Crazy western Mongolia
The rugged and remote much reaches of traditional western Mongolia are some wild panoramas capped by glacier-wrapped mountains, divided by inexperienced river valleys and shadowed by soaring peaks.
This area houses the famous Kazakh eagle hunters and has among the better-conserved petroglyphs in the united states.
But it is the majestic Altai Mountains that dominate this isolated place of Mongolia. Straddling the edges with China and Russia, the Tavan Bogd is a cluster of Mongolia's soaring peaks and a draw for climbers, trekkers, and horse riders.
It culminates in the dramatic 4374m Huiten peak iten, the highest point in the countrywide country.
On the road: Dramatic landscapes
The American frontier town of Ulgii is a bit more than a stepping natural stone to the area's real appeal - the panorama fringed by faraway snow-capped mountains. The huge steppes and great ranges in Mongolia make highway trips necessary. Bumping over rutted dirt trails across open plains and plowing through mud-soaked river valleys is the area of the adventure resulting in Tavan Bogd. Driving a Furgon, a Russian ex-military jeep is a popular choice when grant overrides grace especially.
The street from Ulgii goes by through small villages with brightly colored rooftops, past wandering camels and grazing livestock, and across a long way of the pristine wilderness. Scattered across the panorama are 'deer stones', natural stone slabs engraved with flying deer or other stylistic icons upright. These Bronze Years megaliths are thought to draw burial or ritual sites.
Within the Altai Tavan Bogd Countrywide Area, glaciers carve waterways of frozen snow between the snow-topped mountains of the Tavan Bogd. These 'Five Saints' include Burged, Malchin, Ulgii and Nairamdal Uul mountains, as well as Mongolia's highest top, Huiten uul iten.
The scenery in this remote area is stunning. Clear rivers fed by the ice-melt tumble down the valleys, a rainbow range of wildflowers carpet grassy meadows and white peaks dominate the skyline. Horses and camels can be employed from local Tuvan and Kazakh nomads at the trailhead by the end of the road in the Tsagaan Gol valley. Camels in the snow may seem to be strange but they are valued as cargo carriers, transporting camping products and equipment on horse-riding trips.
The 16km trail to the base camp is a pleasurable hike (or journey), climbing slowly but surely through alpine meadows to the crystalline Potanii Glacier. It is possible to hike the space of the 12km glacier but peak-baggers would want to submit one of the Saints. Huiten Uul is a specialized climb requiring ice axes and crampons but Malchin Maximum (4050m) is an easy six-hour uphill trek. Malchin's ridge lines straddle the Russian border and the summit views are worthwhile every aching muscle and gasping breath. This land of snow and snow houses the elusive snow leopard and the legendary Mongolia Almas, believed to be a cousin to the yeti. But don't count on witnessing either the crazy kitty or the outdoorsman.
Rock skill and crazy ibex
In the darkness of the Tavan Bogd massif are a few of the most complex and exquisite petroglyphs found in Central Asia. In Tsagaan Saal and in Tsagaan Gol valley, rock and roll fine art going out with from the Neolithic and EARLY BRONZE AGES give an insight into the full life of ancient times. The images include ibex with long curved horns, deer with chandelier antlers, mounted bowmen, camels drawing wagons, snow leopards, and rudimentary ger tents. The sacred pile of Sheveed Uul in the Tsagaan Gol valley contains a storybook of images extending for 15km around its flanks. As well as ancient rock and roll art, local knowledge credits Sheveed Uul as home to roughly 400 outdoors ibex.
A number of endangered mammals are in the Altai Mountains including the snow leopard, wolf and argali sheep - a pile sheep with impressive corkscrew horns. One mammal that thrives in these mountains is the wonderful marmot. If indeed they aren't located 'lookout', their chubby bottoms can be seen jumping across the domains and disappearing into a burrow.
It is not only the landscaping of western Mongolia that distinguishes it from the rest of the country. Ninety percent of the population here are cultural Kazakhs. In generations earlier, when the first Kazakh nomads migrated to the eastern aspect of the Altai Mountains to graze their sheep on summer pastures, they didn't realize their descendants would populate the Bayan-Olgii province of American Mongolia. Following the Mongolian Trend in 1921, a permanent border was created and an enclave of Kazakh culture remained.
Kazakh is spoken here and the historic Kazakh traditions of eagle hunting are revered. For over 2000 years, central Asian nomads have found and trained eagles to catch prey. The gold eagle is a magnificent parrot - a powerful and regal ruler of the skies. Hunters catch young birds, preferring the bigger, more powerful females. After five to ten years, the eagles are released back into the wild to live on free once again.
Whether Mongolian or Kazakh, hospitality prevails in this area of the world. Nomads will most likely invite you to their gers, which can be large spherical tent-like structures made from was feeling and canvas quite simply. Kazakh-style gers are typically larger than Mongolian gers, and furnished with richly decorated carpets and wall hangings.