Honora is in Mongolia, climbing Khuiten, Mongolia's highest mountain, and others around it. After 10 days she came out to Olgii to restock for another 10 days, and sent me this email:
At last! Really sorry I missed the opportunity to reply when we got to Olgii about 10 days' ago.
We've had a great time and climbed Khuiten. It was a bit easier than Rolly but there was crevasse travel involved. Everyone summitted, so you can imagine the pace was pretty cruisey. We'd acclimatised on Malchin, 4000m, then had a rest day.
The food has been good but a bit repetitive at times and extremely excessive though I don't think I've put any weight on which surprises me as we've been virtually force-fed by the young, beautiful cook! Handmade noodles and ravioli are among her accomplishments.
I have yet to encounter the greasy mutton and horsemeat I was dreading. We've been given little cut up peices of goat and then beef and also mince in the soup (korje).
We also visited a local ger in a Tuvan camp. There are only 300,000 of this particular ethnicity. Their language is more Mongolian than Kazak. I bought a couple of felt mats then onsold one to Barbara as we both thought it was the best.
To get to the ger, we had to cross a swollen glacial river on horseback which was quite thrilling! The horses are amazing but I guess it's survival of the fittest and most nimble at picking their way through boulders below milky water.
The ger was very colorful inside, all pink and red with a subdued overworked wife losing the bloom of youth, I'd say. Not only was she a great cook, the borsak was like choux pastry but she must be a gifted artist judging by the mat I've bought featuring 2 agali rams head on. The husband, Hintzu, is a very accomplished horseman who is kind to his animals. The kids are all over the adults like puppies. It's very affectionate.
As there were about 1000 animals in this settlement, we had a cream spread (kaymak) and dried and fresh cheese and fresh bread for a snack in the ger. The tea is good too, they put a bit of salt in and drink it weak and milky.
We went to climb Nairandach (3,868m) and got about 100m from the top. It was windy and the snow wasn't great. I went on ahead and came to a rocky arete that was very unstable consisting of stacked sedimentary rocks with a zone of hard ice I had to cross. I got scared but not gripped and Lydia caught me up. We turned back as I was happy with the progress I'd made. It would have been a grade 5 peice of terrain where I was.
We had to cross a crevasse which led to a cornice so we crossed on the cornice which is a scary thought! With all the footsteps it might have been like toilet paper tearing off.
The Nairandach basecamp was all wildflowers! We saw snow leopard tracks coming down from the mountains and wolf scats. There's plenty of tucker for the predators in the form of gerbils, ground squirrels and big fat golden marmots.
We befriended a dog who can swim enormous pressure waves. He barks like stuff but is really cool. He loved us but barked at every local and got a stone for his troubles.
Lydia and I had to hang out with the cook for an extra day as our second vehicle got stuck in a river crossing. We enjoyed ourselves but I didn't like riding a cantering horse with only one foot in a stirrup!
We finally got a ride out in a monster like a unimog that could cross the Potanini river.
On the way to our roadend, which was a four hour walk, a storm came up and everyone except me suffered. I had the bertie bag which a couple of people got to enjoy plus my silver sitting pad. This area creates its own weather, convectional storms.
At the same time of the storm, a local guy and his 3 horses got killed by lightening not far way so the Tuvans were very unhappy with this news. All of the locals and some of us had inadequate clothing for the conditions.
On the summits you could see into Russia, Kazakstan and China. We walked to a Russian border post and found a cairn with a message in a coffee jar from a Russian climber in 2003.
The flowers are unbelievable. I've taken heaps of photos.
Our advanced basecamp was great, stinking hot and Trevor discovered a well where melting snow dripped off a rock so we melted heaps more snow off the rock and didn't need to use our petrol-driven stove. The petrol's improved but I helped Lydia filter it in a storm at basecamp.
Both nights at ABC, I was so warm I didn't need to hop into my bag, just use it as a duvet.
Getting to Nairandach, we had to cross the glacier lower down and it had streams some of which were 1 1/2 meters across. One crossing we rigged up a handrail. If you'd gone in, you would've been history as you'd end up down a hole in the glacier.
My Kazak is coming along. M's become B's, Y's become J's etc. About 50% of the words are the same. They don't have any arabic or persian words but the odd bit of Russian. I'm starting to be able to read the Cyrillic.
Our next adventure is being organised. We're horse trekking more west by the Chinese border. We've organised a driver, Dugaz and he'll jack up horsemen and another driver but we need an interpreter. Today, we're going shopping for the trip. I think there'll be a helluva lot of mosquitoes so I'll get some industrial grade repellent. Most things seem to be available here.
Last night Lydia and I went to find Dugaz's compound. We got close and saw a flash car. The driver and a pal decided to help us so we got in the car. They looked pretty affluent. Between Lydia's Russian and my Kazak, we got the message across and they took us to Dugaz's place by asking the neighbours.
We were invited into the ger and found ourselves guests at a wedding party for the inlaws. I've never seen such an opulent feast. There was scarcely any room to put our bowls of fermented horse milk, tea and vodka on. Lydia's vodka caught up with her, she was hilarious. I kept holding mine under the table every time Dugaz came round. His daughters were lovely (10 and 6) even the dog was extremely mellow and the first overweight dog we've seen.
Well, not much else to say right now. I don't think I've been in such great company ever. Everyone is resourceful, very interesting etc. and we spend a lot of time laughing at each other's stories. Of course the locals are great too.