Genghis (or Chinggis) Khan was a strong leader, powerful diplomat and seasoned traveller according to most Mongolians, who revere him. In the west and the Islamic world the view tends to focus on some of his more negative attributes. Focusing on the positives you soon realise that Genghis Khan had many of the skills required of a British soldier. He was a great judge of character and leader of men, he was adventurous and brave and he also pushed the boundaries of what was possible.
Exercise Dragon Mongolian Odyssey was an opportunity for soldiers from 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) to visit Mongolia and challenge themselves. The key objectives of the exercise were to complete the Alpine Mountaineering Foundation course, to climb some of the highest peaks in Mongolia and to develop leadership and diplomatic skills while dealing with each other and local people
The Altai mountain range in Mongolia is very remote and the first challenge was to get there. Flights to Beijing, Ulaanbaatar and finally Ölgii got the 11 person team close. Next was a 200km journey in 4×4 minibuses on dirt tracks which proved to be an early test of endurance and nerves. The final part of the journey was a short trek into Base Camp 1 with the aid of camels to carry our kit.
Base Camp 1 gave everyone the opportunity to acclimatise, learn or revise alpine skills and get into the routine of camp. Our group were the only ones based here and the only visitors were occasional herders. Hawks guarded our tents against adventurous rodents whilst herds of camel and horses watched our flanks.
Stunning rock ridges proved on closer inspection to resemble poorly balanced fridge sized Jenga blocks. A number of routes were none the less delicately climbed. Much use was made of the Lyen Granye glacier for AMF training. Crevasse rescue techniques were learnt and then ignored as we simply pulled each other out of the various crevasses we found ourselves in. Day time temperatures of 25°c and night time temperatures of -5°c were a pale reflection of the 70°c temperature swing that this part of Mongolia suffers annually. After a week we set off for Base Camp 2.
From Base Camp 2 attempts were made on three of the highest peaks in Mongolia. Friendship Peak (Nairamdal) is a 4100 metre high mountain on the border with China and Russia. The whole team survived a period of zero visibility to rendezvous at the top of this peak without blundering into the wrong country. At the small cairn on the peak one member of the rope team could stand in the largest country in the world, one in the most populated and the third in the country with the lowest population density- very Geo!
Malchin Peak, at 4050m, proved a more friendly peak, with reasonable visibility across the border with Russia and a group of Mongolians, French and Germans enjoying lunch at the top.
The next, and final, peak was Khuiten Peak (4374m). Khuiten was a more technical challenge and was attempted from an advance base camp. Despite a 4am start, an unfortunate amount of snow cover and a fierce wind one rope team made it to the top of Khuiten. Spurred on by their colleagues success two rope teams made a second attempt at summiting Khuiten the following day, departing at 2am. Constant snow and wind drove these teams back to the mess tent for tea and breakfast.
With the adventurous aspect of the trip completed everyone returned to Ulaanbaatar to visit the world’s largest equine statue and the British Ambassador.
135 Geographic Squadron
42 Engr Regt (Geo)