January 18, 2018
Last year we sent IMG Guides Greg Vernovage and Charlotte Austin to far western Mongolia to lead our inaugural Mt. Khuiten expedition. They had a blast! Charlotte, being an adventure writer, couldn’t help but put pen to paper (so to speak). Below is her trip report. (Before you ask, the 2018 Dates are July 15-27!)
By Charlotte Austin
What an adventure! We’re lucky to travel to lots of neat places with IMG, but I have to say that Mongolia has been one of the best. The scenery is mind-blowing, the cultural experience is unbeatable, and the climb was scenic and rewarding. And shoot, when else are you going to go on a camel-supported trek through the Altai Mountains?
Here’s a specific breakdown of this year’s adventure:
Travel days (Seattle to Ulaanbaatar): Long flights, but everything went smoothly. We all watched lots of movies, ate noodles during our layover in Seoul, and arrived in Ulaanbaatar with all of our luggage. The duffel shuffle was successful! We were met at the airport by our local Mongolian guide with a private van and bottled water. He transferred us to the hotel, and we immediately fell into bed.
Ulaanbaatar: After meeting the whole team at our hotel in Ulaanbaatar, we made the best of our short time in Mongolia’s capital city. We toured the Gandan Monastery in the morning, where we were able to see local people performing religious ceremonies and making offerings of bread, milk, and rice. We also visited the National Historical Museum which features lots of cultural displays: costumes, archeological artifacts, even hand-carved jade snuffboxes! Then we hit the Sukhbaatar Square in the city center which features a huge statue of Genghis Khan. Photos taken: approximately one million.
Lunch was a traditional Mongolian meal: lamb, dumplings, and meat soup with a side of milk tea. In the afternoon we enjoyed a one-hour cultural show, which the whole team agreed was a highlight of the trip — there were traditional Mongolian throat singers, dancing troops, and even a contortionist! Then we hit a local restaurant for our official welcome dinner, and the trip was off to a great start.
Travel day (Ulaanbaatar to Olgii): We had a very early wake-up call (4am) to catch our 6:30am flight to Olgii. The flight was smooth, and we were served pickle sandwiches (no, really) by the flight attendants. In Olgii, we met our local drivers, tossed our duffels into our vans and hit the road, or more accurately, the unpaved countryside. It’s a bumpy six-hour drive from Olgii to the trailhead, and we took lots of breaks to stretch our legs, take photos, and enjoy the views. This is a long day, but the whole team agreed that it’s amazing to see so much of the countryside.
Trekking day (trailhead to base camp): After a night in tents at the entrance to the park, the whole team was excited to hit the trails. We broke camp, loaded our duffels onto the camels (!!), and enjoyed a mellow day of walking to base camp. Highlights include brilliant wildflowers, glimpses of local sheep and yaks, and time to chat with our local staff. Base camp is beautiful; it’s nestled into a small valley at the edge of the lateral moraine below Mount Khuiten. Our staff set up tents, a kitchen, and a nice dining set-up, and we made ourselves at home. Elevation is roughly 10,000′.
Training day: On our first full day at base camp, Greg and I took the team out to the base of the Potaniin Glacier to do some basic skills training. We covered cramponing, ice axe use, and rope skills. The team was stoked to get on the glacier, and we came back to camp for a mellow afternoon.
—Charlotte Austin, IMG Guide