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    Kabardino-Balkar Republic

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Kabardino-Balkaria is All-Russian and international centre of tourism, mountain climbing and downhill skiing. 14 tourist centres, 8 Alpine camps and 6 hotels function here. Mountain climbing is the biggest draw to Kabardino-Balkaria, and it's a serious sport here. The most popular climb is undoubtedly Mount Elbrus, as it is one of the "Seven Summits," and is actually a fairly easy climb in technical terms (Russian Grade: 2B). But bear in mind it's actually one of the world's deadliest climbs in terms of fatalities per climberit's a long climb to the top and the mountain often has dangerous and unpredictable weather.

Because dealing with Russian officialdom is hellish bordering on impossible, it's best to embark on a mountaineering expedition via guided tour (the tour agencies pick you up from Mineralnye Vody or Nalchik right at the airport and act as your intermediary with all Russian officials. Russia-based tour agencies are way cheaper than Western ones).

The Republic is one of the best Russian health-building centres in terms of facilities provision and comforts. A combination of spas with sulphate-, iodine-bromine- and nitrogen-rich springs and the miraculous curative muds of Lake Tambukan makes it a unique place for people with health problems Particularly popular is the resort of Nalchik - 340-hectare oasis of orchards and parks - with its magnificent compound of different health-building institutions.

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