At highest point

September 22, 2014

The Maikop – Samurskaya – Sochi gas pipeline route is one of Gazprom’s most complicated ones. Running through the Greater Caucasus Range, it crosses 400 natural barriers, goes through mountain streams and spurs. Grachevsky Pass is the most difficult to access high-altitude gas pipeline section. We took advantage of the lucky opportunity and went there together with the top management of the Maikop Line Pipe Operation Center who carried out a helicopter inspection of the gas pipeline. We’re flying to the highest gas pipeline point – 1,324 meters.

Grachevsky Pass is a part of the Caucasus National Reserve, a place with breathtaking nature and picturesque views of the mountains, rivers and gorges. Sharp rises of 30 to 40 degrees of inclination lead to the Pass. In such natural environment the gas pipeline was laid here in the 1970s.

Yellow cones along the route can be seen from the helicopter – these are helicopter mile posts.

A convenient place for landing was found on Grachevsky Pass itself. It was difficult to find a level ground and it took us three attempts to touch land.

Grachevsky Pass is many centuries old. Some time ago there were ancient horse ways to the Black Sea here, walked by hunters and shepherds from mountain villages. Today the shortest and probably the most difficult road to Lazarevskoye settlement on the Black Sea coast crosses the Pass. Tourists love this place for stunning views of Nagoy-Chuk Ridge, Pshekho-Su and Fisht Mountains.

During the Civil War the Pass was crossed by writer Arcady Gaidar and his regiment; and in the times of the Great Patriotic War the legendary ninth mountain division made its winter force march, overrunning the enemy’s defenses and liberating Maikop and Krasnodar. There are several monuments to the deceased defenders of Caucasus erected on the top of the Pass not far from the gas pipeline route.

Gas pipeline walker Yury Abdulayev works at the highest section of the pipeline. He’s been laboring here for over ten years. His duty is to daily walk and inspect the gas pipeline route, detect possible faults.

A small conference. Yury Abdulaev talks to Sergey Tvardiyevich (center), Acting Head of the Maikop Line Pipe Operation Center and Alexander Brezhnev (right), operator of the Maikop line pipe maintenance service. They checked the state of the gas pipeline and special posts during the helicopter overflight. They also paid attention to the test posts of the corrosion protection system and carried out the external inspection of the gas generator.

There are several major facilities essential for the gas pipeline maintenance, located at the Pass. This gas generator produces electric power for the pipe cathodic protection.

The highest point. Here communications operators installed an antenna mast and radio equipment securing reliable radio communication along the whole gas pipeline route.

The pipeline walker and the line pipe maintenance operator are attentive to details. All the facilities and equipment should be in good shape.

Every day the gas pipeline walker covers many kilometers of the gas pipeline route, regardless of the season or weather conditions. This is an occupation for resilient and courageous people. Yury Abdulayev is in charge of a 13-kilometer section of the Maikop – Samurskaya – Sochi gas pipeline.

But today is a rare occasion: he travels his domain on a ‘steed’ – an emergency response KAMAZ-based car. Even such an off-roader had trouble getting here. The forest track is almost untrod, there are huge pits along the way, not mentioning rivers and marshy areas… Sometimes it takes almost two days to get here by car.

In winter from two to five meters of snow fall here. Yury told us that snowdrifts reached the tops of highest firs. In this case the gas pipeline walker uses special snowshoes or skis to move across the Pass.

Yury Abdulayev is a real connoisseur of local flora and fauna. He is quite familiar with these reserves and can tell a lot of interesting things about them. For example, he showed us Caucasian whortleberry, which, unlike its northern counterpart, is a bush up to three meters tall.

Round black berries will appear here as early as in September.

The line pipe walker experiences many pleasant moments – forest flowers, berries…

…and even animals. For instance, this footprint has been left by a fox just recently.

The enormous canopy of sky overhead makes you feel like you’re on the very top of the world. Mountain air filled with the delicate scent of flowers, herbs and pines is almost tangible here. You can’t but feel jealous of those who see this beauty every day, despite all the difficult operational conditions.

As for our hero, he has to go on with his day watch. We’re taking our departure and watching the car drive away. Today, as always, everything is under control here.

Tatiana Zezyulina, Tatiana Gracheva (Gazprom Transgaz Krasnodar), Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large size images in Photos.