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Mongolia Trek & Climb

Mongolia Trek & Climb Overview

I’ve always had a great experience on AAI outings. I just want to add that your entire team is A+++. Great client group too! This Mongolia expedition far exceeded my expectations. – 2017 Mongolia Trek Climber.

This was a great trip that was made exceptional with the variety of excursions and experiences available. Enjoyed the cultural aspects as well as the hiking/climbing. Ben was excellent in every way. -2017 Mongolia Trek Climber>>See More

In Mongolia, one is quickly swept away by the endless green steppes, the heartiness of the Kazakh nomads, and the Altai Mountains’ rolling landscapes. Mt. Khuiten, straddling the corners of three countries (Russia, China, and Mongolia), beckons the adventurous. Alpine Ascents has been visiting Mongolia for nearly 17 years with successful summits each season. Our 2016 Mongolia expedition with eight climbers saw 100% summit success! We look forward to similar success in 2017 with Ben Jones again leading the trip. Each year, small teams are left speechless as we travel to Base Camp on dirt roads peppered with migratory farmers. This journey is one of the last of its kind on the planet, and we are exposed to a way of life that may soon be extinct as modern life permeates even the remotest of regions.

We travel by jeep to the Altai Range, a gorgeous journey that crosses a golden, vast, and barren landscape with rainbows in the horizon, drifting further into one of the last remote regions on earth. This remarkable journey is punctuated by the gentle hospitality of the Kazakh nomads.

Khuiten Peak (14,350 ft./4,375 m)
Malchin Peak (13,245 ft./4,037 m) (trekking peak)

Our expedition takes place in the Western province of Bayan Olgii, in the Tavan Bogd Range. Here we visit with nomadic shepherds, then head to the snowcapped, glaciated peaks of the Altai. Geographically, much of the highlands are defined by green pastures, with fox, bear, lynx, and falcons inhabiting the lower regions. The Mongolian countryside possesses an array of indigenous flora and fauna, including yaks, horses, sheep, and Bactrian double-humped camels. Our expedition is supported by ponies and we camp throughout the countryside. We visit and overnight in “gers” (traditional felt-covered nomadic homes). With luck, we may interact with traditional falconers.

All expeditions begin in the capital, Ulaan Baatar. Raw, exciting, and diverse, Ulaan Baatar stands as a border to the great expanse of the Gobi Desert. Home to the infamous Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, Ulaan Baatar is a noted Buddhist capital that merges traditional monasteries with a new democratic spirit. After visiting the museums and monasteries, we fly across the country to the Altai region of Western Mongolia and begin our expedition in the land of Kazakh nomads and caravans. This unique Mongolian journey is designed for the adventurous spirit.

Khuiten and Climbing

  • 1956 — Mt. Khuiten was first climbed by Russian Pieskariow and 12 Mongolians.
  • 1967 — A joint Russian-Mongolian team completed a number of first ascents, including Malcyzn Chajchan and Birkut Peak.
  • 1992 — E. Webster, J. Freeman Atwood, and L. Griffin pioneered a new route on Khuitens South Ridge.

Located on the border of three nations, Khuiten stands atop Mongolia, the Dzungarain Basin of China, and Russia’s Altai Siberia. The Tavang Bogd Range is part of the larger Altai Range and is nearly the size of the French Alps. The Mongolian portion of the range has nine 4,000 m peaks and many lesser peaks. As many of the peaks are unclimbed, there are great opportunies for the adventurous mountaineer. It is certainly one of the most remote and inaccessible regions on the planet.

Naadam Festival

Mongolia’s self-styled “Olympics” is a three-day festival that takes place in early July and coincides with the anniversary of the 1921 revolution. Naadam (“the three manly sports”) is a national holiday and celebration. Attendees watch competitions in archery, horse-back riding, and Mongolian’s favorite sport, wrestling. Champions are treated as national heroes, with wrestling ranks known as champion, lion, elephant, and bird. Naadam opens with a huge parade, somewhat military-styled, with many soldiers dressing in Chinggis-era clothing. The festival is raucous, lively, and certainly the biggest celebration on the Mongolian calendar. By the third day, many of the locals have had a bit too much to drink, and day four is something of a national recovery day.

Falconers

Many of the Kazakh people are still adamant falconers (in the winter they hunt with golden eagles). Capturing eagles as chicks, the Kazakh people train eagles to hunt fox, wolf, rabbit, and marmot. Most of the hunting is done in the fall, as the falconer will free the eagle and follow on horseback. Once the eagle grabs hold of a fox, the falconer must pry the eagle away from the catch in an attempt to save the fox pelt.

Note on History

Most of Mongolia’s history is composed of the ebb and flow of different national factions conquering parts of what is modern day Mongolia. The great Mongolian Empire of Chinggis Khan and family reached their height in 1280 A.D. and is considered the largest land empire in world history. More recently, the Russians and Chinese have traded off dominating Mongolia, with a democratic government elected in 1991. This new government is credited for increasing tourism, which is quickly becoming a significant element of the Mongolian economy. Even with the tumultuous history, the Mongolian people have maintained an incredible amount of national pride and are extremely hospitable by nature.

The Kazakhs of Western Mongolia

A good portion of our expedition takes place in Western Mongolia, home to ethnic Kazakhs. This region borders on the new Republic of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh people make up about six percent of the Mongolia population, but they remain a dominant culture in the Western Province of Bayan Olgii. Like other parts of Mongolia, most of the population are semi-nomadic herders, living in “gers” (tents), raising sheep, yaks and horses. The predominant religion is Islamic, but the practice of Islam here takes on a more spiritual interpretation and is less socially conservative than some Islamic nations. We would venture to say they are the most hospitable and giving people we have encountered.

Gers

Gers are traditional homes found throughout much of Mongolia. Made from felt and wood-cross hatch, these large, round shelters are moved with great ease. Each ger has a number of beds and a stove in the center where most of the cooking is done. The ceiling has a retractable roof that can open and close, weather permitting. Floors may remain open so that you sit on grass or rugs. As the cold weather approaches, additional layers of felt are added to the exterior walls.

Mongolia Frequently Asked Questions

What is the skill level of this climb?

Climbers should have completed our 6 day Basic Mountaineering Course or have equivalent experience. This is a moderately technical, glaciated climb and requires climbers to have a high level of comfort with crampons. This requirement is also based on our desire to have similarly skilled team members.

What is the physical conditioning level needed for this climb?

Very good to excellent physical condition. We spend a fair amount of time acclimatizing in the build-up to summit day, which can be 12 hours or more of climbing.

Any tips on how climbers can maximize their chances of success?

Along with the required crampon skills, review cardio training on the Training page of our website. This climb generally boasts 100% success.

Who is the guiding team composed of? How many guides? Climber-to-guide Ratio?

These are generally small team trips with a group size of six to eight, plus an Alpine Ascents guide and one or two local guides, depending on group size.

What is the best season to climb / which dates will have the most chance for success?

July and August are the best times to climb Mt. Khuiten.

How many climbers are on this expedition?

Most teams have had six to eight climbers.

Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other climbers?

In the towns, you can opt for a single room, otherwise we use shared tents.

How much will my pack weigh?

On summit day, climbers carry approximately 45-45 lbs.

What gear will I need?

Please review the Gear List on the Mongolia page of the website.

How does your gear rental system work?

Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. We will mail all rental gear to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and return following the expedition.

Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?

While all items are required, there may be times when we may not use some of the items on the Gear List (such as during warm weather or changing conditions). The Gear Lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.

While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop that has been hand picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.

How is drinking water treated?

We boil and/or use iodine for all drinking water, and we recommend a SteriPen.

What will the meals on the expedition be like? Can I bring some food from home?

Meals are generally of the meat and vegetable variety. There is an excellent supermarket in Ulaan Bator, and thus we can keep meals up to our usual standard. You may bring power bars, Gu, or similar high-energy foods. Alpine Ascents provides all meals on this climb.

Are there any innoculation requirements?

No requirements at this time.

What is the best air route to my destination?

The best way to travel is via Korea so that no further visas are needed. One may also travel via Russia or China, but additional visas will be needed.

When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?

Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our travel agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked on-line are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pickups and hotels.

What time should I arrive and leave and where do I meet the guides?

Your guide or an Alpine Ascents representative will meet you at the airport. Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.

What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single-room option for this expedition?

We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotel rooms, airport pickups, and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single-room supplement costs (for hotels only).

Are there any entry or Visa requirements?

Climbers will pre-arrange visas and will pick them up upon arrival in Ulaan Battar.

Is there any communication while we are on the mountain?

In the cities and in hotels telephones are readily available.

Where can I get more information on history, books, and additional activities in the region?

Please see our Reading List for Mongolia.

Can I contact the others on the climb? How about the guide?

You can always call our offices and your guide will contact you prior to your departure, generally about one month before trip departure. Within 30 days prior to departure, we will mail a list of other team members to you.

How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?

At least $500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1,000 and have credit cards.

How much should I tip my guide and staff?

We suggest $150 for tipping all local guides, and you may have some perfunctory tips at hotels and at time of transport. Tipping is not required but a common practice. Climbers may also opt to tip the Western guide ($100+ is an average tip).

How do I register for this expedition?

You may call our offices with a credit card, mail/fax an application with a check or credit card number, or use our online registration information.

What paperwork do I need to send in?

Each climber should submit an application and flight information.

When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you accept?

We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks, and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space, the deposit is $700 and balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.

What is your cancellation policy? What is your refund policy?
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?

As our Mongolia climb travels to multiple locations, early departure may be difficult. If a climber needs to depart early, our guides will assist in obtaining the necessary transportation and reservations to get you home as quickly as possible. We also have local Mongolian staff available for assistance.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

Travels in Northern Mongolia
by Don Croner, Polar Star Publications
Mongolian Folktales
by Hilary Roe, Metternich Avery Pr
Women of Mongolia
by Martha Avery, Avery Pr
Mongolia: Vanishing Cultures
by Jan Reynolds, Harcourt Brace
The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
by Peter Hopkirk, Kodansha International

Excellent all around! Mongolia and Mt. Khuiten with AAI exceeded my high expectations! The overall experience was fantastic including Mongolia’s culture, people, and landscapes. I would highly recommend this expedition and climb to any alpine mountaineer who wishes expand their horizons and climb to Mongolia’s high point on the border of Russia, China and Mongolia.

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