The Caucasus main
ridge is a magnificent Alpine-type mountain chain with rocky peaks
and glaciated slopes. The ridge rises almost 1000m above the
permanent snow line. Most passes lie a' 2400-3000m above sea
level and are crossed only by mountaineering routes. The Main Ridge
is made of hard crystalline rocks - shales, gneisses and granites.
Heavy glaciation has resulted in characteristic glacial sculpture,
including glacial cirques and elegant pyramidal summits. From the
cirques glacial tongues extend a long way down into many of the
major valleys Elbrus itself is a huge volcanic cone that lies
several km. off the main ridge.