Fly to: Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia
Internal Transfer: Ulaan Bataar - Olgii (3hrs 30mins)
Ex-Soviet 4x4 Jeeps 9hrs driving without roads across the steppe to Potaniin Glacier, Altai Mountains
Visa required: Yes if British
Time Zone:+8hrs GMT
Day 6, 25/07/09: Mongolia - Altai Mountains
Packed up our climbing hardwear this morning & trekked our way to the glacier edge. The sky this morning was immense; so grand, so blue, it was like looking up directly into the heavens. With absolute clarity the peaks of Khuiten, Snow Church & Nairandal contrasted beautifully against the mighty sky above. Just being stood here amongst this view, breathing the air brings up an array of emotions; that humbling feeling of insignificance - it's like the view itself touched my inner being; sent shivers down my spine. Such beauty, such silence, such vastness...i guess if i were to be philosophical about it the Mongolian sky could almost represent the 'clearing of the mind'.
Unlike other glaciers i've experienced the Potaniin Glacier seems incredibly smooth; like someone's laid & flattened out a velvet, white carpet...bearing in mind this is merely my initial observations as i dump my axe, helmet, crampons etc at its side. I'm sure once i traverse the beast i will experience her physical textures with a beginner's mind; be struck once more by that trickling sound of the glacial melt; the pure aroma of ice as the smell nullifies the nasal passage; the crunch underfoot of something that is moving; a geographical mass; an expanse that is alive & as i think on these things now that's exactly how i feel; alive.
From the glacier edge we made our way up 3,500m to the Mongolian/Russian border; a border marked by two rather Soviet looking, vertical concrete pillars. Once again this provided us with another altogether different perspective: As we looked into Mongolia the Great, White Peaks of the Altai were reflected up by its Potaniin Glacier; whereas looking into Russia revealed a no less beautiful abundance of jagged, brown, dusty peaks.
The route back to camp involved a traverse down a loose scree slope; at times huge boulders simply fell away underfoot creating clattering rockfalls which resonated through my legs. Once back at camp we sorted our food rations & tent teams (i'm pitching with Gill & Mark). Latest update on the 'infamous' stove situation is that we are now only receiving 3 stoves instead of the planned 5; considering we have 4 tents this is no doubt going to prove problematic for melting enough snow for food & water; a problem that will be no doubt applified by having only 3 bottles of petrol!
A sparse weather report has indicated that bad weather is heading our way...
8:30pm - Stove update...the stoves have arrived...Yipee...we never once questioned it?! Turns out we have 4 stoves...unfortunately, after conducting a quick mechanical check it was discovered that only 2 stoves actually work and one of them is just a bit temperamental!! Plan C...due to safety and survival the team can no longer assume an advanced base camp; the ascent of Khuiten & Nairandal will now have to set off from & return to our current camp.