Research Paper: Mountain Elbrus

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¶ … Elbrus

Geologic Formation and History

Elbrus itself is a huge volcanic cone with two summits that lies just off the main Caucasus Mountains ridgeline. The mountain's highest summit stands at 18,456 feet and its main ridge is made of crystalline rocks like shale, gneiss, and granite (Helman, 2005). Over the millennia, heavy amounts of glaciation have resulted in its pyramid summits and glacial tongues (McColl, 2005). The mountain range Elbrus belongs to was created as two tectonic plates collided creating an uplift. These plates, the Arabian and the Eurasian, have been colliding and pushing the Caucasus ever upward for millions of years. The entire area surrounding the mountain is prone to earthquakes and other seismic activity as the plates' actions continue (McColl, 2005). The mountain remains an active volcano, erupting most recently nearly 2000 years ago. The volcano has been active for over 200,000 years with ample evidence of massive dacitic flows and other eruption-related activity (McColl, 2005). This evidence shows that the mountain has a major eruption about every 3000-5000 years.

Mt. Elbrus is rich with history, having first been climbed by Kabardinian Killar Khashirov in 1829. Khashirov was employed by the Russian Army to survey the area and surrounding mountains (Horton, et. al., 2006). This ascent was only to the top of the lower summit, as the higher of the two summits was first climbed in 1874 by Akhia Sottaiev, a Balkerian mountain guide working with an international climbing team. Over the next few decades, as more and more climbers and travelers descended upon the region surrounding Mt. Elbrus, the summit became less and less of a novelty. In fact, so many people were coming to the mountain to climb it that in 1929, a small hut was erected at the 13,000-foot level called Priut 11 (Horton, et. al, 2006). This small hut was eventually expanded in the 1930's and came under Nazi control in 1942 as Hitler's Army was passing through the region. Russian forces took the hut back after an air bombing campaign in 1943 and it survived until 1998 when it tragically burned down due to a careless climber's out of control cooking stove.

The mountain is also home to a very rudimentary and sometimes very shaky cable car system that helps carry climbers over vast regions of glacial moraine including two small rivers was constructed between 1959 and 1976 and even includes a museum set up to help visitors understand the region's history (Hurley, 2009). In late summer, skiers can be found near the top of the cable car, taking advantage of the system's ability to lift people from the valley floor below to nearly 11,000 feet.

Social and Cultural Importance

The region that Mt. Elbrus sits in has been historically contested by the Russians and the Georgians. This mountain range has also historically acted as a barrier between these and other groups of people. The Russians have used the mountain as a sort of caricature of the stereotypical Russian attitude of "bigger is better" as well as helping to highlight the robust and strong nature of the mountain and the range it belongs to (McColl, 2005). Early travelers described the people living near the mountain as using it as a social marker for rituals as well as rites of passage. The mountain has always been regarded as one of the most significant parts of the local landscape for as long as people have inhabited the region.

Since the mountain lays in disputed territory, it has always been a figurehead of this dispute, as each side has tried to lay claim to the mountain several times, and most recently in the 1950's during the last major survey undertaken by both the Georgians and the Russians. The mountain has always been a haven for socialization and social interaction, as skiing began here in the late 19th century and continues to this day (Horton, et. al., 2006). Many Russians regard this mountain as a tourist destination, and the evidence of human activity on and near the mountain is indicative of a place where people come to socialize and enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded to them by Mt. Elbrus.

Political and Economic Importance

The mountain has always been a significant feature of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Mountain Elbrus."  Essaytown.com.  November 17, 2010.  Accessed November 21, 2019.
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