Parallel to the eastern Black Sea coast runs a wall of mountains rising to heights in excess of 2,000m/6,500ft. This northernmost of the Pontic ranges forms the backbone of Turkish Georgia. Merging in the north into the Little Caucasus (now the Republic of Georgia), it attains its greatest altitude (3,932m/12,905ft) in the Kaçkar Dag massif, a triangle of mountains lying between Rize, Artvin and Bayburt.
Bounded to the southeast by the deep Çoruh trench, from the coast the massif rises sharply to 2,000m/6,500ft, at which height the surface has been extensively eroded, creating a kind of tableland. The main summit (Kaçkar Dag) lies only 35km/22mi as the crow flies from the coast and the Çoruh valley.
Flora and flora
Caucasian spruce, Nordmann fir, forest pine, deciduous oak and Asian beech all flourish throughout the region, as do rhododendrons - the white-bloomed Caucasian rhododendron occuring extensively, the purply-violet and yellow-flowered Pontic variety forming an undergrowth beneath the beeches and pines. Both the woodland and high altitude zone are rich in wildlife, and brown bears, Caucasian chamois, bearded vultures, Caspian partridge and Caucasian black grouse are still found.
The Kaçkar range is magnificent mountain walking country, Parhal, a sprawling village in the Barhal Çayi valley, being a particularly good starting point. One six hour walk, filled with interest, goes from Parhal, via Kumru, Naznara and Amaneskit, first to a waterfall and then to Karagöl, a cirque lake 2,600m/8,533ft up. Another walk (of about ten hours) follows a track which can be used by vehicles as far as Olgunlar (Yaylalar), then continues upstream onto the Dilber Düzü (Dilber plateau; 2,950m/9,682ft); beyond, at 3,250m/10,666ft, lies Deniz Gölü (full day's walk) and beyond that the summit of Kaçkar Dag (3,932m/12,905ft; two days needed).