Text and photos by Konstantin Lapin
The Ural Mountains, which are also called the Stone Belt, extend for 2500 km from the hot Kazakh steppes to the frozen coast of the Arctic Ocean. Geographers divide the Urals into five regions: South, Middle, North, Subarctic and Arctic Urals. The widest part of the Urals is called the South Urals, and comprises dozens of parallel ridges, bounded in the north and in the south by the valleys of Ufalei River and Ural River respectively. Steppe and forest-steppe landscapes are typical of the foothills in this part of the Urals. Higher in the mountains, the hillsides are covered with mixed forests and the highest peaks, like islands, emerge among the green ocean of forest. The highest mountains of the South Urals - Yamantau (1640 m) and Bolshoi Ieremele (1582 m) - are located in the western row of ridges.
The Middle Urals are a relatively low and narrow part of the Ural Mountains, located north of the valley of Ufalei River up to the latitude of Basegi. Their gently sloping hills are blanketing with south taiga. The Middle Urals present the most populated part of the Urals. The major transport routes connecting the Europian Russia and Siberia pass here. The legendary Chousovaya River - the only river in the Urals that crosses the mountain chains from the east to west - runs its waters in the Middle Urals.
The North Urals extend strictly in the meridional direction up to the latitudinal section of valley of Shchuger River. Telpos-Iz ("The Nest of Winds") is the highest mountain (1617 m). Short dividing ridges (Poyasovy Kamen, Khozatump, Kvarkush, etc.) form the axial part of the mountains. Higher mountains, including popular Konzhakovski Kamen and Denezhkin Kamen, are found in eastern massifs. Western foothills of the North Urals are characterized by wide rolling ridges, which are called parmy. We enter the most desolate and unsullied corners of the territory in the north.
Northward of the latitudinal section of the valley of Shchuger River the mountains become wider again, shooting their numerous ridges. This is the highest land of the Stone Belt - the Subarctic Urals. Here we see the Naroda Mountain (Poznurr, 1895 m), which is the highest peak in the Urals, and some mountains of Alpine appearance - the famous beauties Sablya and Manaraga. Other high tops, such as Karpinskogo Mountain (1803,4 m), Mt. Yanchenko (1740 m), Kolokolnia ("Bell tower"), and Neroika Mountain, are situated here. North open taiga grows in this part of the Urals. Most of the slopes are bright with the paints of Alpine meadows and mountain tundra. To the north of the Naroda, the mountains narrow sharply and for the first time deviate from the usual northern direction, turning to the Northeast.
At the head of Khulga River, where the Subarctic Urals meet the Arctic Urals, the range is represented by a narrow chain of mountains which are practically unforested, devoid of any foothill belt, and open to all winds. Not far from here is Paier (1472 m), the highest peak in the Arctic Urals and one of the most severe mountains in the entire mountain system. Across the valley of Sob' River, with a thin line of the northmost Trans-Ural railway connecting Seida and Labytnangi, the Ural mountains, before they blend into the coastal plain, widen again and the last groves of the Ural forest occur in warm valleys protected from biting winds. Above them, high in the mountains, lie real glaciers. And behind the mountains there is tundra stretching right to the coast of the awfully cold Kara sea, with huge ice blocks drifting in the water even in summer.
Peaks of Ural Mountains
Check out any of the following peaks for additional information:
- Kolokolny - 5400 ft./1646 m.