Mountain Climbing

Mt. Khuiten Trek

Two women sitting facing the lake with a full view of a standing mountain

Location:Mongolia

Elevation: 4, 374 meters

Visiting Mongolia will sweep you away by the endless green steppes, the Kazakh nomads’ heartiness, and the Altai Mountains’ rolling landscapes. Mt. Khüiten that straddles the corners of three countries (Russia, China, and Mongolia), beckons the adventurous. Its 4, 356 meters height above sea level makes the highest peak in the Altai Range. This permanent snow-capped mountain is an international border between China and Mongolia that runs across its summit point. It is also Mongolia and Altay Prefecture’s highest point.

Besides the Khuiten peak, the other four peaks in the TavanBogd massif, or Five Saints mountain include Naran (Sun), Malchin (Herder), Burged (Eagle), and Ölgii (Land).

Previously, Khüiten Peak was officially known as “Friendship Peak.” Khuiten also means cold some glaciers originated on its slope, most notably the Potanin, 14 kilometers, and is considered the longest glacier in Mongolia.

In the Altai Range, TavanBogd is the second-highest summit and is protected by Altai TavanBogd National Park. The park is a land of the spectacular scenery of glaciated mountains, turquoise lakes, and immense grass-filled valleys dotted by Kazakh herders and eagle hunters’ homes, compose a landscape of overwhelming allure.

When is the best time for the climb

Trekking Mt. Khuiten requires special equipment and ropes, and experience in hiking complex trails. It is risky to climb the area during the offseason. Altai ranges have freezing temperatures that can be down to minus 15 with the wind in summer.

Mount Khüiten is commonly climbed, but some trekking groups visit basecamp and hike nearby Malchin Peak, as it has few people here and a smaller crowd. Some guided trips are canceled due to a lack of clientele.

Usually, in August, daytime temperatures at basecamp 20 degrees centigrade, falling to zero degrees centigrade at night. Thus, it’s the most favorable time to climb the area.

How to get there

First is to get to Ölgii in Western Mongolia accessible through a domestic flight from UlaanBataar, and there are a few limited flights from Almaty, Kazakhstan. Trips are limited, so it is recommended to book a flight ahead. Another way is to have a bus ride from UlaanBataar, but it would be too long and time-consuming. Or you can fly into Khovd and hire a jeep for a 4-hour ride to Ölgii.

Arriving at Ölgii, you’ll need a 4-5 hours jeepney ride to the TavanBogd region, a horse to pack your gear and food into basecamp, and a permit. You can arrange this ahead of time from a local outfitter.

From the border of Altai TavanBogd National Park, it is approximately 16km to basecamp. If you have your horseman, he will be leading the way, but if you chose to approach on your own, maps for Mongolia are available for purchase here.

It would be best if you had extra precaution from this roller coaster trek with a heavily pocketed ground, and there may be difficult stream crossings and stretches of mud. With monster packs, this would make for a fairly brutal affair.

Preparing For Your Trek

No mountain is to be underestimated. You have to be physically extra fit to make your holiday up to the peak of Mt. Khuiten. Get some additional exercise a few days before your climb, as you need to be aerobically fit and comfortable walking about 8 to 9 hours for consecutive days and 10hrs or more on the summit day.

The best training is hill walking, with a good amount of ascent and descent. And one recommendation is to try to fit in several long weekend walks before you depart. There is a need for an extraordinary experience on walking on moderately angled snow slopes wearing crampons. Besides walking exercises and skills, running, cycling, and swimming are ideal for cardiovascular progress, fitness, and stamina.

The climate in the area

You will experience extreme climates in Mongolia, and weather conditions are similar to the European Alps, characterized by long periods of high pressure and stable conditions, followed by relatively brief storms. During winter, temperatures can drop to minus 50 degrees centigrade; however, summer daytime can have pleasant weather of about 25 degrees centigrade.

In August, daytime temperatures are just around 20 degrees centigrade at daytime, and falling to zero degrees centigrade at night. So plan your trek sometime this month. Mountain weather is variable, and we are likely to encounter some rain and even snow.

Other Peaks

Hikers who climb Mt. Khuiten usually pair the trek with a visit to Malchin (4050m) and Naraimdal (4003m). Trekking groups commonly hike Malchin sitting on the Mongolian-Russian border because it offers outstanding views of Khüiten and is a great acclimatization hike from base camp.

From Khüiten high camp, Naraimdal is easily climbable, and it attracts hikers for its the tri-border point of Russia, Mongolia, and China.

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