Backcountry Mongolia

This past weekend I grabbed a bus out of town with a couple friends – tents, sleeping bags, and several days of food on our backs. The goal was to get off at ‘Turtle Rock’ and make it to the small town of Terelj by 11 AM Sunday. The planned route was nonexistent, and like most things that we tend to do, it completely morphed into a beast of its own.

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a ger camp in Terelj National Park – close to turtle rock

We only managed the bus at 4 PM, putting us at the steps of Turtle Rock around 6:30, leaving roughly two hours, before sundown, to put as much mileage between ourselves and the road as possible. After crossing several ridgelines, we decided to set up camp between two rock faces, and treat ourselves to a night of millet, steak, and a healthy dose of chocolate.

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headed straight into the granite ridgelines

Morning opened, and the sun sprayed between mixed cloud cover and the wide blue. Having lost our map, we knew that we needed to generally head South-East, through the granite skyscrapers, past creeping ridgelines, and down onto the intersection of the Tuul and Terelj Rivers – following the water course, we would make it to our final destination. After a solid 10-12 kms of up and downs, we broke down by the river. For the first time in 8 months, I experienced the glory of the warm sunshine rays – and immediately fell into a light slumber after a cup of river tea.

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the Terelj river smashes into the Tuul, just a couple kms up

Later in the afternoon we continued on and set up camp as the clouds began to solidify, and the overhead gray started to look more menacing by the minute. After a delicious meal of camp-ramen, we were scattered into our tents by a light rain. In the morning, the tent flaps unzipped and a foot of snow toppled onto my blue, front stoop – the chaos of the Mongolian Spring is that the weather can change in a heartbeat.

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we woke up like this

The last stretch of the hike was a crazed and delirious, snowstomping jog – but we were finally on the bus, asleep over a jar of peanuts and a handful of chocolate.

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