Caucasus panorame
Caucasus panorama. Click on image to get the same one with names and heights (173K)
Mt. Volnaya Ispaniya (Free Spain),  
C.Caucasus region. Photo D.Lifanov 
The Caucasus is a mountain range running from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. It forms a boundary between Europe and Asia and is divided into three sections: Western, Central and Eastern. 
The Western Caucasus begins as a low ridge at the mouth of the Don river and gradually rises to mountains of an Alpine character, with Mt.Dombay-Ulgen (4046m) as its highest summit. The climate here is warmer and climbing conditions are less stern than in other sections of the Caucasus. The area of greatest interest for mountaineers is the section between the Marukh and Klukhor passes where there are plenty of established routes and one can make lots of hard ascents (especially up north faces) and traverses.

The Central Caucasus rises between Mt. Elbrus and Mt.Kazbek and is the highest and most attractive part of the entire range. All the five-thousanders of the Caucasus are located here, together with many of its glaciers including the biggest one - the 12.8 km-long Bezengi glacier. The most popular summits belong to the Elbrus area (Ushba, Shkhelda Towers, Chatyn-Tau, Donguzorun, Nakra-Tau, Jantugan, and others) and the Bezengi Wall area (Koshtantau, Shkhara, Jangi-Tau, Dykh-Tau and others).

Mt.Elbrus is of particular interest for two reasons: first, because the Western summit (5642m) is officially recognised as Europe's highest mountain (Russian now being a part of Europe) and, second, because it ranks as one of the seven highest points of the Seven Continents.

The Eastern Caucasus stretches from Mt.Kazbek eastwards up to the Apsheron peninsula. It is about 480 km long and is lower and overall, than the Central Caucasus, though more than 30 of its summits rise above 4000m. There are several ridges here, the main one being Bokovoy Khrebet ("lateral ridge") with its highest point 4493 m. The terrain is characterised by tangled labyrinths of strongly dissected ridges and deep gorges. There are flat-topped summits (The Yarudag massive) and pyramidal summits (Mt.Babakudag, 3997m) and also jagged peaks of black rocks. The area is rarely visited either by Russian or Western mountaineers, who evidently prefer the peaks of the Central Caucasus.

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