The untamed essence of Russia can be found anywhere in this vast and often mysterious land, but nowhere more resoundingly beautiful than in the wilds of the high Caucasus range. This week we would like to take you on a photographic journey along with adventure photographer Mikhail Baevsky (Михаил Баевский) into a region seldom seen by westerners, the roof of Europe the ancient Scythians called kroy-khasis (or ice-shining, white with snow”).
For those unfamiliar, the Caucasus mountain range abruptly divides Europe from Asia along a range of peaks including Europe’s tallest mountain, Mount Elbrus (5,642 m). Noted for it’s pristine wilderness and vast cultural diversity, this part of the world is a photographers waking dream. As you’ll see in Mikhail’s photographs, the area around Bezengi, Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia is a stunning landscape that borders the larger nations of Turkey, Iran, and Russia, as well as Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Mikhail’s exploration and photography of the Bezengi region and other places along the so-called Himalays in miniature (Caucasus) reveal the grandiose nature of this place situated in between the Tviber pass and the lateral Digorskiy range. This is truly one of the most fascinating and publicized mountain regions in the world.
The so called Bezengi "Wall" pictured below is a massif some twelve kilometres long that divides Bezengi from the northern regions of Svanetia. Here peaks reach above 5,000 meters high.
The westernmost part of Caucasus is a forbidden place of magnificent beauty owing largely to its proximity to the Black Sea range. Here the mountainsides are not glaciated and climate is warmer than most other areas. This makes for great climbing conditions, particularly in Dombay and Uzunkol areas. Here hikers and climbers find plenty of established routes these days. Some peaks include; Mt. Dombay-Ulgen (4046m) and Mt.Belalakaja (3861m , among many others.
The enourmous undertaking of the Sochi 2014 Olympics create fantastic opprotuties for the people of the Caucasus. The infrastructure for winter sports just across the divid from areas such as the Arkhyz region promise an alpine skiing bonanza such places on Earth normally undergo. As you can see by the image below, outdoor life in this part of Russia is not all about snow and ice though, alpine the term does insinuate lush greenery, flora and fauna, a veritable paradise for campers and hikers during Summer.
Outdoorsmen and women I know in North America often speak of "places of power" when describing stuningly pristine and awe inspiring places. This region of Russia is possesed of many such powerful coordinates on a GPS. One such, the lake pictured below within the Abishira-Akhuba Ridge, takes on a mystical quality at night.
Mikhael's photograph of Sophia Falls below makes me think of what a sojourner in the Kalihari or some other arrid land would pay for a drink of this water. In this idea lies perhaps the greatest treasure discovery these Caucasus have to give up to us, the simplicity of need maybe. What more should any human being want really, other than the crispest air to breath, the cleanest and coolest water, a view of heaven in every breath of life?
About Mihael Baevsky: Born in Voroshilovgrad (now Lugansk) in 1951, Mikhail Baevsky is an Associate Professor of Organic and Biological Chemistry of the Crimean Federal University. A member of the Russian Geographic Society, and a candidate for master of sports in mountain tourism, Mikhail is also a lifelong, avid, and talented photographer.
Given a camera at a young age, he adopted his father’s love for taking photographs. As for his lifelong fascination with imagery, and his growing portfolio of nature captures, Mikhael was surrounded as a child with books about mountains, caves, the seas his father lovingly instructed him about. Gradually, incrementally even, he learned hiking, nature photography and mountaineering.
The images you see here are but a sampling of a lifetime of freezing in time the vast and beautiful regions Mikhail has travelled to, and the pristine Crime which he now calls home.