Soviet mountain tourism originated in the Elbrus region - in the Greater Caucasus. It was here that young members of mountaineering circles came to make sports expeditions. Almost all ascents started from the village of Urusbiev, and the beginning was made even before the revolution.
Besides Elbrus itself and its summit, tourists were interested in ice giants that cover most of the mountain ranges of our planet - glaciers. There is not one, but several on Elbrus.
General information on Elbrus icing
The total area of glaciers on Elbrus is 134 square kilometers. This is almost ten percent of the total area of the existing North Caucasian glaciations. But despite such an impressive figure, the length of the glaciers themselves is not very large, some of them extending only six or nine kilometers. Although there are more. For example, Bezengi has a body 16 kilometers and 600 meters long, and the largestthe Himalayan glacier of Elbrus - Gangotri - stretches for 33 kilometers along the ridges.
The total number of glaciers on Elbrus today is twenty-three. All of them are completely different in shape and appearance. Some hang from the slopes, over time, their tongues fall off the main body with a roar, forming the strongest avalanches.
The names of the Elbrus glaciers are quite interesting: Big Azau, Kokurtly, Irik, Garabashi, Teskol, Kogutai (the last three are the ones hanging). Many nestled in valleys and depressions.
Ullukam is considered the largest revived glacier on Elbrus. Its tip covers the edge of a barrier left over from an ancient eruption. Usually, after its collapse, a powerful icefall is formed: pieces of ice fall hundreds of meters down and connect with the river waters of the Kuban.
Geographic location of glaciers
Eternal snow on Elbrus lies at an altitude of 3850 meters from the northern slope, the southern side has a icing line a little lower. The geography of glaciers is uneven. The thickness of the cover depends on the terrain, as well as the depth of the valley where the melting ice flows. Snow can accumulate up to a hundred meters deep.
In ancient times, Elbrus glacial streams were much longer. In the lowland, they merged with the glaciers of other mountain ranges located nearby, and the power of the water flow cut the surface of the soil. The valleys of the Kuban, Malka and Baksan rivers later formed in this area.
Climate change has caused glaciers to begin to slide below the snow line. One of the largest glaciers - Big Azau - rises at an altitude of two kilometers above sea level. Many glaciers at their end points form ice grottoes of incredible beauty, from which numerous streams flow picturesquely. In their middle part, one can find giant cone-shaped moraines, created by nature from clay and boulders and knocked down by glaciers of antiquity. In some places you can find traces of inactive lakes once also created by glaciers. Several centuries ago, glaciers on Elbrus reached the village of Khurzuk.
The thickness of the glaciers on Elbrus does not exceed 150 meters. Measurements were made at more than 500 points. The most significant are located at an altitude of 3600 meters to 4200 meters, and the lower the glacier goes, the thinner it becomes.
On the steep slopes near the peaks, the thickness of the ice reaches only 40 meters, and on the saddle 50. The eastern part of Elbrus is also surrounded by eternal ice 50 meters thick. In the western zone, the glacier on Elbrus increases its power to 100 meters in depth.
An interesting fact is the volume of these glaciers. According to the latest data, the volume of the entire ice cover of Elbrus is approximately 11 km3, and the total mass is 10 billion tons. If all the glaciers of Elbrus melted, then the amount of water received would be equal to three values that the Moscow River can give in 3 years.
Movement of glaciers
It should be noted the excellent plastic properties of glaciers, due to which their movement occurs. This can only be noticed with the help of special measurements, but the speed itself depends on several reasons. Most of the ice cover of Elbrus moves at a speed of 10 centimeters per day. Two glaciers on Elbrus - Big Azau and Terskol - move at a higher speed - about 50 centimeters per day in the summer, but in some areas their movement is reduced to a couple of millimeters in 24 hours.
Thanks to the movement of glaciers, they constantly renew their cover. And if we take into account the length of the glacier of 10 kilometers, and the movement of 10 centimeters per day, then the renewed ice will reach the tongue only after two hundred and fifty years or more. It can be concluded that the complete renewal of the glacier occurs just during this period. But the most ancient ice can be found in places where it is practically immobilized: at the very bottom of the firn layer that fills the crater excavations of Elbrus.
Formation of ice cover on Elbrus
Scientists managed to find out that in ancient times there were peculiar battles between ice on mountain peaks and lava erupting from a crater. In this connection, lava flows melted glaciers, and some of them were completely destroyed.
It has been established that the last time the activity of Elbrus as a volcano was manifested two thousand years ago, after that it acquired its modern form. The ice actively expanded and spread, forming severallanguages. Descending from the peaks, he filled all the nearby valleys and empty depressions between the frozen lava flows.
But over the past centuries, the quality of the Elbrus glaciers has deteriorated significantly: their "body" has become thinner, and formations of the so-called "dead ice" have appeared in the lowlands (ice covered with debris left over from mudflows, landslides, etc.). "Dead ice" is not able to move itself, so it quickly separates from the retreating glacier.
The moraine ridges left by nature in the form of cuts speak of the former greatness of the Elbrus glaciers. They are perfectly preserved due to the lack of fertile soil on their surface and stand out brightly in the grassy area. Over the past two centuries, glaciers have reduced their thickness by about sixty centimeters, and their volume to a quarter of their total mass. The tongues retreated as much as two kilometers.
Given that scientists call the climatic conditions of our planet cyclical, atmospheric renewal occurs over 1800 years. And in each such cycle, global warming is gradually replaced by the strongest cooling.
Today the Earth is in a cycle of warming, which is provoked not only by the harmful activity of mankind. Presumably, the cooling will come only by 2400, which means that until that time the glaciers will continue to retreat.
Description of the most significant glaciers of Elbrus
Which one is considered the longest? Its name is known to any climber or mountain trekking enthusiast. This isBig Azau. And it stretched for 9 km. Its total area is 23 km2.
It retreats thirty meters every year. The tongue of this Elbrus glacier is hidden under a layer of gravel.
Its fellow - small Azau - has an area of 8.5 km, a length of 7.6 km, a thickness of 100 m.
From the south-east of the dormant volcano descends the Garbashi glacier, 7 km long and with a total area of 5 km2. The Terskol glacier is of the same length, but Irik is equal in length to the Big Arzau, but inferior to it in area - only 10 km2. Well, quite small - the Irikchat glacier is 2.5 km long2 and an area of 1 km2.