Coat of arms of the Russian Federation


The highest peak: Belukha
Height of the top: 4506 m

The Altai mountains represent a complex system of the highest ridges in Siberia, separated by deep river valleys and extensive inland and intermountain hollows. The mountain system is located where the borders of Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan converge. It is divided into the Southern Altai (South-West), the South-Eastern Altai and the Eastern Altai, the Central Altai, the North and North-Eastern Altai, the North-Western Altai. Altai, Katun Reserves and Ukok Plateau together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called "Altai - Golden Mountains".

Geological structure

The Altai mountains formed in the Baikal and Caledonian epochs, but experienced a secondary ascent to the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. The beginning of the formation of the Altai Mountains refers to the end of the Baikalian folding, when the northeast ridges began to appear. In the south-west there was still a sea. In the Caledonian and Hercynian epoch, the bottom of the sea crumpled into folds, internal forces squeezed them upward forming a mountainous country. Mounting movements were accompanied by strong eruptions of volcanoes, which poured lava onto the surface of young folds. A high mountainous country began to rise. In the Mesozoic era, the Altai Mountains gradually disintegrated under the influence of the sun, wind and other natural forces. For millions of years, the former mountainous country has turned into a plain with sublime plots. In the Cenozoic era in the Altai, tectonic processes of alpine orogeny again arise.


Three main types of relief are distinguished in the Altai: the surface of the residual ancient peneplain, the alpinotype glacial high relief and the middle relief. Ancient peneplain represents high mountain massifs with a wide development of equalization surfaces and steep, graded, regressive erosion slopes. Above the alignment surfaces, there rise individual peaks and small ridges composed of more solid rocks with relative excesses of 200-400 m. The limestone areas of the peneplain with heights of more than 2000 m are modified by the activity of ancient glaciers - carved, abounded with moraine hills and lakes. The leveled surfaces of the ancient peneplain occupy about 1 / 3 all over Altai. These are mainly the southern and southeastern regions of the mountainous area - the Ukok plateau, the Chulyshmanskoe Highlands: Ulagan plateau. There are areas of peneplain in the middle mountains (Korgon, Tigiretsky, Terektinsky ridges, etc.) and in the lowlands.


The Alpine relief in the Altai rises above the surface of the ancient peneplain and occupies the higher parts of the Katun, Chui, Kurai, Sailyugem, Chikhachov, Shapshalsky, Southern Altai and Sarymsakty ranges. Alpine relief is less common than the surface of the ancient peneplain. The ridges with alpine relief forms are their most elevated axial parts (up to 4000-4500 m), strongly dissected by erosion and frost weathering. The main forms of relief here are peaked peaks and carlings, carrions, trough valleys with lakes, morainic hills and ridges, landslides, screes, frost-solifluction formations. The general pattern of alpine alpine relief in the Altai is the alignment of interfluves and the decrease in the depth of valleys as they move away from the axial parts of the ridges to their peripheries. The middle-mountain relief has heights from 800 to 1800-2000 m and occupies more than half of Altai territory. The upper limit of the distribution of the middle relief is limited by the plane of the ancient peneplain, but this boundary is not sharp. The relief here is characterized by the smooth, rounded forms of low ridges and their spurs, separated by river valleys. The extensive, dense hydrographic network facilitated a strong erosional dismemberment of the middle reaches. The depth of the river valleys reaches 300-800 m. The average erosion relief is prevalent in the northern, north-western and western parts of the Altai. In the altitude interval from 1000 to 2000 m, it is characterized by massive rocky ridges, with the predominance of steep slopes and narrow V-shaped or terraced valleys (Katun, Biya). In the altitude interval 500-1200 m, the upper parts of the slopes of ridges are softer, leveled. The valleys are wider with well-developed flood plains and with meandering channels.


It stands out in the Altai and lowland relief, which covers the peripheral part of the mountain area and occupies the space between the foothills and the middle mountains. Absolute heights range from 400 to 800 m, and at individual peaks reach 1000 m. The relief of low mountains is characterized by flattened or dome-shaped interfluves and gentle deluvial slopes. Near the large valleys and the northern "facade" of Altai, the dismemberment of the low-mountain relief is particularly fractional. In some places it looks like a rocky "badland" - a shallow hill. A characteristic feature of the Altai relief is the wide distribution of intermontane, multi-elevated basins. They occupy latitudinal valleys-grabens and belong to the areas of tectonic subsidence. These are the Chui, Kuray, Djulukul, Bertek, Samokhin, Uimon, Abai, and Kansk inter-mountain hollows. Some of them are at a considerable height and therefore subjected to the action of ancient glaciers that formed the relief of their bottoms, others are at low (medium altitude) levels and more exposed to accumulative activity, being containers of ancient lake basins.

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