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 7, 26/07/09: Mongolia - Altai Mountains
There's a bit of an atmosphere in camp this morning; the original plan was to set off at 4am but it's now 7am and nothing much seems to be happening. Over breakfast there was a big discussion as to what we can do. Some members of the team had mentioned climbing Malchin which is basically for those who don't know, a 4,050m scree slope...my idea of hell.
During my time in the tent i've been getting a lot out of reading Gill's book on Earth healing and Shamanism, it's proving strangely synchronistic for me on a number of levels; in fact all the conversations i've had with Gill have proved synchronistic like we're introducing each other to different aspects of the same thing...awareness of 'self'. Gill, Mark, Di & myself decided to spend today taking a leisurely stroll down the valley; taking time to admire & appreciate the peaks, the glacier - to appreciate simply 'being' in this place. I was amazed that by simply allowing myself to ponder, to be in this beautiful place i was in a far better position to observe the abundance of wildlife.
Eagles soared gracefully overhead; kites graced the skies; red taled birds hopped from boulder to boulder; Podgy marmot peered from their communal burrows & ground squirrel scurried between the rocks, all the while being mindful of what could swoop at them from above. The scene was gorgeous; to be so close to nature and to simply sit back and observe, to be able to imagine this place from the eyes of the eagle soaring; the squirrel's panic; the marmots slothfulness; to feel the fresh breeze as it gently awakens the wild flowers.
As i was sat watching life unfold a single seagull flew overhead...incredible! Mongolia is landlocked; meaning that we're probably hundreds if not thousands of miles away from the nearest sea or ocean; in an instant my lips broke into a smile...was this my Jonathan Livingston Seagull...
When i returned to camp i began talking to an American lady (currently living in Sydney, Australia), who had summited Khuiten yesterday. She was telling of her experience and was livid. As an experienced mountaineer she had planned to lead her friend at a climb ratio of 1:1; unfortunately the Mongolian trek guide who had led them up the valley had decided he wanted to climb also (with no prior experience or suitable gear). Under the circumstances she quite rightly declined him but he then declared that if she didn't take him then he would simply follow.
Apparently this discussion...argument went on for quite some time; her main concern was one of safety and after making it perfectly clear she informed the Mongolian trek guide that if he ran into any difficulties whilst climbing, and risked in any way, shape or form the safety of her or her colleague then she would have no doubts about "cutting the rope".
The trek guide decided he still wanted to go for the summit, so they rallied together whatever kit they could beg or borrow - his crampons were made from nails attached to leather army boots that had been covered in plastic bin liners. I felt her anger & frustration because a mountain is absolutely no place to prove a point or to have a tantrum; when you're climbing you're completely reliant on yourself and your rope team; both your own & their survival depends upon it. Thankfully the fact she was stood talking to me had meant that they had successfully ascended and more significantly they had safely descended their objective - Khuiten.
After a quick sanitary towel patch-up on a crampon wound to Steve's leg we settled down to eat dinner at 5:30pm; tomorrow's mountain ascent is scheduled to begin at 12:30am...