Belukha (4,506m) is the highest peak of the Altai Mountains and the highest peak of Siberia. Geographically, this mountain is about the same distance from the Arctic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The top of Mount Belukha is always covered with snow and ice, thus the name – white mountain.
It has two summits, the Eastern and the Western, the former being a bit higher than the latter. In 2002, two paragliders started synchronously from the Eastern summit (4,509m). Travelling by air is undoubtedly faster, but skier Dmitry Shchitov took up the challenge in 2003 and went downhill from the very top of Belukha in about 2 hours. Belukha is not a mountaineer-friendly mountain due to harsh weather conditions and the typically low atmospheric pressure, which at the top of the mountain is about half the normal. Moreover, the rocks on the slopes of Belukha are covered with a thin layer of leaky ice all year round, which makes them incredibly slippery. To add to the trouble, Belukha is located on a tectonic crease that generates earthquakes on a regular basis.
A famous Russian painter Nicholas Roerich made Belukha the star of several of his paintings.
On the Russian side, the mountain is located in the Altai Republic, and in Kazakhstan it is situated in the Katon-Karagandy Nature Park. The mountain is considered sacred both by Buddhists and Altai shamanists. It is considered to be one of the entrances to the mystical land of Shambala and the mysterious Belovodye (White Water Area). Modern esotericists and Roerich’s followers consider the mountain a place of power and information pyramid that is receiving messages and energy from space.
The Altai people have many prohibitions associated with the sacred mountain. It is forbidden to make noise and loud sounds on the slopes of Belukha. Also, iron objects cannot be brought here, and hunting is not allowed in these places. As in many other sacred places in the Altai, women are not allowed to enter the lands of Belukha Mountain.
Once upon a time, there used to be a legend among the locals that everyone who dared to climb the top of Belukha, would go blind. It has a scientific justification as well – without special glasses the glow of light reflected from snow and ice can really damage the retina and impair vision.
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