2013 : Altai Tavan Bogd, part 1: Base Camp
on-going medical problems of various BOOTboys
only serve to remind me that I’m unlikely to be able
to take on big challenges for much longer. So after
climbing Mont Blanc last year my thoughts quickly turned
to “What next?”
exchanged e-mails with Tim Nicholl of KE Adventure Travel.
Tim had been the Leader on my trip to try to climb Tarpa
Chuli in Nepal in 2011. I told him I was looking for
a trip that…
a journey (not just a fly in; do it; fly out trip)
a ‘proper’ climb – i.e. not just a plod up a snow
a better than average chance of summiting in terms
you thought about Mount Khuiten in Mongolia?
It ticks all your boxes.
hadn’t thought about it at all since I was
about 14 years old. Back then I used to
load my cycle up with fishing tackle and
I remember my dad saying to me:
are you going our Bryan – Outer Mongolia?
I looked and he was right, it appeared to
tick all the boxes.
throat singer in action
for Outer Mongolia
the 10th August I left Heathrow for the
flight to Moscow and then on to the Mongolian
capital of Ulaanbaatar.
is little of historical interest in Ulaanbaatar,
most buildings having been put up by the
Russians and, more recently Koreans and
the National Museum was interesting, as
was a cultural show the following evening
with the highlight being the Mongolian throat
were a multi-national group.
leader was Tom Richardson, a British climber who I was
impressed to find had climbed with people such as Joe
Simpson (remember ‘Touching the Void’? He was the one
left in the crevasse when his mate cut the rope) and
had led on 8,000m peaks such as Gasherbrum and Lhotse.
So I felt I was in safe hands.
other climbing guide was Graham Taylor. He was an Australian
who had lived in Mongolia for 13 years. He spoke fluent
Mongolian and his company was the one that made all
the arrangements locally for KE.
rest of the group were Richard from Oxford and his French
wife Catherine, Francis from Paris and Elisabeth, an
Austrian lady from Innsbruck.
is very little tarmac in Mongolia and on
our second day we took our first trip on
the off-road tracks that are the norm in
climbed Tsetseegun (2,256m) in the Bogd
Khan National Park.
park was established in 1778 making it one
of the world’s oldest protected areas.
views are said to be excellent. Sadly it
was a typical Lakeland day so we saw very
the summit of Tsetseegun
day we re-packed our bags and headed for the airport
for the four hour flight to Olgii.
is a big country (six times as big as the UK) but with
only 2.9m people, almost half of whom live in the capital.
It’s said to be the most sparsely populated independent
country in the world.
area we were headed for was a long way west of the capital
and Olgii was by far the biggest place for many miles
around. Its population is about the same as Kendal!
met up with our support crew at the airport and loaded
our gear into the two Russian built vehicles that were
to take us the 80 miles or so of off-road driving to
the so-called ‘road head’. The drive took seven hours,
the last two of which were in the dark.
it was an extremely bumpy ride it was also marvellous
country to travel through and the sense of emptiness
grew as we travelled on for hours without seeing a soul.
of Olgii from the airport
group having a break from the bumps!
the way to the road head
at the ‘road head’ we pitched the tents, had dinner
and went to bed. Next morning we had breakfast in the
ger - a Mongolian version of a Yurt. They are
pretty impressive structures that can be erected in
about 2 hours and allows the Mongolians to move around
with their sheep; goats; horses; yaks and camels.
in the ger
breakfast we were supposed to start the walk in to Base
Camp. But we had a problem. There was a shortage of
camels. There should be around thirty in
the area but apparently, in Spring, nineteen of them
had their wool stolen and subsequently died from the
cold. So we stayed at the road head site for an extra
night and did a 700m climb of a nearby hill to help
day still no camels so it was decided that the support
team would drive into Base Camp whilst we walked the
13 miles to get there. It was a pretty tortuous drive
for them, but a delightful walk for us. After a few
hours we crested a ridge to get our first view of the
mountains we were hoping to climb. They looked big!
the walk in to Base Camp
view of the Altai Tavan Bogd mountains
five hours or so of walking we started to descend to
our Base Camp. It was sited in an ablation valley (a
valley that’s formed between the moraine of a glacier
and the hillside) that had fresh water running down
were more tents than Tom expected. Normally there’s
no one else there. Apparently this year there had been
a foot and mouth outbreak in an area where trekkers
/ horse riders normally go so they were being offered
a trip to Khuiten base Camp as an alternative.
Descending to Base Camp
At Base Camp
weather seemed to be holding so it was decided that
next day we would head off up the valley for a couple
of hours to a point where we could get onto the Glacier.
There we put on crampons; harnesses; axes and helmets
before spending some time training, with particular
emphasis being placed on getting out of crevasses!
was roped up with Tom, Francis and Elizabeth; whilst
Graham looked after Richard and Catherine. These were
to remain the groupings for the rest of the trip.
Heading up the valley
training on the glacier
a few hours we came off the glacier and stashed all
our climbing gear for the following day. We then put
on walking boots and set off up a steep loose scree
climb to a plateau at about 3,600m where we found the
two posts that mark the Mongolia / Russia border.
it was back down to Base Camp for tea. The weather seemed
to be holding so we took down 3 of the tents in preparation
for the start of the real climbing tomorrow. Francis
myself Tom and Graham slept in the ger that night.
The Mongolia / Russia border
did we get on? Find out in Part
Tavan Bogd trilogy:
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