Siykhem Nuruu National Park, exploration and a first ascent. Our six member team from the north of England comprised Ken Findlay, Stuart Gallagher, John Given, Les Holbert, Karl Zientek, and myself. We had as our goal exploration of the area around 3,939m Ikh Turgen Uul in the Siykhem Nuruu National Park. This lies directly north of Bayan Olgi and not so far from the increasingly popular Tavan Bogd mountains. Karl and I arrived in Ulaan Baatar ahead of the others, only to find that an outbreak of foot and mouth disease had put the region of Aimag Olgi out of bounds. Our pre-booked air flights to Bayan Olgi were now useless: if we were to have flown there, we would simply have been stopped from leaving the town. Instead, when the rest of the team arrived, we moved by mini bus to Ulaangom; three days of virtually non-stop travel on non-existent roads. On our arrival we obtained permission to enter Aimag Olgi and visit Siykhem Nuruu National Park Area “B.” We were directed to a base camp in the Ongorchoi Valley at the southern end of the range. This proved to be the summer grazing ground for flocks of sheep and goats owned by a group of Kazakhs. After an initial few days settling in and exploring the nearest mountains, we realized our camp was really in the wrong location. We therefore tried to get into one of the valleys further north, but unfortunately it proved impossible with the resources at hand. We therefore only explored the region that was relatively close at hand, making two main excursions: a three-day circular route climbing over two of the nearer tops, both of which were first U.K. ascents, and a more exciting five-day trip, which resulted in the first ascent of an alpine ridge (named Noodle Ridge) on the far side of the next valley north. The latter route, completed by Findlay and Zientek, took almost two days to reach. On the third day the pair traversed the ridge, climbing and rappelling rock towers to a bivouac just below the final summit. This day involved mixed climbing roughly equating to Alpine D with a harder section of steep ice up to 80°. After crossing the final and highest tower at 4,200m, the pair spent a further two days returning to base.
Although the area was interesting, it held much less snow and ice than expected, with glaciers obviously in retreat. Approaches from the north could well pay dividends, and if a party was to find a way into one of the area’s middle valleys, I’m sure they would discover many alpine possibilities.
Paul Hudson, U. K.