With just one month left before we leave, we are beginning to look at our gear and take a closer look at our travel plans. Here is what our itinerary looks like - we will be discussing a lot of these days in-depth in the following weeks on the Blog, but for now, here is an overview, thanks to our friends at Mongolia Expeditions:
August 31: Leave for Mongolia
September 2: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
September 3: A guided city tour will introduce us to the highlights of the city: the Gandan Temple - city's main Buddhist center, the central city square with a grand statue of Genghis Khan and the Zaisan Memorial, an elevated hill on the city's edge providing a panoramic view of UB. The Winter palace of Bogd Khan showcases rare statues of Buddhist deities and items of personal use of this last theocratic ruler of Mongolia is also worth considering. A show of traditional music, throat singing and contortion at 6PM will be followed by a welcome dinner.
September 4: Flight to Bayan-Ulgy, the Muslim province of Mongolia. Early this morning take a 3 hour flight to Ulgy town in Western Mongolia. The Kazakhs living in the area are the largest national minority and practice Sunni Islam. Upon arrival meet with a support team of driver(s), cook(s) and a guide and head westward to Tavan Bogd national park. At the end of a 3 hours travel across mountainous desert we camp in the valley of Sogoot river. In general rivers in Mongolia are small and shallow occasionally drying up but during the rainy season they rapidly rise and at times burst their banks. Upon arrival we erect our tented camp. It is guaranteed that curious locals on horse or foot will appear out of nowhere to greet you. Dinner and overnight in tented camp.
September 5: Drive to the Tavan Bogd Peaks' gateway. Travel further west and by early afternoon reach the Oigor river valley, the gateway to the Tavan Bogd peaks. En route we try to visit a Kazakh family, male members of which practice falconry. They employ Golden Eagles for hunting foxes, hares and other small animals.
September 6: Hike to Tavan Bogd base camp. Today we trek to base camp of the Tavan Bogd. This gradual ascent takes us through a high mountain terrain of rock outcroppings and of wetlands. With a bit of luck you will see some of the wildlife that inhabit the area including marmots, hares and a number of birds such us Golden Eagles, Black Vultures and Falcons. Our entire luggage will be transported by camels handled by Tuvan herders. Upon completing two thirds' of the way there open majestic perspectives of Potanin and Alexander glaciers with the icy peaks of Khuiten (4374m), Nairamdal (4082m), Snowchurch (4071m), Malchin (4050m), and Ulgii (4113m) on their far side. This evening we camp at 2900m.
September 7: Optional acclimatization ascent of the Malchin peak. The 4051m Malchin is the lowest of the peaks. We hike along the Potanin glacier moraine for an hour and start climbing on the scree of Malchin. Its ridgeline overlaps with the borderline of Mongolia and Russia and provides a spectacular bird's eye view of the Potanin glacier, glaciated peaks and Russia. Over to the west, weather permitting, you will see the massif of Mt.Belukha (4500m) lying in Russia. That is the absolute top of Altai mountain range. Back in camp we reward ourselves with a tasty meal. Those staying behind can relax in the camp and take the so-called Russian border walk, an easy climb on to a neighboring ridge that allows a glance into the territory of Russia.
September 8-11: Khuiten ascent. Our challenge for the following 4 days (including one leeway day) is the Khuiten peak. To reach its base we need to cross the Potanin glacier, which lies in between. An advanced base camp will be set up below the eastern face of Khuiten. A number of crevasses is to be traversed before reaching the Khuiten's foothill. The actual ascent, although technically moderate takes 4 hours. From the summit there opens a tremendous bird eye view over China, Russia and the neighboring snowcapped ridges and snow fields. Weather permitting we should be back to the base camp in the evening of September 10.
September 12: Return hike to White River. Today we hike back to our camp in the White River valley. This time it is a gradual descent along the White river which takes its source from the Potanin glacier. It is a chance to glance into every single valley of the icy massif and witness how the initial stream of glacial dust transforms into the mighty White river. Back to our vehicles to we celebrate our ascent.
September 13: Return transfer to Ulgy, overnight in local hotel. We say "goodbye" to our Tuvan friends and take a 7 hour drive back to Ulgy. Tonight is your chance to sleep in a local hotel. Hot shower and cold beers will highlight the day.
September 14: Sagsai Eagle Festival. We will attend the world famous Eagle Festival. As an initiative of the local population the Sagsai region began to celebrate the Eagle hunting culture with a festival a decade ago. During the Eagle Festival, hunters and the their eagles compete against each other in varius hunting skills competitions, but also, they are judged by their traditional attire and the equipment of the eagles and the horses they use to hunt. The festival also includes horse and camel races, in which mostly young boys compete.
September 15: Return flight to Ulaanbaatar. This morning we catch a return flight to Ulaanbaatar. Farewell dinner.
September 16: Departure. Transfer to airport for return flight home.
Does this look like fun?
Welcome back to another Blog covering our adventures around the world!
A lot has happened since our last trip, which we completed almost two years ago. Health issues, relocation, and family changes are just a few of the challenges we have faced over that time. Not to mention we are all a little bit older and creakier!
However, when the call went out to gauge interest in another mountain trip, it didn't take long for everyone to get excited. Jimmy's exact words were "I'm in, I'm in, I'm so freaking in!"
I get asked a lot about plans for our next trip - I'm always amazed at the people who have read about our adventures via this Blog and surrounding media coverage (thanks SteinbachOnline!), but two questions always pop up:
1) Who is going with you?
2) Where are you going?
Let's deal with those questions on today's post.
First, the easy question - the original three Flatlanders are back together for the first time since we climbed Vallecitos and Aconcagua in 2012!
Jimmy Collier and David Banman last climbed Mera Peak in Nepal in 2017, while the last time David and Adam MacDonald where on a mountain together was Mount Elbrus in Russia in 2014. Adam was scheduled to climb in Nepal with us, but he had to cancel last minute because of a visa issue.
We are all looking forward to seeing each other again - although hopefully this time we won't be stuck inside a 2 man tent in a snowstorm for 40 hours!
Our destination is Mount Khuiten, Mongolia. You can learn more about the mountain by clicking on the Mount Khuiten page at the top. What I want to talk about is why we chose this area of the world, and why, in particular, this mountain.
There aren't too many places in the world left relatively untouched by tourism - the internet has allowed us to see and learn about every corner of the world (and be direct marketed to by the tourism industry as well). Many people make their living simply by blogging about their travels - showing us the beauty and depth of the world's cultures and geographies. I believe this makes people much less apprehensive about traveling to far flung locales - if someone else can do it, why can't I?
While tourism can have a positive effect on an area or a culture, over-tourism can negatively impact the local culture and geographical environment. Whether you are standing in San Marcos Square cheek-to-jowel with 100,000 other people all swarming to take a picture with their selfie-stick, or are walking in a line with 10,000 others up the slopes of Kilimanjaro, the sideshow of these attractions takes away some of the appreciation for the beauty of the surroundings. One needs to look no further than this year on Mount Everest to see what a classic example of over-tourism looks like!
A lot of mountaineers find the beauty of the mountains in their solitude - the chance to get away from cell phones and cameras and crowds and focus on the sights, smells and sounds of your surroundings. This particular climb may not be the highest in altitude, but is definitely the most isolated, and has the potential to be one of the more culturally enriching experiences to date.
As Henry David Thoreau said,
“We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”