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Central Caucasus

Range Type Geographically-defined sub-range
Highest Point Elbrus (5633 m/18,481 ft)
Countries Russia (80%), Georgia (20%)
(numbers are approxmiate percentage of range area)
States/Provinces Stavropol (56%), Kabardino-Balkaria (10%), Alania (5%), Karachay-Cherkessia (4%), Yugo-Osetinskaya (4%), Kalmykia (3%), Krasnodar (1%)
(numbers are approxmiate percentage of range area)
Area 109,492 sq km / 42,275 sq mi
Area may include lowland areas
Extent 503 km / 313 mi North-South
365 km / 227 mi East-West
Center Lat/Long 44 4' N; 43 14' E
Map Links MSN MapPoint Map
     Google Search for Central Caucasus
Ten Highest Peaks
Rank Peak Name m ft Range4
1. Elbrus 5633 18,481  
2. Gora Shkhara 5200 17,060  
3. Gora Dykh-Tau 5198 17,054  
4. Gora Koshtan-Tau 5150 16,896  
5. Pik Pushkin 5100 16,732  
6. Jangi-Tau 5051 16,572  
7. Gora Kazbek 5047 16,558  
8. Tetnuld 4974 16,319  
9. Katyn-Tau 4970 16,306  
10. Pik Schota Rustaveli 4960 16,273  
Sub-peaks are excluded from this list. List may not be complete, since only summits in the PBC Database are included.


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 км2; 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 4000 m in Caucasus. Except for two ones - Elbrus and Kazbek - all of them are located in Bezengi area.

Two massifs: Northern and Bezengiyskaya Wall single out in the area.
Bezengi Wall is the highest site of the Main ridge of the Big Caucasus, with the following tops (from left to right if to stand the person to the Wall): Shkhara Main (5068 m), Western Shkhara (5057м), Shota Rustaveli Peak (4960 m), Dzhangi-tau East and Main (5085м), Katyn (4974м), Gestola (4860м), Lyalver (4350м), "4310" peak. Bezengi Wall extends on 12 km. Bezengi glacier (9 km) begins from northern slopes.

Northern massif is a huge 15-kilometer horse-shoe from nine basic tops, five of which exceed a five-thousandth mark. From the east on the west there are stretched: Koshtan-tau (5151 m), Tikhonov peak (4670 m), Krumkol (4676 m), East Mizhirgi (4927 m), Western Mizhirgi (5025 m), Borovikov's peak (4888 m), Pushkin peak (5100 m), East Dykh-tau (5180м), Main Dykh-tau (5204м).

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 км2. Dzhimara (Dzhimarai-Khokh, Gimarai-Khokh) is the top of the Big Caucasus to the West from Kazbek (4780 m).

Elbrus area

Mount Elbrus (5642m) is the highest mountain of Europe and hence considered to be one of the seven summits. The main routes are basic glacier climbs (grade 2A). Mount Ushba (4710m), Shkhelda Towers (4320m) and Ullu-Tau (4207m) are popular destinations with several long and difficult routes (greades 4-6).

Most climbs in Elbrus area (Prielbrysie) are accessed from main Baksan valley or its side valleys. Baksan mountaineering camp (1800m) lies centrally in the main valley. Terskol in the end of upper Baksan is base for Elbrus. There are several hotels close to Terskol and the approach to Elbrus is aided by ski lifts. There are also huts high on the mountain. Side valleys of Dongusorun, Yusogi, Adyl-Su and Adyr-Su offer approach to most of the climbs. Adyl-Su valley leads to popular Shkhelda and Ushba and there are alpine camps Adyl-Su (1800m), Shkhelda (2000m), Elbrus (2050m) and Jantugan (2120m) in the valley. Ullu-Tau is propably the best known mountain accessed from Adyr-Su valley, in which alpine camps of Jailik (2300m) and Ullu-Tau (2350m) are located.

Elbrus 5642
  • Located at Caucasus, volcanic Elbrus is the highest mountain of Europe.
  • There are two main summits, Elbrus West (5633m) and Elbrus East (5621m), separated by col (5416m).
  • Snow line is around 3400m in August, and weather at base camp can be very warm.
  • First climbed by Akia Sottaev (Reached the summit at the age of 86!) and Douglas Freshfield in 1868.
  • One of the seven summits.
West Peak, Southern route (normal route)
  • Non-technical snow climb via Patuchov rocks and col between West and East summits. Almost crevasse-free. RUS 2A (PD-; 35-40). Starting point Refuge Eleven Hut (also knows as Diesel Hut, 4100m) or Barrels Huts (also known as Botchki, 3900m). Barrels Huts can be reached from Baksan valley by ski lifts. 6-8h from Eleven Hut in ascent, 4-5h in descent.
  • First ascent by D.W. Freshfield, A.W. Moore, C. Tucker, A. Sottajev, D. Datosov & F. Devouassoud in 07/1874.
East Peak, Southern route (normal route)
  • Non-technical snow climb via Patuchov rocks and col between West and East summits. Almost crevasse-free. RUS 2A (PD-). Starting point Refuge Eleven Hut (also knows as Diesel Hut, 4100m) or Barrels Huts (also known as Botchki, 3900m). Barrels Huts can be reached from Baksan valley by ski lifts. 6-8h from Eleven Hut.
  • First ascent by F. Crauford Grove, F. Gardiner, H. Walker, A. Sottajev & P. Knubel in 07/1874.
West Peak, Traverse from Kьkьrtlь Dome
  • From the Alter Rundblick stop on the cableway via southern route to Kьkьrtlь Dome (4912m, 2B) and West Ridge to Elbrus West summit. Camp in a col after the dome (7-10h). RUS 3A.
Ushba 4710
  • Twin pyramids of Ushba is a very difficult and prestigeous mountain. South summit is slightly higher (4710m) than north summit (4696m).
  • There are more than 50 routes up to Ushba, 10 of them are RUS 6A and 13 rated as RUS 5B.
  • Ushba glacier can be reached from Camp Shkhelda (2000m) in Adyl-Su valley over the pass on Shkhelda wall.
  • First ascent of North Peak by J.G.Cockin &Ulrich Almer in 1888 from Gul Glacier via great ice couloir (4A, very serious).
  • First ascent of South Peak by A. Schulze, R. Helbling, F. reichert, O. Schuster & A. Weber in 07/1903 via SW Ridge.
North Peak, NE Ridge (normal route)
  • The easiest route, mainly on snow and ice. RUS 4A (D). 2 days (13-17h) from Camp Shkhelda (2000m) in the Adyl-Su valley via Shkhelda glacier and Ushba pass to bivouac at Ushba Plateau (4000m), from there 6-9h to summit.
  • First Ascent by H. Pfann, L. Distel & G. Leuchs in 08/1903.
North Peak, West Face Direct
  • RUS 5B (SCO V), 1600m.
  • First ascent by M.A. Fowler & A.V. Saunders in 08/1986.
South Peak, SW Ridge "Schulze"
  • From Gul bivouac via Mazeri notch to SW Ridge. RUS 5A.
  • First ascent by A. Schulze, R. Helbling, F. reichert, O. Schuster & A. Weber in 07/1903.
North Peak, NW Face "Kolomitsev's Route"
  • From Ushba glacier on West side (bivouac "Okhotnichi nochiovky"). At first in the couloir leading to col between the summits, then slanting to North Peak. RUS 6A, 1500m.
  • First ascent by V.Kolomitsev in 1982.
South Peak "Kustovskiy's Route"
  • The prestige route of Caucasus on the Pillar of Ushba. From Ushba glacier on West side (bivouac "Okhotnichi nochiovky") to Georgian ledge at the start of the pillar. RUS 6B extra (VI).
  • First ascent by A.Kustovskiy in 1963.
South Peak, Traverse from North Peak
  • RUS 5A. From a bivouac on Ushba glacier.
  • First ascent by H. Pfann, L. Distel & G. leuchs in 08/1903.
Skhelda 4320
  • Shkhelda Wall is a long barrier with several summits: Shkhelda West 1 (4228m), West 2 (4310m), Scientists' Peak, Pik Aristov (4229m), Central Peak (4295m) and East Peak (4320m).
  • Approach to north side climbs is from Camp Shkhelda (200m) in Adyl-Su valley (access from terskol).
Skhelda East Snow Couloir "Garf's Way"
  • From Skheldinskiy glacier via ice/snow couloir to the saddle on East Ridge. From there along the ridge via Rooster Pinnacle to summit. RUS 5A, 1200m.
  • First ascent by B. Garf in 1949.
Skhelda Central Snow Shovel "Martinov's Way"
  • From Skheldinskiy glacier via Col between Central Peak and Pik Aristov (4229m). RUS 5B (VI 5.9/5.10), 1300m.
  • First ascent by V.Martinov in 1955.
Skhelda Central North Face "Subortovich"
  • On the east side of "Snow Showel". RUS 6A (VI 5.11 A2+), 1300m.
  • First ascent by B.Subortovich in 1959.
Traverse from West to East
  • RUS 5B. Normal route to Shkhelda West 2 via West 1 from the north side - traverse over Scientists' Peak, Pik Aristov (4229m), Central Peak (4295m) and East Peak (4320m) and descent on the north side via Rooster Gendarme, Garf's Notch and broad snow couloir down to Shkhelda glacier.
  • First ascent by A.Mazkevitsch, V.Nasarov & P.Sysojev 25.07.-01.08.1940.
Ullu-Tau 4207
  • There are several summits, Ullu-Tau East (4058m), Main (4207m) and West (4203m).
  • Starting point for the routes on northern side is Ullu-Tau Camp (2360m) in Adir-Su valley.
  • 800m high North face between Mestiyskiy Pass in the east and Garvash Pass on the West has several difficult ice and mixed routes that can be climbed year round.
  • First ascent by L. Rolleston in 08/1903 via Garvash Pass.
Main Peak, Zolotarew (normal route)
  • From Mestiyskaya hut on East Ullu-Tau glacier to Mestiyskaya pass and along East Ridge to East Peak. RUS 3A.
  • First ascent by A.Zolotarev in 1938.
Main Peak, N Face "Abalakov"
  • RUS 5B. 800m.
  • First ascent by V.Abalakov in 1951.
West Peak, N Face "Shield"
  • RUS 4B (TD-), 800m. Starting point is Cheget bivouac on Ullu-Tau glacier.
  • First ascend by D. Gudkov, M. Svesdkin, G. Odnobljudov & M. Tschertkov in 08/1946.
West Peak, normal route from north
  • RUS 2B. From the Camp Ullu-tau via Cheget bivouac and Garvash pass to West Ridge. 3-4h from Garvash pass. Avalanche danger.
  • First ascent by T.G. Longstaff & L. Rolleston in 08/1903.

Bezengi area

Bezengi area, located 65km east of Mount Elbrus has five 5000m peaks. The mountains here are austere, with long glaciers and long northern valleys. The region is known in Russia as the "Mecca" for all serious mountaineers. The route grades in Bezengi are from 4 to 6(7) on Russian difficulty system. The area can be reached from Nalchik via Bezengi village. From the village, there is 18km trail to Bezengi mountaineering camp at 2200m. There are also few cabins.

The most dramatic alpine scenery in the valley is the Bezengi Wall, a monumental mountain barrier 12km long without any considerable depressions and rising above the glacier for nearly 2000m. Main summits of the wall are from west to east: Lalver (4350m), Gestola (4860m), Katyn-Tau (4974m), Dzhangi-Tau Main (5085m), Dzhangi-Tau West (5038m), Peak Shota Rustavelli (4960m), Skhara West (5057m) and Skhara Main (5183m).

Not far from Bezengi wall, above Kunduym - Mizhirgi glacier lies impressive Northern Massive. Main summits of the wall are from west to east: Misses-Tau (4427m), Dykh-Tau Main (5204m), Peak Pushkina (5100m), Peak Borovikova (4888m), East (4927m) and West Mizhirgi (5025m), Krumkol (4676m), Peak Tihonova (4670m) and Koshtan-Tau (5151m).

Abseits der Massen
Der Kaukasus, das russische Alpenpendant, ist zugдnglicher als viele glauben. Die einsamen Gipfel der Bezengi-Gruppe locken mit alpinen Aufstiegen von leicht bis extrem. see also Caucasus Info. By Volker Leuchsner. Article by Klettern Magazin. In German
Dych-Tau 5198
  • Massive, technically challenging mountain located in Northern massive nin Bezengi area.
  • First ascent by A.F.Mummery & H.Zurfluh in 1888 via SW Ridge.
Main Peak, North Ridge from West
  • RUS 4B.
  • First ascent by J.G.Cockin, W.Holder, H.Woolley, U.Almer & C.Roth in 08/1888.
Main Peak, SW Ridge
  • Caucasus classic. From Austrian Hut. RUS 4B.
  • First ascent by A.F.Mummery & H.Zarfluh in 1888.
  • Mummery A.W.: My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus.
NE face Central Pillar
  • RUS 5B. Rock fall and avalanche danger.
  • First ascent by V.Abalakov, M.Anufrikov, J.Arkin, V.Buslajev, V.Kisel, I.Lapshenkov, L.Filimanov & V.Tscheredova in 08/1954.
East Buttress & North Crest
  • RUS 5B.
  • First ascent by N.Nukhartov in 1983.
NE Buttress & N Crest "Georgian route"
  • RUS 5B.
South Peak, S Buttress
  • Rock climb. RUS 5B.
  • First ascent by Mike Harris & Gerge Band in 07/1958.
Shkhara 5184
  • Highest point of Bezengi wall. Shkhara has several summits, South (SW) summit (4350m), West summit (5047m), Main summit (5183m) and Southeast summit (4500m). Main summit is the second highest peak in Caucasus.
  • Mixed north face rises about 2000m from the base and features several difficult routes.
  • First ascent by J. Cockin, U. Almer & C. Roth in 09/1888 via NW Ridge.
Main Summit, NW Ridge "Cockin" (normal route)
  • Starting point is Austrian bivouac. Via ice slope to NW ridge and along long ridge to main summit. RUS 4B-5A (60). 1600m, at least two days for roundtrip.
  • First ascent by J. Cockin, U. Almer & C. Roth in 09/1888.
Main Summit, NE Face
  • On the east rand on large central ice fall. RUS 5B, 1600m.
  • First ascent by I.Krainov in 1983.
Main summit, North Rib
  • Starting point is Austrian bivouac. RUS 5B (V), 1600m.
  • First ascent by H. Tomaschek & W. Mьller in 08/1930.
Traverse of Bezengi Wall
  • Possibly the longest and most demanding traverse in Europe. RUS 6B.
  • First ascent by Poppinger, Moldan & Schindlmeister in 1931.
Koshtan-Tau 5151
  • Located in Northern massive nin Bezengi area.
  • First ascent by H. Wooley and party in 1889.
NE Ridge from west
  • Predominantly on rock. From Kundium-Mizhingi glacier to NE Ridge between Ptiza (4560m) and ice dome (possible bivouac) and along the ridge to the summit. RUS 4A. 12.15h from Flat Iron bivouac.
  • First ascent by W.Merkl, F.Bechtold & W.Raech in 07/1929.
North Buttress & NE Ridge
  • From Kundium-Mizhingi glacier. At first through the couloir between large rock islands. NE Ridge is gained between 2nd and 3rd gerdarmes. RUS 4B.
  • First ascent bu E.Mikhalskiy in 1964.
Main Peak, North Face
  • From Kundium-Mizhigi glacier via right hand pillar of North Face to West Ridge. RUS 5B.
  • First ascent by A.Jimanik, I.Kudinov, E.Sokolovski & V.Schurtivi in 08/1961.
Misses-Tau 4427
  • Located in Northern massive nin Bezengi area.
South Ridge from west
  • RUS 3A.
  • First ascent by A.Germagenov, M.Afanasjev & N.Nikoljev in 08/1931.
North Ridge from west
  • Elegant and logical ice route from Mizhingi glacier. RUS 4B.
  • First ascent by A.Ivanishvili, I.Bakradse, A.Kavtaradse, D.Kandesili, W.Kvatshandadse, G.Kiniari & R.Natadse in 08/1951.
Pik Sella 4300
  • Located in Northern massive nin Bezengi area.
North Face
  • From Sella Glacier. RUS 3A (55), 350m.
Ice Flank & SW Ridge
  • From Sella Glacier. RUS 3A (50).

The Caucasus can be quite naturally divided into three distinct sections, and this partition coincides roughly with the geological and ethnographic maps of the region. The first section is the West Caucasus: from the Black Sea to Mt. Elbrus, then the Central: from Mt. Elbrus to Mt. Kazbek, and the East: from Mt. Kazbek to the Caspian Sea. The 180km of the Main and Bokovoy ranges of the Central Caucasus are the highest in Europe. Two, out of seven Caucasian summits over 5.000m, Mt. Elbrus (5642m) and Mt. Kazbek (5.033m), mark the western and eastern edges of the section and the other five peaks over 5.000m are about 65km east of Mt. Elbrus, in the Bezengi area. The mountains here are austere, with long glaciers, gigantic north faces and long northern valleys, scantily wooded, with rough roads. For those loving dramatic scenery and the seclusion of ice and snow deserts of high mountains the Central Caucasus has much to offer. A fairly developed recreation and mountain sports center, the only one for the whole length of 180km, is at the head of the Baksan valley, at the foot of Mt. Elbrus.


    Central Caucasus is higher and more difficult part of Great Caucasus. The peaks of Shhara, Dihtau, Koshtantau, Jangitau, Kazbek are more than 5000 m altitude. Here  the highest peak of Caucasus the Elbrus mountain (5642 m) is situated. This is the two-heads cone of unburned volcano. Standing as giant over snow-capped passes it is seen over 100 and more km. long.     There are the most giant glaciers on Bezengiyskaya wall, Elbrus and Kazbek in that area.
    Among the original region peaks there are famous Ushba, Shhelda, Tihtengen, Tetnuld, Shara, Ailama.
    Central Caucasus valleys are wider and harsher than of Western Caucasus. Rivers going out of glaciers are stormy and quite muddy. Central Caucasus in its axis, the highest part is formed by firm rocks- granites, crystals and loamy schists and  sandstone.
    Periphery parts are composed by precipitation, younger and softer rocks- limestones, malms, etc. Arising on links of Bokovoy ridge volcanic cones of Elbrus and Kazbek are situated on highly swelling socles made of granites and schists. There are a plenty of non-active volcanoes on the Kelsky volcanic plateau to the West of Krestovy ridge.


    Central Caucasus consists of Vodorazdelny ridge of compound relief where some parts have a direction differ from the general on 90-120%, and a number of great ridges Elbrussky, Adylsu, Adyrsu, Bodorku, Kargashilsky, Bokovoy, Sungansky, Tseysky, Saudorsky, Teply, Jimaraisky on the North and Shtavlersky, Nakrynsky (Tsilgmil), Ushbinsky, Svetgaro-Gvaldinsky, Kulak, Zagary, Chhunder, Svanetsky, Lechhumsky, Rachinsky on the South. The parts of Vodorazdelny ridge situating to the south-west and south of Teply and Jimaray-Kazbek sub-regions of Bokovoy ridge are called Dvaletsky and Mtiuletsky ridges.
     Central Caucasus middle mountains and low mountains have mountain- erosion relief, highlands has mountain-glacier presented by jagged ridges with steep slopes, karlings, trade valleys, etc. The regions climatic features are determed by high zone and by main water air streams coming from the West. The precipitation quantity fluctuates from 2000 mm on the western part to 1500 mm in the eastern.


    Central Caucasus has the considerable freezing: of all square 70 %  on the northern slope and about 30 % - on the southern. It can be explained by stormy snowy transfer by western winds Vodorazdelny ridge forward and by higher insolation of  the southern slope. About 40 region glaciers have the square exseeding 5 sq. km.. and five of them (Dihsu, Bezengy, Karaugom, Lekzir and Tsanner) have the square of approximately 40 sq. km each. The glacier table of Elbrus is more than 140 sq. km.
    The weather in this region is not stable: even in summer sunny days is often changed in highlands into harsher and long (3-5 days) foul weather. Central Caucasus has wide possibilities for organizing various kinds of treks, climbings, mountaineering, pass hoppings.     It includes treks for beginners, treks for relatives with children, local and out-going mass meetings and competitions, training measures (as for initial and for as high training), treks in inter-season and in winter period are held. The 1-6 complication category treks can be practised in the limits of the region.


    Sub-regions having technically not complicated gorge paths including passes through Great Caucasus Range are Prielbrusie (Donguzorun - 1A), upper reaches of Chegem (Tviber - 1B) and Chereka-Balkarsky (Sharivtsek-1A and Gezevtsek-1B), Digoriya (Gebivtsek-1A and Gurdzivtsek-1B), Teply-Jimaray-Kazbek (more than 10 passes of the highest complication category and 1A) and Svanetsky ridge. The most technically compound sub-regions and mountainous points are a part of Glavny range between peaks of Yusenga-Uzlovaya and Ortokara, Glavny (Great) and Bokovoy (Side) ranges in the limits of Bezengiyskaya wall and massifs Dihtau-Koshtantau and Tsey-Karaug.

The Central Caucasus contains the highest mountains in the Caucasus system. Great walled glacier basins are characteristic of the area, with huge peaks towering above. The peaks boast wide rock and ice faces, and the arНtes that connect them are long, high and serrated, offering few points of access. The scenery below is Alpine, with high meadows and pine forested valleys.

Of the major peaks, Elbrus and Kazbek are the only two that are easily accessible, and both have easy snow routes to their summits. Elbrus marks the western limit of the Central Caucuses, while Kazbek marks the eastern limit. Both are extinct volcanic cones.

Here are some of the major peaks of the Central Caucasus:

Mount Kazbek 5047

  • Extinct volcano located in the eastern part of Central Caucasus.
  • First ascent by Gouglas Freshfield, A.W. Moore & C.C. Tucker in 1868.

Gergeti Glacier (normal route)

  • From the village of Kazbegi (1700m) to Observatory meteorologigal station (3680m, 4-6h). From there along Gergeti glacier to summit. RUS 2A (35-40), 6-8h.

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