As the sounds of Jergalant fade, we near our journey’s end and set sights on Ulaanbaatar, but not before a significant detour to Otgon Tenger Uul. This imposing peak, a beacon for adventurers, leads us through Otgon town and into a picturesque valley, its beauty magnified by the adjacent river. The area, buzzing with tourists, boasts yurt-hotels and bustling traffic, signaling its popularity.
We pause to admire the imposing Big Blue Protector Deity Ochirvan, embodying strength, a much-needed ally against the uncertainties of the climb, especially the anticipated snow and ice at the summit.
The temple nearby stands by the ‘normal’ road’s end. Its prayer wheels spin, echoing mantras into the valley. As we stand here, the rain gently taps around us, but it hardly detracts from the scene’s raw beauty. In one direction, Otgon Tenger Uul dominates the landscape, its snow-clad slopes offering both a welcoming gesture and a formidable challenge. In stark contrast, an old car forges its path, bravely crossing a stream, leaving behind tracks on the terrain that speak of an untold adventure.
Inspired by the sight of the old car crossing the river, we gather our courage and follow suit, fording the river ourselves. This decision extends our journey by another kilometer, but it’s well worth it. Our determination is rewarded when we discover an idyllic location for our camp, a perfect blend of solitude and scenic beauty. As darkness envelops the valley, my minds can’t help but wander to the upcoming hike. We’re buoyed by the hope of a sunny day to illuminate our path to the summit.
As dawn breaks, we embark on our journey, meandering through serene pastures at a leisurely pace. The terrain shifts subtly as we approach and begin to ascend a seemingly modest incline. But don’t let looks deceive you – this ‘small’ slope soon reveals its true nature, a challenging array of treacherous rocks lying in wait to test our resolve. Wisdom, or perhaps just a keen sense of self-preservation, guides us to a decision. We opt for a strategic retreat, taking a shortcut back to the safety and stability of the valley. Here, we align our path with a chatty stream, its constant babble a soothing companion.
Our apprehensions about encountering formidable snow at the summit turned out to be a bit overblown. In reality, what greeted us was a manageable stretch – roughly half a kilometer and about hundred vertical meters – of well-packed snow. This wasn’t the treacherous glacier terrain one might imagine, but rather a permanent, more stable snow cover.
Equipped with crampons for better grip, we confidently trod towards the summit. As if in celebration of our ascent, the clouds graciously lifted, offering us breathtaking views from the top. After soaking in the stunning panorama for a few precious minutes, it was time to descend. We retraced our steps, carrying with us the exhilaration of having reached the summit and the memory of the incredible vistas.
Descending from the summit, we navigated the rocky slope of the pyramid-shaped terrain. This part of the journey was marked by a few particularly steep sections, where loose stones threatened to turn our descent into a skid. But, with careful steps and a few tactical zigzags, we managed to avoid any slip-ups.
Reaching the saddle, we made a change. Instead of heading straight into the rocky field that lay in the bowl below, we decided to extend our route slightly forward. This detour led us to what could only be described as a ‘virtual’ grassy path – not quite a defined trail, but a gentler, more navigable section of the landscape. This path, meandering alongside a stream, became our guide. We followed its lead, all the way back to our car.
Our descent is a leisurely stroll along a stream, winding through a basin
Otgon Tenger Uul marks the grand finale of our ultra-peak adventure in Mongolia, and what a triumph it’s been! Honestly, I didn’t anticipate bagging so many peaks. Sure, there was hope, but with the myriad uncertainties that mountain adventures bring, even the least expirienced climber would’ve called my optimism a tad lofty.
But sometimes, the sun decides to shine in the most unexpected ways, and this trip was a shining example of that. We were blessed with fantastic weather throughout. Proximity to each mountain base was never an issue, so we managed to complete each challenge. The result? Eight ultra peaks ascended, with not a whisper of other peak-baggers’ reports. A resounding success!
Now, as we drive towards Ulaanbaatar, the excitement doesn’t wane. We’re already looking forward to the peaks of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in just a few days. The adventure continues, with new challenges and highs awaiting us. Here’s to hoping Cambodia’s peaks are as kind and rewarding as Mongolia’s have been!