Tim Cope, canoeist Ernst Waldenfels, and Mongolian brothers Battsengel and Batbayaar, have designed an itinerary to maximize the intrepid traveller’s experience of the diverse landscapes and nomadic heritage of western Mongolia.
Five Gods, Summit to Steppe River and Trek expedition combines a trek over high passes on nomad trails supported by herdsmen with their camels and horses, a horseback ride around the sacred peak of Shiveet mountain,
and a canoe voyage down the Khovd River system including the spectacular Khoton-Khurgan alpine lake system. By minimizing mechanical transport and travelling with local nomads on foot, horse, and river through mountains, forest and steppe it allows the traveller to immerse more fully in the natural world and the cultures that have evolved here over untold millennia.
The trip begins in Tavan Bogd (meaning ‘Five Gods’), which is home to Mongolia’s highest peak, Khuiten Uul, 4374m. Here we will attempt to trek to Malchin peak (4051m). From the summit we will be able to stand on the cultural cross roads of Mongolia, China, Russia, and very nearly Kazakhstan. The sprawling Potanin glacier that flows from Tavan Bogd is not only the ultimate headwater of the Khovd river but has been the hallowed source of water and life for cultures in Western Mongolia since the dawn of time.
As we begin to trek, ride and paddle down from here, we will be travelling among a diversity of nomad communities including Tuvans, Kazakhs, Uriankhai, and Oirat Mongolian tribes. Ancient burial mounds, Turkic stones, and petroglyphs found dotted throughout the valleys and slopes of the Khovd River basin remind visitors of the remarkable continuity of horseback, nomadic life that has been unbroken here for at least 5,000 years.
The Khovd River, which flows 516 kilometres into the lakes and wetlands of the Great Lakes Depression, will be the guide for much of the journey - weaving, meandering, and sometimes tumbling its way from glacier-fed rapids across alpine lakes, through forests and steppe, and gorges that cut deep into rugged semi-deserts. At this time of year as summer crosses into autumn, nomads migrate down from the mountains to the banks of the Khovd River giving us the opportunity to experience their daily realities and understand the intricate nature of their migratory cycle. Whilst this is a challenging journey, it is also designed to cater for a range of abilities and interests. Canoe experience is not mandatory or required, and the most demanding trekking and canoeing sections are optional. For those who are keen riders, or who would like a horse as back up, the entire trekking route is possible by horse and this can be arranged through your agent. The camps include dining tent and other facilities, and vehicle back up is available for part of the trek and much of the canoe journey.