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Asia, Mongolia, Tavan Bogd Range, Probable New Route on Kowalewski, and Other Early Repeats

Tavan Bogd Range, probable new route on Kowalewski, and other early repeats. The primary aim of the British Heart of Asia Expedition 2002 was to explore the Altai Mountains in the far west of Mongolia and attempt some new peaks and routes. Unfortunately, due to an outbreak of foot and mouth, we were initially forbidden from entering the region. We were effectively quarantined for 24 hours outside Bayan Olgi and subsequently fumigated and sprayed at various points in a somewhat haphazard fashion.

Instead, we visited an alternative area, the popular Otgon Tenger Uul National Park near Uliastai, then after much persistence, some bribery, and a lot of help from our Mongolian drivers and local “friends” made along the way, we were eventually allowed into the Altai Mountains.

The road head for the Otgon Tenger Uul is four days’ drive from Ulaan Baatar. From here it was a day’s walk to base camp located at the head of a lake (N 47°38'10.1, E 97°33'03.3). Possible new routes were climbed for acclimatization purposes on two unnamed peaks of ca 3,100m. On the first (N 47°37'40.6, E97°31'51.2) Janet Fotheringham, Alan Halewood, Sebastian Nault, and Robert Watts climbed a pitch of British Severe up a chimney, after which the last two named climbers continued to traverse the ridge on loose rock. On the second (N.47°37'40.6, E 97°31'51.2) Michael McLaughlan and I climbed the two-pitch Platypus Crack (British VS 4a). All climbers bar myself then ascended the Normal Route up Otgon Tenger Uul (3,905m: N 47°36'32.3, E 97°33'08.7). This peak is very popular and the ascent is nothing more than a hard walk over loose scree.

We later established a base camp alongside the Potanina Glacier in the Tavan Bogd mountains of the Altai (one day’s drive and a further day on foot from Bayan Olgi). From here Michael and myself made a southeast to north traverse of Huiten (4,374m), the highest summit in Mongolia. From an advanced base on the southeast flank of the mountain we traversed all five summits (Scottish II), reaching the highest point at 9 p.m., then descending via the north flank to the Potanina Glacier, where we dug a snow hole at 2 a.m. We eventually regained our tent at 10 a.m.

Seb and Rob climbed the east ridge of Snow Church (4,100m) at the head of the Alexsandra Glacier, finding the ridge mainly snow-free loose rock with a final 120m of steep ice and loose unconsolidated snow at Scottish III/IV. The overall grade was Alpine AD. Janet and Alan made an ascent of an unnamed peak of 3,900m at the head of the west end of the Grano Glacier. They traversed the mountain via the Northeast face and descent of the South ridge at Alpine PD. These two also climbed a probable new route to make the second ascent of Kowalewski (3,903m) on the southern rim of the Grano Glacier. The pair climbed a snow gully to reach the north ridge, which they followed to the summit and returned to camp in a round trip of eight hours. The overall grade was PD+. Apart from Huiten, which was climbed by a Russian-Mongolian expedition in 1956, all these other peaks were first ascended by the 1967 Polish expedition led by Witold Michalowski.

Weather conditions throughout our stay in August were usually dry, very hot, and fairly stable. However, during the last couple of weeks some electrical storms with intense rain were experienced. It also became very windy in the Tavan Bogd immediately prior to incoming frontal systems. Although most (but not all) of the principal summits in the Tavan Bogd have been climbed, many have only been ascended once or twice and often only by one route. The rock is generally loose and the glaciers fairly technical. The latter can be very hard work after mid-morning. Otherwise, the couloirs and ice fields seemed stable and there exists much opportunity for new routes at Alpine AD and above. To the south of the main range and probably accessible by foot from the Gljadien valley, a small collection of snow-covered peaks is visible and would probably repay exploration.

Nina Saunders, U. K.