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Mongun Taiga 3970m - Tuva

This was Trail Magazine Readers Trip in 2002 - it is now our standard trip for 2003

Sayan Mountain Trek | Tuva Picture Gallery
Mongun Taiga Ascent - Introduction

Another exciting and new camping trek to the heart of Siberia. The aim is to visit the remote country of Tuva and climb Mongun Taiga - the highest summit of Eastern Siberia.

Tuva is a small country located in the very center of Eurasia continent. Kyzyl is the capital of the Tuvan Republic. It is situated in a deep valley at the confluence of two tributaries of the Yenisei - one of the greatest Russian rivers. Tuva also claims fame as the geographical center of Asia. In 1964 a monument was made on the bank of the river proclaiming the place to be the center of Asia. Although Tuva is a part of Russian Federation, everything there differs greatly of what is usually associated with Russia. It is possible to see almost every type of landscape in Tuva: high snowy mountains and grassy meadows, deep taiga and vast steppes. The people too are have a totally different culture, language, traditions and ethnic background. This trek gives an opportunity to explore all of it as well as to meet the people many of whom are still cattle breading nomads. If you are lucky to meet local shamans and let them dance and sing they will help you to get rid of all bad spirits flying around. The trip will culminate with the ascent of Mongun-Taiga. This is a fine glaciated summit that can be reached by average walkers wearing crampons. The summit provides superb panoramas.

See also our Sayan Mountain trek in Tuva.

Trail Magazine Trips
EWP have over several years organized trips for Trail Magazine readers. We recommend strongly that anyone wishing to join this trip should subscribe to Trail. The magazine contains a wealth of information useful to the trekker. There are also many other tested and proven reader trips available, special offers on equipment, equipment surveys and route details of selected walks worldwide.

Mongun-Taiga Summary Grade C  
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Some long days and steep, wild paths. The ascent of Mongun-Taiga requires a minimum of scrambling and crampons for the glacier.

Weather, clothes, equipment
Not extreme at this time of year, day temperatures in the mountains approx +20C. Warm clothes required for evening and nights. Full, lightweight, waterproofs required as some rain should be expected. Waterproof, strong walking boots with good ankle support are essential. Walking poles can be very useful especially for river crossings and boulder fields.

Day 1.
Fly to Moscow. Transfer to Domodedovo airport for overnight flight to Abakan.

Day 2. Arrive in Abakan. Drive to beginning of the trek, ca. 500 km. Camp not far from the Shivilig medicinal Spring.

Day 3. We walk through alpine meadows then by a good horse trail over a small forested pass to an open high-altitude steppe surrounded by colourful mountains. We ford a shallow river (sandals useful). Camp by the edge of the steppe zone near the entrance to a narrow river canyon in a fir-tree grove. Around one may see ancient rock paintings, Scythian burial mounds, Turkic stellas (stone poles). 15km walking.

Day 4. 4 hour walk up Mount Chailag-Mongulek 2677m to see several ancient burial mounds yet to be excavated. Tuvans say the God of the Salchak's clan is hidden here. We gain about 650 m altitude and have good views of Khemchik Valley. 2 hour descent to camp by the Suglug-Kholash river.

Day 5. A good path lies over a gentle col covered by dwarf birch and juniper. Down to the Kurgag Kholash (Dry Kholash) River. It's called Dry because in a few kilometres it disappears under the ground. We walk across the river by boulders in its bottom. Then there is a gentle walk along the forest edge. Cedar forest, beautiful scenery. The forest ends with a short ascent to a pass where we can see a yak-breeders hut. Gentle grassy slopes lead down to our camp by the Sir-Buzun River.

Day 6. Walk up to the Tarbagannyg-Oy Ridge by a good horse path in the larch forest. It is possible to visit a Tuvan yurt and try the local food. From the top of the ridge we can look back on the route taken so far. Walk down to the Khemchik Valley. Khemchik is the second biggest river in Tuva after Yenisei. Cross Khemchik by a bridge and camp by the river.

Day 7. Walk 10 km up by the narrow Chinge-Khem River in the forest. We ford the river 5 times in sandals (not difficult). Camp near the start of the ascent to Perevalny Pass. 5 hours.

Day 8. Comparatively steep walk in the forest, then long gentle walk by high altitude tundra up to cross the Perevalny Pass, 2740m. The pass is marked by "ovaa" - a holy place - rocky pyramid with rags etc on wooden poles. To the right we can see the white massif of Ak-Oyuk, 3604m, the second highest mountain of Tuva after Mongun-Taiga. From the pass we gently descend to our camp by Poshtug-Khem (Cedar River). Ca. 7-8 hours.

Day 9. 1 hours down by the Poshtug-Khem River to reach Shui River Valley, cross the Shui River on horseback. Then a short walk up by Shui and about 10 km walk up by Uzun-Khem (Long River). We pass through a picturesque gorge between 1 km high walls. Camp by the forest boundary. 7-8 hours.

Day 10. Climb Bely Klyk (White Fang), 3333m, by a technically easy route. No special equipment required. A very good view of Uzun-Khem mountain group.

Day 11. Walk 7 km up by open high altitude zone in Uzun-Khem canyon. The path zigzags steeply past many green lakes. Over Uzun-Khem Pass, 3100m. From the pass there is a good view of the white massif of Mongun-Taiga. Walk down to the Karga River Valley where we meet a vehicle to drive ca. 30 km to the foot of Mongun-Taiga to set up a base camp by the forest boundary.

Day 12. About 3 hours walk up to a beautiful campsite in a moraine pocket near the NE glacier of Mongun-Taiga.

Day 13. Ascent Mongun-Taiga, 3970m. This is walking in crampons. An ice-axe is not required. We'll take a safe route without crevasses - by a rocky ridge above the glacier, then gentle walk up by the glacier dome to the top. Excellent view of the Mongolian vastness and numerous big lakes, the Altai Mountains and the mountains of South-Western Tuva. The way up to the top from "In Moraine Pocket" camp takes 3-4 hours. Down to the camp for a cup of tea and continue to the base camp where we arrive at about 4 pm. Drive about 1 hours to Mugur-Aksy village. Stay in a local house. Siberian banya (bath).

Day 14. Drive to Kyzyl, ca. 400 km. Hotel.

Day 15. Day in Kyzyl. Visit the National Museum, Shaman clinic and Buddhist Temple. Night in hotel.

Day 16. Fly from Kyzyl - to Krasnoyarsk then on to Moscow. City tour then transfer to hotel Belgrade.

Day 17. Transfer to airport, fly back to London.

Return International flight to Moscow. Overnight Domestic flight Moscow/Abakan and Kyzyl/Moscow.
For prices and dates see Prices

Included All food and accommodation in Tuva, cook, horses to carry all equipment, medically trained person, mess tent. Bed and breakfast accommodation in Moscow. City tours.

Not Included Visas, tips, meals in Moscow on day 1, dinner on day 16 and lunch on day 17.

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ALW 23/9/04