From behind a sacred mountain   73415
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Location: Tsengel Khairkhan Uul NNW ridge (3226 m)      by: Pedrotti Alberto
Area: Mongolia      Date: 17-08-2011
Tsengel Uul means "the mountain of Tsengel", where Tsengel is the Westernmost inhabited place in Mongolia, with "Khairkhan" meaning "sacred" - a title which in Mongolia often competes to beautiful mountains.
To make the most of the narration, I think that having at hand could be useful. Start from where a mountain with two visible diverging glacier tongues first appears.
While we were heading from Olgii to Khoton Nuur, we stopped in the wonderful Khargantin Gol, where we found ourselves hosted in a ger of local shepherds, who also pointed us to a nearby eagle-hunter.
On some maps I had already spotted out this unknown mountain, which at 3938 m is an isolated forerunner of the highest section of the Mongolian Altai, culminating at 4374 with Mount Huithen. I have already described that section in dozens of pictures.
What I could not imagine was that our Mongolian guides (Mongolian politically, but ethnically Kazakh) would choose to stop for the night so close to the mountain. So, I asked permission to wake up in the middle of the night to climb the mountain, in order to be back in the early morning, when we were expected to start our daily trek. "Don't go, the mountain is full of wolves" was the answer that I received. Note that in Mongolia this threat is not artificially invoked to build up attractive travel stories, but has a real consistence:
But I felt that the last gers of the valley, inhabited and full of grazing cattle, were truly close to the first steep slopes of the mountain. Hence, imagining wolves more as lowland trekkers than as true mountaineers, I calculated that I would have been exposed to the danger of an unpleasant meeting for a very short stretch. When I insisted for a second time for the ascent and I saw that the locals did not insist likewise with their answer, I was convinced to have a confirmation of my ideas.
I woke up at 1 in the night, it was a bit cold but the full moon and the starry sky helped me in my determination to go. As a psychological aid, I rushed all the time until I reached the stony slopes that to my mind meant safety. To be honest, more than about wolves I was concerned about not attracting the attentions of the dogs at the last gers: namely, I supposed that they were not used to have trekkers around at that time of the night...
(By the way, I realize that I am truly poor as an adventure seller - I mean, if I spoke of a going under the full-moon, in unknown and desert places, among packs of howling wolves, the reader would think: Hey, what for an intrepid adventurer!)
To narrate it in short, with energies enhanced by fear, I happened to be on the top well before 5am. The cold was biting, but I decided to spent there some more time and to wait for dawn, since in the last stretch I had met some verglas that perhaps was not so good to tackle downwards in total darkness. Who is following the narration on Picasa will see strange photographic achievements at the summit cairn, where I also radioed the base camp about my successful survival. (The sleepy voices that answered me were not that enthusiastic, but I had been prompted to make that call).
It was during the descent that I made a slight deviation from the seemingly wolf-proof route of before, in order to shoot the present panorama. I was not able to find out a name or any other information on this hidden glacial valley, which is "blank on the map" also concerning Google Earth photo-icons, with the exception of a misplaced one.
The Tsengel Khairkhan Uul in itself seems to be largely unknown to Google searches, at least to those in Latin alphabet. This is why I decided to open for this mountain a page on Peakware:
So, now a Google search will end up with at least one answer!
Today I have also set up a Wikiloc track (see below) for the crowd of Westerners that surely will queue to repeat my ascent: es wird sich eine Schlange bilden!
At the same time, I decided to dedicate to this favourite mountain a work also here: as for photographic quality, I could be indeed banned from the joyful community, but this is all I have to offer this time... Namely, I did not have that much time for photographic purposes: I had promised to be back in time for the start of the trek, and that I did. I reached the settlement precisely when our guides were dismounting our little ger, which the organization had supplied to us at no additional cost, merely because they wanted to avoid rescues of tourist half-frozen in the middle of summer snowfalls, as had happened the previous month.
We also succeeded in trekking the 25 kms of the day, although after 300 m (GPS) we were already called to be the welcome hosts of a ger, eating and drinking and listening to a concert that a Kazakh man improvised for us a concert singing and playing his typical Kazakh dombra - and even putting up typical concert clothes when he saw that we were particularly delighted. That is Mongolia!

GPS track on


I have not yet read your description, but four stars in advance for the great picture.
2013/11/22 09:07 , Jens Vischer
what a landscape - what a story!
2013/11/22 21:15 , Michael Strasser
Thank you.
In this case, I rate: 80% story, 20% photo.
(The famous 80-20 rule)
2013/11/22 21:23 , Pedrotti Alberto
I would do 50 and 50.
2013/11/23 00:56 , Giuseppe Marzulli
I like your "Pareto Principle" much ;-) ... great story, great picture from a wonderful landscape ... later i klick all your links too, alberto!! Tanti saluti, Hans-Jörg
2013/11/24 12:27 , Hans-Jörg Bäuerle
"Pareto in the Altai" - sounds like a good research project to obtain grants...
2013/11/24 18:09 , Pedrotti Alberto
Nice Pano and one of the best descriptions I've ever read!
Kind regards, Matthias.
2013/11/25 21:49 , Matthias Stoffels

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Pedrotti Alberto

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