Uzuncol region in Western Caucasus (map).

(In the foto to the right) The splendid view to Piramida peak in Myrdy valley early morning.

panorama of Piramida peak

Uzuncol region is extraordinarily rich in colours, when in spring the black tulips, purple peonies and blue and violet irises bloom. Though tourism has developed somewhat, there are no large resorts and the primeval fascination of the area has been kept intact. The Uzuncol region consists of two main valleys - the Kuban river valley, and the Kichkinekol valley, from which the rocky peaks of the so-called Dolomites group break off towards the east. Because of its lovely countryside and the variety and gamut of difficulty of the mountain routes, Uzuncol is extremely interesting for expert alpinists and rock climbers as well as hikers.
The easiest routes are to be found on Mt. Gvandra (3,983 m) and Mt. Mirdi (3,433 m), which together with Mt. Kirpich surround the Kuban valley. The starting point is the Uzuncol camp in the upper part of the valley, one hour by automobile from the town of Khurzuk, which is connected to Mineral'nye Vody by the practicable road that crosses Karachaev Chercessia.
Mt. Gvandra has three peaks - the Eastern, Central and Principal - but usually only the Eastern is climbed since the crossing is quite long and not very interesting. From the bivouac in the upper part of the Mirdi valley, go up to the Aktur pass and then continue along the easy snow ridge up to the top; a rope is needed, especially in the summer, when the crevasses open up (lB, 4-6 hours). Mt. Mirdi has two peaks. The climb up to the eastern one (lB) and the crossing to the western one (2A) are both very enjoyable; these routes are not difficult, though you must take rope, crampons and an ice axe because of the many crevasses in the glacier.
Mt. Dalar peak.
(In the foto to the right) The splendid view from Kichkinekol pass: right to left, the summit of Mt. Dalar (3,980 m), Shokoladniy (Chocolate) Peak (3,650 m) and the Trapetsia (Trapeze) massif (3,740 m).

panorama of Dalar peak

Situated in Kichkinekol valley, Mt. Dalar is a spectacular bastion with fifteen lovely rock or mixed routes with difficulty ratings ranging from 3 to 6. Overhanging 500 meters bastion of North face (6A), climbed first time by Valentin Grakovich-Michael Warburton (USA) - is one of the most prestige route of Kichkinekol valley. It is various rock free climbing over vertical walls with overhanging, chimneys, inside angles, looking like "books" and steep ice of so called "knife" rising to the eastern ridge, coming to the summit.

Other very interesting routes in Kichkenekol valley wind over the two Dvoyniashka rock towers (3,830 and 3,843 m) that rise up to the west of Mt. Dalar (5B) and over the snowy summit of the Zamok massif (3,940 m, 4A-5B).
A classic route that is both easy and quite pleasant is the ascent of Filtr Peak (3,390 m), a wide, snow-covered pyramid that rises up a short distance to the west. This is a mixed snow route up to Kichkinekol pass, from where it becomes an easy rock ridge that leads to the top (2B). Rope, ice screws, pitons and ice axes are necessary.

In a branch of Kichkinekol valley there is a group of peaks called the Dolomites that lie round a splendid little blue lake. On the rocky sides of these dizzying peaks are relatively short routes that are both beautiful and difficult.
The western slope of the northern point of the Dolomites is dominated by a large rock pillar 400 meters high with a 5A rating; this was opened for the first time in 1980 by M. Rybakov, who chose particularly elegant and technical courses. One can reach the top of this pillar via the opposite side as well, by going up a gully of debris, where you must be very careful not to cause rockfall during your climb. On the summit there is a fantastic view of all the mountains in the region,
Mt. Kirpich group.
(In the foto to the right) The splendid view from Myrdy valley to Kirpich peak.

Kirpich piak

Mt. Kirpich (3800 m)(The Brick) is a peak characterised to the west by a rocky slope with a vertical wall 500 meters high in a rhomboid form which in fact is called "Rhombus." It was climbed for the first time by Juri Manoylov. This route through "Rhombus" of Western face is most technical in Mirdi ("Swamp") valley. The relief of vertical 500 meters rock face, which is still in the shadow, has not too much variety, catch you constantly in tense climbing. First vertical wall with overhanging, then a huge 150 meter "book" with a choke stone upside. You can't loos your way - one step to any side - and there is completely smooth mirror. Dry rock, good and reliable clings - it is real pleasure to climb first. The descent is coming by easy snow slope on food.

The Galstuk (Tie) route up Mt. Kirpich (3,800 m, 3B)
On the western slope, on the other hand, there is a lovely mixed snow and ice ascent that is not very difficult; it is called "the Tie." The starting point is the upper part of the moraine that descends to the left, halfway up the valley. The bivouac should be set up here. Go up the snow slope in the shape of an upside-down funnel which has a 30-40° incline. At the point where the "funnel" narrows, move to the left onto the rock, where there is an easy climb for about 200 meters; then again go up the snow slopes to the top (7-8 hours from the bivouac). Rope, crampons, one or two ice axes, a helmet, ice screws and pitons are needed for this climb. The panorama of Mt. Dalar, in the Dombay region to the west, and of the central Caucasus to the east, with Mt, Elbrus and Mt. Ushba, is superb.
(In the foto to the right) The splendid view from Uzuncol camp.

Uzuncol camp

The descent from Kirpich peak winds along the eastern slope towards Dalar pass, which separates Mt. Kirpich from Mt. Dalar, via a slope with snow and easy-to-negotiate rocks (IB). This route is also the easiest climb (4 hours), and requires rope, an ice axe and crampons.

To be continued...