Dombay region in Western Caucasus.

Dombay region in Western Caucasus (map).
The region of Dombay consists of a magnificent plateau 1,600 meters above sea level. It is situated at the end of the deep valleys of the Alibek, Amanauz and Bombay rivers, which merge here to form the Teberda river a few kilometres further down the valley. To the east and west of the line that links the Teberda with the top of the Greater Caucasus, lies the Teberdinskiy Wildlife Preserve, where lynxes, bears and European bisons still live. Bombay, which rises in the heart of this reserve, is dominated to the south by the mighty rock shield of the Greater Caucasus, where the loveliest mountains in the region lie: Mt. Belalakaya (The Mottled Rock, 3,861 m), which is considered the "Matterhorn of the Caucasus" and owes its name to the bands of white quartz that stand out on the steep faces, sometimes reaching fifty meters in height; Mt. Dzhuguturlyuchat (3,921 m), a jagged granite peak that looks like the walls of a turreted castle; Mt. Ptish (3,520 m), the eastern top of which looks like an elephant's head and trunk; Mt. Bu-Ulgen (3,910 m), Mt. Aksaut (3910 m) and Mt. Kara-Kaya (3,896 m). As it is covered with high snow in the winter, the Dombay plateau has been a favourite with skiers, mountaineers, hikers, as well as canoe, kayak, paraglider and hang glider buffs for a long time. As a result, it has good hotel, camping and cable car facilities. Visitors should not miss the end of the chair lift ride, Mustachery, which offers a splendid panoramic view of the entire region, including Mt. Elbrus far off to the east.
Dombay is connected to Mineral'nyye Vody by a road that crosses Karachaev Chercessia via Karachayevsk, the capital founded in 1926 to replace ancient Uchkulan.
Mt. Dombay-Ulgen group.
Mt. Dombay-Ulgen is a barrier against the prevailing winds that produces cloud formation and variable weather. It is often capped by clouds that obstruct forward progress and orientation.
Mt. Dombay-Ulgen (The Slain Bison) is the tallest and one of the most beautiful mountains in the western Caucasus, and was climbed for the first time by A. Fisher in 1904. It consists of three peaks; the Western (4,036 m), the Central (4,046 m) and the Eastern (3,9^0 m ); these are splendid granite towers the upper parts of which are covered with ice up to midsummer.
The Route up Mt. Dombay-Ulgen (4,046 m, 3B)
The Western peak, a spire with vertical walls on each side over 1,300 meters high, has very difficult routes, with 5 -rated descents. The most difficult and beautiful of these is the one opened by Oleg Kosmachov in 1961 on the northern face (6A).
The Dombay-Ulgen massif is separated from Maliy Dombay-Ulgen, a twin-spired peak that rises to the west, by the Dombayskoe col. The northern ridge, along which the normal route (3B) winds, branches off from here. The route begins at the Ptyshskiy plateau, where the base camp is set up at 2,400 m. It then ascends the orographic right side of the moraine of the small Zapadniy (Western) Dombay glacier, and crosses the glacier up to the base of an easily seen rock ridge, which it goes up as far as the Dombayskoe col (3-4 hours from the bivouac). By leaving very early in the morning one can make the climb in a day; but climbers generally prefer to set up a small bivouac here. The ascent is easy along the northern ridge, up to a rock wall twenty meters high that you can skirt to the right via some steep rock slabs. Keep to the right of the ridge until you reach some yellow rocks, which you can go over to the left; then move to the middle and then to the right in the final stage of the climb. The route returns to the ridge up to a second wall which you pass over by going to the right. You reach the peak after passing over other slabs (5 hours from the col). From the Dombayskoe col onwards you need rope, pitons and, depending on the weather conditions, an ice axe.
For the descent (3 hours to the col), take the same route; the walls can be descended by rappelling.

(In the foto to the right) The splendid view on Belalakaia peak from Dombay village

Mt. Belalakaya peak (3,861 m, 3B).
Belalakaya peak
The "Mottled Rock" is the most fascinating mountain in this region and one of the most popular, partly because of its position immediately Southwest of Dombay. The approach to the camp is therefore relatively short (4 hours) compared to Mt. Dombay-Ulgen. On the splendid north-eastern face, which can be seen from the town of Dombay, are the most laborious climbs of 1,000 meters. The normal route, on the other hand, winds along the northern ridge of the rock pyramid (3B). From Dombay you cross the green plains in the direction of the Sofrudzhu glacier, which you ascend up to the beginning of the ridge, where you can bivouac (2,200 m). Then go up the moraine and the snow-covered slope towards the large ledge the divides the ridge in two. Once on the ridge, go up for thirty or thirty-five meters to the left and then up the rock slab, continuing to the left until you reach the so-called "finger" gendarmes above the Great Gendarme. Continue along the ridge up to a second ledge, above which you will find the key passageway of this route, the top tower. This can be climbed either directly or by skirting it along the gully to the left; however, this latter is dangerous because of rock falls. It is better to go along one of the walls of this gully and not climb in the middle. Once over the tower, an easy snow ridge leads to the peak (6-7 hours from the bivouac). You need rope, pitons, an ice axe and crampons for this ascent.
The descent route follows the southern ridge going towards Belalakayskiy pass, which is reached by rappelling (4-3 hours). Then you descend on the snow along the Sofrudzhu glacier till you reach the bivouac (one hour).

To be continued...