Ski adventures - ski Caucasus

THE CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS rise between the great plains of Russia and the mountainous territories of Transcaucasian. They extend for 1,200 km from East to West, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Covered with pine and deciduous trees, flowers and wild, the Caucasus region has long «spoon-shaped» valleys that fan out below and gradually narrow as they move towards the snow-capped peaks.. The mountain system includes dozens of peaks over 4,000 meters high and about 2,000 glaciers. Some of these glaciers, such as the Bezengi, are over ten kilometers long!

THE CENTRAL CAUCASUS  is the heart of the Caucasus, the highest, most fascinating part of the entire mountain system and the one with the most difficult access. Closed off to the west by Mt. Elbrus and to the east by Mt. Kazbek, the divide is quite articulate and complex and branches off to the north and south into a series of buttresses. Here lie the most famous rock faces in the Caucasus system scattered over the regions of Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Bezengi, Svanetia and, in the easternmost part of the central Caucasus, of Digoria, Karaugorn and Tsey.

PRIELBRUSIE or area around Mt. Elbrus is the most frequented area in the Central Caucasus. Many lateral valleys converge in the main valley, where the Baksan river flows, and lead to the most famous and beautiful mountains in the Caucasus range, such as Mt. Donguz-Orun (4,468 m), Mt. Shkhelda (4,320 m), Mt. Chatin (4,368 m), legendary Mt. Ushba (4,710 m), and, naturally, Mt. Elbrus itself (5,642 m), the highest peak in Europe. The Prielbrusie area is easily reached from Mineralnye Vody.

MT. ELBRUS dominates the countryside of the Central Caucasus like a two-headed icy giant. In fact it has two peaks that correspond to two different volcano vents: the western peak (Zapadnaya) is the tallest one, while the eastern peak (Vostochnaya), 5,621 meters high, still has a gigantic crater 250 meters in diameter. The entire mountain is covered by an immense sheet of ice that takes up 145 square kilometers and in some zones is 400 meters thick. From the col that divides the two peaks the white slopes of the mountain descend gently, splitting up into tongues of ice and crevasses lying in the many striking valleys that radiate from the mountain.

THE ASCENT OF MT. ELBRUS by the normal route, which is the most popular in the Caucasus, is a long climb over a moderate incline that requires good acclimatization but has no technical difficulties. However, despite the apparent simplicity of this route, it can be dangerous. The altitude, variable weather, frequent violent storms and low temperature transforms the ascent into the real higher altitude adventure!
The average time is from eight to ten hours for the ascent and about four hours for the descent. Crampons and ski poles are necessary for this climb. In autumn, winter and spring the face between the Pastukhov rocks and the col is covered with ice. April, May and June are the best months for the climb with skis, as you can go up with skis as far as the col and will be treated with a splendid descent back to the refuge.

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