of 5B-6A grade.
Mountains of Azerbaijan
The nature of Azerbaijan is characterized by contrast of the relief towering on small distance (40-60 km) from 28 m lower than a level of World ocean (Near-Caspian lowland) up to 4466 m of absolute heights (Mt. Bazarduyzuy).
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