The Bezengi mountaineering camp
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  • The Northern Massif
  • The Bezengi Wall

    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 district.


    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.

    The Northern Massif

    From left to right: Koshtantau - Tikhonov Peak - Krumkolsky Gap - Krumkol Massif. Photo by S. Shibaev

    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.

    The Northern wall of the Mijirghi massif

    photo by V. Prostebi

    CAMPS '3900'

    From the 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 goes.
    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.


    Approximately 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.

    'Golubyatnya' hut (pigeon-house) in the Ukyu canyon

    photo by S. Shibaev

    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.

    'Warm Corner'

    A view from the Gidan Peak summit to the Brno Peak (in the centre), Dykh-tau massif and the Bezengi Wall ( at the background in the centre). Photo by S. Shibaev

    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.

    The pre-summit crest of the Ukyu peak

    Mijirghi massif - Dykh-tau at the background. Photo by N. Kuvshinov

    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 Ullu-auz.


    Having left 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!

    Misses-kosh summit

    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

    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 (4427 m). 


    Click to enlargeFrom left to right: Ptitsy - Koshtan-tau - Tikhonov peak - Krumkolsky Gap

    Click to enlargeFrom left to right: Mijirghi - Borovikova peak - Pushkina peak - Dykh-tau - Misses-tau


    © 2005 S.Sh. All rights reserved.