Mount Khuiten expedition, 20th July – 4th August 2019
An excellent expedition with an adventurous team. We had a fantastic introduction to Mongolian history and traditions in Ulaanbaatar including a show with throat singing, live music and masks. We did well to stay awake since we’d missed a night’s sleep on the journey due to the time difference but apart from a few swaying wobbles in the hot museum we didn’t miss a thing! The next day we travelled to Bogd Khan National Park for our first acclimatisation walk. We hiked up Mount Tsetseguun (2256m) on which we were treated to some dreich weather and we could’ve easily been somewhere a lot closer to home until we broke onto the summit with all its blue prayer flags.
On the Tuesday it was time for us to head onto our domestic flight out west into the mountains. After a couple of hours flying the plane landed at Ulaangom where it was delayed. After many games of dice (not gambling!) we were on our way again but diverted to Kvold, an airport 200km south of our destination due to the bad weather at Olgii. On our arrival we headed for dinner and waited while our vans made the journey south to pick us up. At 11pm we were off on our first introduction to our amazing Russian vans that would take us right into the mountains. Decades old, they were probably the most robust vehicles I’ve ever seen, the drivers experts on the Mongolian roads and at fixing their vans on the go. At 4am we arrived in Olgii. After a few hours’ kip in a hotel we were off for our 7 hour drive to the National Park gate. All part of the adventure somewhere this remote!
The following day we set off to base camp, where we stayed for the next three nights. On the Friday we continued our acclimatisation, walking up to 3500m to the Russian border in snowy conditions similar to the Cairngorm plateau. In the afternoon we practised ropework and skills. The weather wasn’t good on the Saturday and the best days looked like Monday and Tuesday so we decided to delay our summit to adapt to the best weather conditions. Instead we rested up and went for short walks from camp. There was also time to play plenty more of our games such as crazy eights. Every morning, lunch and dinner we were treated to delicious and varied food cooked by our local team.
We headed up to advanced base camp on Sunday with big packs carrying our personal kit. The route led us 4km on the moraine and then the rest up the glacier where we roped together. After arriving into ABC it was an early night to prepare for the summit day of our main objective. The group set off up Mount Khuiten (4374m) at 4am, headtorches beaming. Watching the sun rise over the glistening mountains as we climbed was spectacular. 4 hours later we were on the summit, relishing stunning views across to China and a great sense of achievement. On our descent as the snow had softened, a fixed line was used on the steeper section. Returning to camp by 11am it was a hot, sunny day and plenty of rest was in order!
On Tuesday leaving camp at 6am, we headed up Nairamdal peak (4180m) on the triple border of Russia, China and Mongolia. It’s a unique summit where you can visit three countries in three short jumps! We enjoyed many more stunning views and were back to camp by 8am. After a cup of tea and packing up it was time to start our walk down the glacier. Reaching base camp for lunch we welcomed the opportunity to relax in the sunshine for the afternoon. Many songs were sung this evening.
Our final walk out to White River valley at the National Park gate involved a two hour stop at a traditional ger where we had the chance to try local specialities such as yak’s cream and learn about the locals’ way of life in the mountains. The next day it was time for our van journey back to Olgii and we enjoyed another seven hours of bumping around and watching the vans make it through amazing water features! Stopping at the Eagle hunters along the way, we got the chance to hold a female golden eagle who was magnificent. Later that night after a traditional meal and music, we thanked our local guides and chefs for our wonderful adventure and fortunately had a smooth flight back to Ulaanbaatar the next day.
Still keen for further adventures, we spent our last day in Ulaanbaatar exploring the black market and rounded up with ice cream and playing more dice. This has been a trip to remember for everyone involved and hopefully there are many more to come.