This picture comes from the border ridge between the NW corner of Mongolia and Russia.
The prominent half-rocky, half-snowy summit is Malchin, meaning «shepherd», the typical trekkers' peak of the region.
I read on some web page that the little summit near which I am photographing should be the «Shepherdess», whence the title.
The heavily glaciated summit in the middle is Mount Huithen («cold»), second-highest peak in the Altai after the wholly Russian Beluha, and highest mountain in Mongolia.
At the base camp on the left side of Potanina glacier I was very impatient to climb Huithen, but I absolutely needed a companion to undertake the deadly crevasse-dangerous route to the top.
First, I spoke with Mrs. Gangaamaa Badamgarav who on May 21 of this year became the first Mongolian woman ever to climb Mount Everest. However, she was engaged by a Magdeburg team who evidently could not accept the idea that I intended to climb the mountain in one day. They did not want to free the guide even for that one day, and started to recount a long story of "hochgeschobene Basislager" necessary to climb the peak, a.s.o..
Attracted by the camp rumors, a respectable Kazakh guide materialized outside our tent: he was glad to climb Huithen with me for 100 US dollars to rent the gear plus, he added after some lingering, 1000 dollars for his services. (He did not consider that people typically do not walk in the Altai with 1100 US dollars in their pocket)
At the end of the comedy, I sent everybody to the hell cursing the fact that mountaineering is becoming every day more an affair of money, and decided to climb all alone the lower summit of Nairamdal through a safe ridge that I had seen in a first recognition on Malchin on the evening of August 21.
On August 22 I passed beyond Shepherd and Shepherdess but I had to retrace my steps following the GPS under a sudden, heavy snowfall. Luckily, August 23 rose as the very perfect day, whence I could complete my solo ascent.
In total, within 48 hours I summited Malchin 6 times (hence: summit photos and panos with every light and weather!) and traversed the Shepherdess 4 times.
Most of the web pages about the area report wrong and contradicting data, thus I do not know how much the «Shepherdess» affair can be reliable. However, I accept her at least as a companion of the «Princess of the Altai», whose history is completely different. This is the name of a corpse found, trapped in the permafrost and thus perfectly preserved, in the Ukok plateau, clearly visible in the Russian side of the photo.
To explain, I cannot do better than quoting from Colin Thubron, «In Siberia» (Penguin Books, pag. 76):
«There is only one *She* in Russian archaeology now: the Ice Princess of the Altai, excavated in 1993 - a lone woman entombed in barbarian splendour on a remote plateau above China. Nobody knows who she was - shamaness, noblewoman, or bard - and a tempest of controversy soon brewed up about her race. Her mummy was brought to Akademgorodok and placed in a freezer which had once been used to store cheese. Soon fungi were crawling over the body, fading its delicate tattoos, and it was rushed to Moscow, where embalmers restored it. Slavic experts declared that she was Caucasoid, an early European. But the people of the Altai, who claim descend from her culture, protested that she was theirs, and a Swiss forensic pathologist supported them: she was Mongoloid, he said, close to the modern inhabitants.»
I hope that this story can give an essay of the fascination hidden within the "Golden Mountains of Altai"...
360°, 17 images, Nikon D7000, zoom 16-85 at 28mm
Larger version: www.panoramio.com/photo/71382899