Central Mongolia, Ulaan Bataar, The Bombadorj Arête and The Lite Path. Our five-person team pioneered a 1,600’, 12-pitch route, which we believe is the hardest climb in remote Central Mongolia. My wife Heather Baer, Shawn Chartrand (our talented interpreter), Mike Strassman, Jackie Carroll, and I departed on August 11 for the “resort” in the Otgon Tengor area of Central Mongolia. After a four-day journey by van, we enjoyed natural hot springs, played chess and hacky-sack, blew bubbles, practiced gymnastics, and shot squirt guns with the friendly Mongolians. Though we had received a grant from the AAC to try for a new alpine style route on Otgon Tengor (the highest peak in Central Mongolia), it turned out to be an unappealing rubble pile. But in an adjacent valley, known locally as Brownsmoke Valley, we found an amazing golden buttress, which we decided to make our objective. After a day’s rest, we left base camp at 2 a.m. and came to a beautiful hidden lake at dawn. The approach was arduous, involving miles of grueling talus. At 9 a.m. we began climbing: Heather, Shawn, and myself formed one team, Mike and Jackie the other. After three pitches, Mike and Jackie crossed our route and eventually summited, creating a 5.10a route we called The Lite Path.
Being more stubborn, I coerced my team to push on with a more direct, harder line up the ridge. I soon encountered more difficult and more runout climbing than I had expected. By 3:00 p.m. it became obvious that we did not have enough time (nor energy) to summit and still get back down by dark. So we left fixed lines and retreated to basecamp, arriving at 11:30 p.m., after a 22-hour push. Following a few days of rest and rainstorms, we used horses to set up an advanced basecamp in Brownsmoke Valley—a beautiful place that we shared with 12 double-humped camels and their shepherd.
The next day we returned to our high point, and took several hours to hand drill five bolts on two crux pitches (5.11d), which I was able to redpoint on my first try. The second crux was an awesome splitter reminiscent of Yosemite’s Red Zinger. Heather followed free in gallant style, while Shawn documented the action with photos and video. Seven more pitches in the 5.9 to 5.10 range brought us to the first of two distinct humps on the ridge. A long fourth class pitch led to the final hump of Temee Tower (Temee means camel, in Mongolian). On descent, our rope got stuck twice, and we had to re-climb almost an entire 5.8 pitch in the dark. We reached terra firma at midnight, and stumbled back to basecamp at 6:00 a.m., after a 25-hour push.
We named the The Bombadorj Arête (V 5.11d) after our shepherd friend, who played an artful game of chess. Everyone agreed it was one of the best backcountry climbs we’d ever done— we highly recommend it. After exchanging gifts with our friends, we enjoyed a last hot tub, then reversed our epic journey back to the capital. Still glowing from our adventure in this amazing land, and thanking the Gods for keeping us safe and sound, our final week was spent sport cragging in Terelj— a cross between Joshua Tree and City of Rocks—just 90-minutes from the capital.
Steve Schneider, AAC