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The second highest mountain of Russia - Belukha is situated nearly in the centre
of the biggest continent-Eurasia, practically at the same distance from all
oceans - from the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south,
the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Its absolute
height is 4506 m, and geographical co-ordinates are 49° 50' NL and 86° 45' EL.
A white iced cap covers it and that might explain the origin a Russian name
Belukha ("white"). Altaians call it Kadyn Bazhy which means "The
Top of the Katun River" or Uch-Airy-"Three Forks". But most often
it is called Uch-Sumer "Three Tops" with a special semantic meaning.
This is a sacred mountain, an object of special reverence for the indigenous
population of the Altai. Uch - Sumer - "Three Tops" is represented
on the coat of arms of the Altai Republic. Mountain Belukha is a unique natural
object, rich in contrasts of diverse natural complexes, it attracts attention
of scientists, ministers and followers of different cults, nature lovers, mountain
- climbers and tourists. Mountain Belukha is raising high above the neighboring
watershed ranges and ties the Katun range system of spurs into one knot. Rocks,
screes and moraines occupy big parts of the mountain massif. More than 60 per
cent of the Katun glaciers are concentrated on the slopes and valleys of Mt.
Belukha massif. 169 glacies with the total area of 150 square km have been found
They are characterized by a high elevation of feeding reservoirs, steep glacier
fields, and low position of glacier tongues.
Alpine low-grass and sub alpine high-grass meadows are met lower than a glacier
line; moraines and stony spurs are dotted by lichens. Both types of meadows
strike the eye wm bright multicolored mountain flowers. Some parts of mountain
meadows are alternating with bushy tundra where dwarf burch trees and willows
grow. Bushy tundras are replaced by the belt of upper sparse woods represented
by larch and Siberian pine. The upper forest line is at the elevation 2,000
- 2,200 m above the sea level depending on the slope exposition. The plant world
is characterized by a great diversity of species and variability of associations.
Species oil different elevation belts, many of them edible, medicinal or rare
and protected can be found there. The animal world is also rich and various.
High mountain ecosystems are rather fragile and require careful attention towards
them. In 1996 the Altai Republic Government passed a resolution to grant a status
of a natural monument to Mountain Belukha. On the Second International Symposium,
which took place in Gorno-Altaisk on June 30, 1999, a Certificate on granting
a status of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage sit| "The Altai-Golden Mountains"
to Mountain Belukha was ceremonially entrusted to the Alta Republic Government.
Big differences between the glacier areas on the slopes of northern and southern
expositions, which are typical for other glacier areas, are not characteristic
of Mountain Belukha The difference is compensated by shadowed northern slopes
with less precipitation compared to abundant precipitation combined with intensive
snow-melting on southern slopes Accumulation of snow on steep slopes leads t$
snow avalanches. Mt. Belukha is situated in the zone of the seismic activity.
It undergoes the process of uprising, which is the reason of frequent avalanches.
This is one of the most dangerous avalanche regions of the Altai.
One kilometer long, nearly perpendicular white Akkem wall is on the northern
side of Mt. Belukha. The Mensu glacier, one of the biggest in the Altai is 10.5
km long, and its area is 13.2 square km. The Belukha glaciers feed many rivers
and springs that flow into the legendary and most beautiful river of the Altai
- the Katun which meets with the Biya River thus forming the great Siberian
Ob River. Water streams born at the foot of Mountain Belukha make a special
Altaian type of rivers. They are mostly fed by melted glaciers and snow, rainfalls
are not that important. The maximum river flow is in summer, being rather low
at all other seasons. They are swift, often with waterfalls. Kettle lakes are
in deep mountain cups and u-shaped glacier valleys; their origin is connected
with the activity of ancient glaciers.
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