Bezengi region (map).

Bezengi wall

More Photos of Bezengi region.

Koshtan-tau - Krumkol Bezengi Camp
(On the foto to the right) Panorama of Koshtan-tau, seen in the sun set from Bivouac 3900.
Bezengi region, so-called Himalays in miniature, is rather small in territory but rather prestige and famoust in Caucasus range, which is extremly filled up with grandiousity of above five thousand meters mountains group, that have large faces of even more 1500 meter high. This wild region is situated in the Greater Caucasus, between the Tviber pass and the lateral Digorskiy range. Its extraordinary mountains, many of which are over 5,000 meters high with faces thousands of meters high, make it one of the most fascinating mountain areas in the world.
It is here, that one of the unique mountain group is situated - so called Bezengi "Wall" - an immense massif twelve kilometres long that divides Bezengi from the northern regions of Svanetia. Its knife-edge crest has six grandiose mountains: Lialver (4,350 m), one of the smallest and easiest peaks in the "Wall"; the fantastic Gestola pyramid (4,860 m); the massive Mt. Katin (4,970 m); Mt. Dzhangi (5,049 m), which has three peaks over 5,000 meters high; Shota Rustaveli peak (4,960 m); and Mt. Shkhara (5,068 m). In 1893 an expedition led by K. Poppinger succeeded in making the first crossing of the Bezengi Wall, from Shkhara to Lialver, which is rated 6A; all the bivouacs were set up in ice caves.

Panorama from Koshtan-Tau to Dykh-Tau. Mt. Mises-Tau north face.

(On the foto to the right) Panorama Koshtan-tau - Krumkol - Mizhirgi - Dykh-Tau. North faces, seen from Bivouac 3900.
North of the Central Range and east of the immense Bezengi glacier, is the no less impressive mountain system of the Lateral Range, with several peaks over 5,000 meters high: the Koshtan massif (5,151 m), the towers of Mt. Dykhtau (5,204 m), Mt. Pushkin (5,100 m) and Mt. Mizhirghi (5,Q25 m). From Mineral'nye Vody, via the city of Nalchik and the Cherek Bezengiskiy river valley, a practicable road leads to the Bezengi refuge at the beginning of the Bezengi glacier. From here, alpinists who want to tackle the Bezengi Wall should head south towards the so-called Austrians' Bivouac, which is a six or seven hours' walk over the glacier. The mountains in the Lateral Range, on the other hand, can be reached from two different camps. The Mizhirghi camp is on the orographic left of the Mizhirghi glacier and can be reached in two or three hours from the Bezengi camp; the "3,900 Meters" bivouac is a ten to thirteen hours' walk from the Mizhirghi camp. Though it is relatively near as the crow flies, in order to get there you must cross over the Mizhirghi and Kundyurn-Mizhirghi glaciers, which call for a roped-party climb, with all the necessary ice gear and rucksacks with bivouac material. The two sides of the Bezengi mountain barrier are quite different: to the south the faces, which are mostly rocky, are often in the form of impressive vertical walls 2.000 meters high; the northern faces consist of steep ice and snow inclines thousands of meters long with overhanging rock bastions and large icefalls that literally thunder because of the snowslides that occur day and night. The ascents of both sides are long and extremely laborious due to the high altitude, the difficulty of getting over the rock and ice, and the very variable weather conditions.
All mountain faces have two stractures strictly divided on their orientation. North routes are basically comes by snow and ice slopes with steep rock bastions inside. There are a lot of danger ice-falls and snow cornices, which time by time are falling down all day long with a terrible din and crash, adding sorrounded mountains with dramatically majestic dinamic action of "bewitched" 1000 meters slope high lighting up in white and blue, because of avalanch' friction over it in thunder storm time, specially in the night together with "St. Elm" fire (corona discharge) over your tent, ski stick and even fingers and hairs. Dykhtau
South faces are basically composed of steep rock. The most amazing are Dikhtau, Pushkin and Mizhirgi ones 1500 high rising up over Bezengi glacier near to "Austrian bivouac", which is a six or seven hours walk over the spectacular Bezengi glacier - a huge river of ice, the longest in the Caucasus, extends for 12 km.

(On the foto to the right) Dykh-Tau - Mizhirgi North face. Avalanch.
The Bezengi glacier is quite spectacular - a huge river of ice, the longest in the Caucasus, that extends for twelve kilometres. The beauty and original character of the Bezengi region attracted many West European mountaineers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. J.G. Cockin and A.F. Mummery opened two great classic routes in f888 on the wild south-eastern and north-eastern faces of Mt. Dykhtau - one of the greatest mountaineering achievements of the time. Here on the eastern slopes of the Bezengi Wall, Vittoria Sella climbed a 4,370 m high peak with an extremely impressive view that bears his name.
Given the nature of the terrain in this region, which is rich in metals, during the frequent storms there are electric phenomena with fluorescent effects (corona discharge). The following is an account of this. "We were camped near the Austrians' Bivouac when a storm broke out. The snow began to fall thick and heavy on our tent, so I decided to go out to take it off. Suddenly I saw a light dancing under the tent, then my fingertips began to become fluorescent and to flash. At the time T had a beard; each hair stood on end and took on a light blue hue... it was like being in a horror film."
Similar phenomena occur during avalanches, which are quite frequent along the northern slopes of the Bezengi group; because of the friction of the avalanches on the rock and the electricity in the air, the 1,500 m high face, as if bewitched, lights up in white and blue - a breathtaking, magical spectacle.

The Route up Mt. Gestola (4,860 m, 4A)

(On the foto to the right) Mt. Katyn - Gestola. Early morning. View from Bezengi camp.
Mt. Katyn - Gestola
The normal route to the white Gestola pyramid winds up along the ridge of the Bezengi Wall; though this is not a very difficult ascent from a technical standpoint, it is long and laborious because of the high altitude (4A). It begins at the Bezengi alpine camp and goes up the very long, level glacier, One bivouacs on the moraine, where the glacier turns eastward. Cross the glacier and then go towards Tsanner pass, which marks off the Bezengi Wall to the Northwest. The ascent to the pass consists of snow slopes with crevasses that require rope and an ice axe (two hours). Once at the pass, do not go directly up the first peak on the Wall, Lialver, but cross on to the western face and then descend somewhat until you reach the Nagheb glacier. Then go up the snow slopes to the Col between Mt. Gestola and Mt. Tetnuld, the mountain that lies to the Southwest. This Col has two small passes: take the one to the right (6-10 hours). Continue moving Northeast, keeping to the right of the ridge, which has treacherous white cornices; you arrive at the summit by climbing up the snow wall rising up from the Katinskoe plateau (4-3 hours). For the descent, use the same route.
On the northern face of Mt. Gestola, M. Kherghiani opened up a very direct route that goes up the steep icefall under the summit for 800 meters and then continues for 300 meters on the rock and another 300 meters on the ice shield at the top (5B).

The "Crab" normal route up Mt. Shkhara (5,068 m, 5A)

(On the foto to the right) Mt. Shkhara with normal route on, seen from Austrian bivouac near to Bezengi Wall.
Mt. Shkhara
This is the normal route that is usually taken for the descent as well. It is extremely long, so you must bring tents with you for at least one bivouac. From the Austrians' Bivouac, cross the glacier and go over the large icefall to the left, up to the small plateau. Here you must go up the icy wall that delimits the left end of the plateau until you reach the ridge. This is a veritable ice route that must be tackled with two ice axes, crampons, ice screws and rope. The first part of the ridge is in the shape of a large crab, hence the singular name of this route. Continue along the ridge with its many cornices, and turn west at about the halfway point, which is about 5,000 m above sea level. This is a delicate stage of the route, because the wind is often so strong that it stops any forward progress. It is said that climbers have been literally swept off their feet because of the "sail effect" of their jackets. Normally you can bivouac in some hollow on the northern side of the ridge and continue the climb the following day up to the summit. This route takes at least two days for the climb and descent.

Solo style climbing up the North face of Mt. Shkhara (5068 m) in Bezengi region Central Caucasus by Alexandr Sheinov

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Rock climbing Photos - near to Bezengi Camp.

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To be continued... E-mail

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