Belukha.

Belukha has several names. The Altai call it “Uch-Sumer”. "Uch" is translated as three, "Measure" is “sacred” peak in Buddhist philosophy, which was transformed into "Sumer" in Mongolian language. So, Uch-Sumer can be translated as "Three headed sacred mountain". The third peak except Eastern and western, is a little away and called the "peak Delaunay," with altitude of 4260 meters. The ancient nomads saw three headed peak from plateau Ukok where important caravan route from Mongolia to territory of modern Kazakhstan had been lied. Three peaks symbolized linking the peoples of the three major world religions - Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.

The second name of Belukha is “Kadyny-Bazhy”. The word "Kadyny" Turkic peoples translate as "exalted birth woman”, “a lady”, “a mistress" and the word "Bazhy" is a derivative of Turkish word "bash (Bashi)" means a head, a top. Thus, the name of Kadyny-Bazhy can be interpreted as "Mistress Head" or “Head Mountain".

Less common name of Altai Belukha is "Uch-Orion", apparently connected with three central stars of the Orion’s belt. Three mountain tops of Belukha (Western Belukha, Eastern Belukha and Delone Peak) are accurate projection of the three stars of Orion's belt. A dazzling white Belukha never exposes its peaks. It is a symbol of holiness and purity.

The first note about Belukha appeared more than 200 years ago. Russian scientist and traveler Shangin visiting Uimon valley wrote down stories told by hunters and prospectors.

The first to achieve Belukha was Friedrich Gebler a famous doctor and researcher in 1835. He travelled Altai with a view to collect and study medicinal plants, trying to reach the source of Katun in 1836. He came from to Belukha from South and opened the Katun glacier and Berel glacier. Gebler rose on the southern slope to the border of eternal snow and made an attempt to determine the height of Belukha.

Faithful researcher of Belukha for many years was the Siberian explorer and scientist, Tomsk University Professor Vasily Sapozhnikov, who has repeatedly been in the South and north areas of Belukha, and discovered and described ice array of Belukha glaciers Akkem, Iedygemsky as well as their tributaries and satellites, Black glacier, Myushtuayry (Brothers Tronova) glacier and several other glaciers in the headwaters of Kuchurly River. Sapozhnikov and his companions reached the “saddle Belugas” and measured the height of its peaks in 1898, after two failed attempts. Sapozhnikov named two peaks framing Belukha when viewed from Akkem Lake in honor of his two sons, Boris and Bronya.

Boris Tronov has compiled the first catalog about Altai glaciers. Brothers Tronov’s were the first to ascend to the top of the Belukha on the south side in 1914 after three attempts. And this year is considered the beginning of mountaineering in Altay.

Two climbers from Leningrad, Zelgeym and Delaunay made an attempt to climb Belukha by more difficult northern side in 1926. Experienced climbers had to overcome a height of about 400 m, but иig snow cornice fall down from the ridge, later named “Delaunay”. Members of the expedition had to go back. Expedition led by Vitaly Abalakov was luckier, they were the first reached the top of Belukha on the north side in 1933.

The first tourist route №317 was built in 1963. Tourists made an interesting hike to the foot of Belukha, rising to height of over 2000 meters to the Akkem and Kucherla Lakes, visited the glacier Myushty-Ira. The route founded tourist development of the central part of Altai Mountains. Travelers came along Chuisky tract from Biisk to Ust-Kan, then to Ust-Cox, then to Tungur to make a camp. Finally, the main event was a week-long trek to the highest peak of Altai Belukha. Tourists visited the wintering on high-meteorological stations on high mountain Akkem lake and Kucherla Lake.

Belukha is associated with a lot of mysteries and legends. It is believed that mysterious Shambala is located next to Belukha, but only a person capable of entering into another dimension can getting there. Locals believe that goddess Turks Umai lives on the mountain. Theory that the great Buddha Gautama came to India from here even exists. Old Believers esteem Belukha, they believe fairyland Belovodie is located here. One of the most interesting hypothesis is that the Belukha caves stretch for thousands of kilometers under the continent and have a connection to the caves of Tibet. Tibetans living in inaccessible Ladakh, also familiar with Belukha, which they called “Meru”. Roerich has heard the legend of the White Burkhan, which is widespread among the Altai exactly in Tibet.

The climate of Belukha is characterized by long cold winter and short summer with rains and snowfalls. It varies according to altitude. Akkem station and Karaturek station located at altitudes 2050 and 2600 meters, observe instrumental investigations. The average July temperature of valleys at the upper boundary of the forest is + 8.3 C (Akkem station), and 6.3 degrees C (Karaturek) on the plateau peaks. Frosts – 20C are not rare on top of Belukha even in a summer.

Belukha Rivers originate in Katun River basin flowing from the southern slope of the glacier Gebler. Kucherla River Akkem River and Idygem also originates here. Water streams born at Belukha glaciers form a special type of Altai Rivers. Rivers are characterized by maximum flow in the summer and lower in the rest of the year. Rivers are fleeting and often form waterfalls. Lakes near Belukha lie in deep troughs. Their origin is connected with the activity of ancient glaciers. The Largest lakes are Big Kucherla, Lower Akkem and others.

The main part of Belukha relates to Katunskiy highland characterized by great variety of forest and alpine formations. Lower slopes are the steppe and forest zone, above slopes are subalpine and alpine meadows, rocks, scree and glaciers.

Coniferous forests with a predominance of Siberian spruce, cedar, Siberian fir dominate in the upper reaches of Katun River and Cox River. Larch, birch and mountain ash are usual. Cedar amount substantially increases with a height. Small mammals are represented by tundra shrew, red and gray voles. Also lynx and snow leopard live here.

Birds are represented much more: white and tundra partridge, chough, alpine chough, Himalayan Accentor. Also species listed into the Red Book of the Altai Republic, such as large lentil, golden eagle, Altai ular live here.