Mongolia Trek & Climb With Alpine Ascents
Our 2019 expedition saw success on all peaks and we look forward to the same guiding team in 2020. Truly a fantastic journey to a rapidly changing land!
The trip was excellent! Our guide was a delight, and his flexibility and interpersonal skills greatly contributed to an enjoyable experience for a team that was diverse in mountaineering experience and age. In addition to the superb leadership of our head guide, the in-country logistical support and guides were terrific.
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. Khüiten, straddling the corners of three countries (Russia, China, and Mongolia), beckons the adventurous. Alpine Ascents has been visiting Mongolia for 17 years with successful summits each season. Our 2018 Mongolia expedition with seven climbers saw 100% summit success with Brian Houle at the helm. Our 2019 team also reached the summit under Brian’s leadership.
We look forward to similar success in 2020. Each year, small teams are left speechless as we travel to Base Camp on dirt roads peppered with migratory herders. 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 Russian made UAZ vans 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.
Khüiten Peak (14,350 ft./4,375 m)
Malchin Peak (13,245 ft./4,050 m) (trekking peak)
Our expedition takes place in the Western province of Bayan-Ölgii, 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 camels and we camp throughout the countryside. We visit and overnight in “gers” (traditional felt-covered nomadic homes). With luck, we may interact with traditional eagle hunters.
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.
Khüiten and Climbing
- 1956 — Mt. Khüiten 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 Khüitens South Ridge.
Located on the border of three nations, Khüiten 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 opportunities for the adventurous mountaineer. It is certainly one of the most remote and inaccessible regions on the planet.
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.
Many of the Kazakh people are still adamant eagle hunters(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 hunter will free the eagle and follow on horseback. Once the eagle grabs hold of a fox, the hunter 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 4.5% percent of the Mongolia population, but they remain a dominant culture in the Western Province of Bayan-Ölgii. 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 Islam, but the practice of Islam here takes on a more spiritual interpretation and is less socially conservative than some Muslim nations. We would venture to say they are the most hospitable and giving people we have encountered.
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 families move to more permanent mud-brick winter houses.
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.
We had a great time, the group was great, I learned more about climbing on this trip with Willi, than I have on all of my previous climbs. I count my Alpine Ascents Mongolia trip as one of my favorite vacations.