Mongolia – Mt Khuiten
Altai Tavan Bogd has some of the most stunning scenery in all of Mongolia with towering white mountains, glaciers, deep lush valleys, and large lakes. The park is divided into 2 regions, the Tavan Bogd Mountains in the northwest and the Lakes Region to the southeast. The park stretches along the Chinese border from the Russian border to 200 km south following the Altai Mountains, which form the borders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Glacial melt and annual snow fall supplies 3 large lakes inside the park that form the head waters of the Hovd River.
Tavan Bogd Mountains are the highest mountains in Mongolia, with Khuiten Uul (Cold Peak) at 4374m being the highest, and requiring mountaineering skills to scale. These permanently snow capped mountains form a bowl around the Potanin Glacier, which covers 23 square km. Potanin Glacier is the longest glacier of Mongolia that stretches for 19km from the eastern face of Mt. Khuiten. The other peaks are Nairamdal (Friendship) at 4180m, Ulgii ('Craddle) at 4113m, Bürged (Eagle) at 4068m, and Malchin (herder) at 4050m. From the peak of Khuiten, it is possible to see Kazakhstan 30 km away on a clear day. From the peak of Malchin, you can enjoy spectacular bird's eye views of glaciers beneath and of the Russian territory as the ridge overlaps with the border line. Lakes Region is a beautiful area surrounding 3 large fresh water lakes. Khurgan Nuur and Khoten Nuur are attached by a small channel with a many small creeks flowing into the lakes from surrounding mountains. Two of these creeks form waterfalls of 7 to 10 m in height. A small bridge crosses the channel. These lakes are full of fish and many species of bird. Dayan Nuur is a smaller lake 20 km south of the 2 larger lakes.
About The Climb
Mt Khuiten is the highest of the Five Holy Peaks in the Altai Mountains, also the highest in Mongolia. The climb is special to those who enjoy remote mountaineering experience, traditional culture, and great scenery.
The domestic flight from Ulaanbaatar to Ulgii (western Mongolia) takes about 2hrs, the Kazakhs living in the area are the largest national minority and practice Sunni Islam. Upon arrival, meet with a support team of driver(s), cook(s) and head westward to Tavan Bogd national park.
From the park, the trek to base camp of the Tavan Bogd is gradual ascent and passes through high mountain terrain of rock outcroppings and wetlands. The trek has good chance of spotting some of the wildlife that inhabit the area including marmots, hares and a number of birds such us Golden Eagles, Black Vultures and Falcons. Luggage will be transported by camels handled by Tuvan herders. Upon completing two thirds of the way the view open to majestic perspectives of Potanin and Alexander glaciers with the icy peaks of Khuiten (4374m), Nairamdal (4082m), Snowchurch (4071m), Malchin (4050m), and Ulgii (4113m) on the far side.
As part of the acclimatization plan, the team will spend a day to climb up to Malchin Peak (4050m). The trek up to Malchin Peak is on rocky terrain and will take about 4-5hrs one way. Moving from the base camp of Tavan Bogd, the team will rope-up together during the 8km approach to the advance base camp across the Potanin Glacier. This is relatively straightforward glacier travel, but there are crevasses. For this part of the expedition, team members will usually carry all of their personal equipment; group equipment like sleeping tents and food will be ferried by porters, and porters will return to base camp the same day.
For the summit climb, start early if weather permit, it takes about 8 to 10hrs round trip (depending on climbers’ fitness). The entire climb to the summit will be done roping-up as there are crevasses; zig-zag on the steep slope, top up on the ridge leading to the highest point of Mongolia, stay mindful of cornices. The peak stands on the borders of China, Russia and Mongolia, the view from the top to all directions is stunning. If weather is favourable, it is possible to climb another King of the Altai before returning to the base camp.
The trek out is relaxed, it is a gradual descent along the White river which takes its source from the Potanin glacier. Camp a night at the White River Valley camp site, the following day, travel on the rustic Russian van to return to Ulgii town. The drive takes about 7hrs.
Mongolia has 4 seasons and they are very different. Mongolia enjoys more than 260 sunny days per year, which means it’s one of the sunniest countries in the world, hence is known as the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’. In winter, the sky keeps its intense blue colour but combines with biting cold. Mongolia experiences extreme continental climate; it is so far inland that no sea tempers its climate.
Spring (April to May): April and May are transitional months. The climate is certainly getting warmer but it’s the sandstorms period: being caught by a storm in Gobi Desert can be an unforgettable experience. May is reputed to be the most unsettled month; the four seasons can pass in a single day. The unpredictable weather also creates snowstorms intermixed with spells of wind and sun, wind-chill factor can make 0°C feel like -5°C
Summer and autumn (June to October): June, July, August, and September are the four most pleasant months for a trip to Mongolia. June and July are the most humid months and showers in the end of the afternoons are frequent. The mountains and northern areas can still be cold. July is also the peak season for tourists as the Naadam Festival takes place this month. From mid-August, night temperatures significantly drop with frost risk, but the days remain pleasant with temperatures varying between 15°C and 25°C, and this lasts until mid-September. From mid-September, the forests of larches take the colours of autumn, which gives the country a breath-taking beauty. Weather is still dry and sunny, but temperatures begin to drop. It remains possible to visit Mongolia until the end of October, but be aware that temperatures may drop under 0°C even in the city.
Winter (November to March): From November to March, temperatures remain negative, with averages fluctuating around -25°C (the lowest temperature recorded was -57°C) during the coldest months of the year (December and January). Mongolians, especially the nomads, contemplate March and April as the worst months. After the long winter, livestock will be thin and a lack of rain brings about their death, causing financial and psychological adversity.
Best time to climb Mt. Khuiten: mid June to mid August
This is a moderately technical, glaciated climb and requires climbers to have a high level of comfort with crampons. Therefore, it is important that you have prior experience walking on glaciers and rope-up skills. Have knowledge of wearing crampon, plastic boots (or double boots), usage of ice axe is a must. While the trek up to Malchin only requires wearing of trekking shoes, the trek on Potanin glacier to advance base camp and summit will require crampons and boots.
On the approach to Base Camp, all gear and equipment is carried by camels. There will be limited porter support on this expedition, so individual (personal) equipment will have to be carried to the advanced camp by the expedition team members, thus it is important that you have experience carrying personal load of more than 10kg at an altitude of 3000m and above.
Equipment and Gear
You can wear a lightweight base layer or a quick dry t-shirt and long trekking pants for the trek to base camp. From base camp onward, a light weight base layer with a fleece shirt and long trekking pants is require; an outer shell is essential to protect from the weather elements. When at the base camp & high camp, and after sundown, a basic layer of thermal, fleece jacket and down jacket are needed to keep warm. For the summit attempt, you will need the basic 3 layers, a down jacket, water and wind proof pants and gloves. A down sleeping bag and sleeping mat are also needed.
The following climbing equipment are required:
- Climbing harness
- 120cm sewn slings /Prusik cords
- Ice axe
- Crampon compatible Mountaineering boots (e.g Plastic boots / double boots etc)
*Note: Rental of climbing gear is not established in Mongolia, you have to prepare the gear in your home country
A packing list will be provided for all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page to read about the layering system to be better prepared and choose the right gear/equipment for your climb.
- Group size: 6 - 12 people
- This Mt Khuiten climb is part of our Ice and Snow Peak Challenge To promote mountain climbing and to encourage people to challenge themselves physically and mentally, we have initiated and introduced a few Mountain Climbing Challenges into our calendar each year. These Mountain Climbing Challenges trips are accompanied by a team leader.
- You can also form a private group for this trek. For enquiry, send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Day 1||Arrive Ulaan Baatar||-/-/D|
|Day 2||Domestic flight to Ulgii town in Western Mongolia. Drive in 4WD Russian vans to Tavan Bogd National Park (2500m)||B/L/D|
|Day 3||Trek to Tavan Bogd peaks base camp (3000m)||B/L/D|
|Day 4||Acclimatization Climb to 4050m Malchin Peak (3000m)||B/L/D|
|Day 5||Trek to Advance Base Camp roping-up with crampons (3600m)||B/L/D|
|Day 6||Summit attempt||B/L/D|
|Day 7||Spare day||B/L/D|
|Day 8||Spare day||B/L/D|
|Day 9||Trek to base camp (3000m)||B/-/D|
|Day 10||Trek out to lower gate of Tavan Bogd National Park – White River Valley (2430m)||B/L/D|
|Day 11||7-8 hour return drive to Ulgii town||B/L/D|
|Day 12||Domestic flight to Ulaan Baatar||B/-/D|
|Day 13||Depart Ulaan Baatar||B|
- Return airport transfers in Ulaan Baatar (UB) / Olgii
- Return domestic airfare UB-Olgii-UB & airline taxes & fuel surcharge (maximum 15kg luggage allowance / pax)
- All land transfers as indicated in itinerary
- Meals as indicated in itinerary
- Twin/Trip sharing accommodation in Ulaan Baatar and Olgii
- Camping equipment: sleeping tent (Twin sharing)
- Trek support: climbing guide(s) and kitchen crew, porterage services by camels
- Boiled water during trek
- Permits & fees: Conservation, National Park fees, trek permit
- International air tickets, airline taxes and fuel surcharge
- Excess luggage on domestic flight (if exceeding 15kg)
- Visa Fee (if any).
- Single Supplement
- Meals not indicated in itinerary
- All tipping
- Personal porters
- Personal travel and mountaineering insurance (travel insurance mandatory to cover travel agency insolvency and trekking up to 5000m)
- Personal expenses
- Personal travel & trekking/climbing gear
- Emergency evacuation and medical expenses
- Compensation for damaged or lost of personal items (eg: climbing/trekking gear and equipment, cameras and any valuable items etc)
- Any expenses including accommodation, meals & transfer outside the stipulated trek/climb itinerary – i.e. any person leaving the group for personal travel, illness/injury or any form of extension of stay
1. Trip briefing and information kit
2. Gear list and gear discount from selected Singapore outdoor outfitters
3. Training guideline kit
4. Rope skill workshop (For climbs that require rope up and/or fixed rope skill)
We carefully select and establish strong working relationship with our local trek operator to ensure safe participation by everyone. Our local climbing guides have extensive experience in guiding treks in Mongolia, possess intimate knowledge of the local surroundings, conditions and culture and are trained in emergency rescue.
It is really difficult to grade Mt Khuiten as the peak is not exactly that technically demanding and not above 5000m. However, the glacier is filled with crevasses requiring climbers to have good rope skills & techniques to negotiate it (means if you have ZERO experience on roping up and walking with a crampon, we do not advice you to attempt). There is a steep angle slope that has ankle to knee deep snow that demand climbers not only to be fit but have good rope sense. We are grading Khuiten at 4C also because Khuiten is more demanding on a climber's personal climbing skills than Island Peak, Mera Peak and Mt. Elbrus would demand (though these 3 peaks are much higher in altitude than Khuiten). We also deem that Khuiten is not a "beginner" peak, climbers should enter this trip with prior knowledge of roping up and crampon skills. If you have scaled mountains that require you to rope-up (or if you have attended a Basic Ice Climbing Course or Basic Mountaineering Course), spent considerable hours on snow slope using crampons, then Mt. Khuiten can be your next fulfilling climb.
Training: Regardless of your level of fitness and physical conditions, it is advisable to train prior to embarking on a trekking or mountain climbing trip.
Pure cardiovascular fitness is NOT enough.
Focus your training effort in the following areas, assuming that you are in good health and injury-free:
- Climbing conditioning – stairs and load training.
- Cardio training - Jogging/running and interval training like CrossFit or HIIT.
- Strength training for the lower body, shoulder, back and core
- Flexibility training - eg: Yoga and stretching exercises
A good five to six months of training would be a good preparation for this trek.
A recommended training guide specific to the trek or climb will be given to you upon signing up.
Refer to our Grading chart for an overview on the technical difficulty and fitness required for this trek.
Refer to our Training Guide for tips on trekking and mountain climbing training.