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Nairamdal ("friendship"), on the other hand, is climbed arguably seldom, but it is a very strategic viewpoint in the Altai - Tavan Bogd, close to the "triple point" where the borders Mongolia, China and Russia meet. It is lower than the Huithen, but in summer it can be reached without hiring guides and/or climbing gear.
From the base camp climb the Malchin, walking on the left side of the big Potanina glacier, and then ascending on tiresome but easy scree. Descend, only moderately steeply, to a low col on the ridge Mongolia-Siberia. Gain some 200 metres to the little but nice summit also known as Malchina, namely, "Shepherdess". From here follow all the ridge, always remaining between the scree slopes of the S side and the glacier on the N side. You should not need crampons, unless there is very hard snow in the somewhat steeper stretch to the foresummit 3985 m. Be careful and conservative on the last stretch to the summit, because I believe that you are on a glacier, although I did not see any trace of crevasses.
You can figure out the trail on several panoramas that I have already published on the Internet:
- «Alexandroff and Potanina»
introduces you to the region with a view from the base camp;
- «Late Malchin»
shows the view from the Malchin summit, with all the ridge from the col to Nairamdal;
- «Shepherdess of the Altai»
is a 360° view from few steps after the Malchina summit;
just take the time to read its description/discussion.
Description of "Shepherdess of the Altai"
This picture comes from the border ridge between the NW corner of Mongolia and Russia.
The prominent half-rocky, half-snowy summit is Malchin, meaning «shepherd», the typical trekkers' peak of the region.
I read on some web page that the little summit near which I am photographing should be the «Shepherdess», whence the title.
The heavily glaciated summit in the middle is Mount Huithen («cold»), second-highest peak in the Altai after the wholly Russian Beluha, and highest mountain in Mongolia.
At the base camp on the left side of Potanina glacier I was very impatient to climb Huithen, but I absolutely needed a companion to undertake the deadly crevasse-dangerous route to the top.
First, I spoke with Mrs. Gangaamaa Badamgarav who on May 21 of this year became the first Mongolian woman ever to climb Mount Everest. However, she was engaged by a Magdeburg team who evidently could not accept the idea that I intended to climb the mountain in one day. They did not want to free the guide even for that one day, and started to recount a long story of "hochgeschobene Basislager" necessary to climb the peak, a.s.o..
Attracted by the camp rumors, a respectable Kazakh guide materialized outside our tent: he was glad to climb Huithen with me for 100 US dollars to rent the gear plus, he added after some lingering, 1000 dollars for his services. (He did not consider that people typically do not walk in the Altai with 1100 US dollars in their pocket)
At the end of the comedy, I sent everybody to the hell cursing the fact that mountaineering is becoming every day more an affair of money, and decided to climb all alone the lower summit of Nairamdal through a safe ridge that I had seen in a first recognition on Malchin on the evening of August 21.
On August 22 I passed beyond Shepherd and Shepherdess but I had to retrace my steps following the GPS under a sudden, heavy snowfall. Luckily, August 23 rose as the very perfect day, whence I could complete my solo ascent.
In total, within 48 hours I summited Malchin 6 times (hence: summit photos and panos with every light and weather!) and traversed the Shepherdess 4 times.
Most of the web pages about the area report wrong and contradicting data, thus I do not know how much the «Shepherdess» affair can be reliable. However, I accept her at least as a companion of the «Princess of the Altai», whose history is completely different. This is the name of a corpse found, trapped in the permafrost and thus perfectly preserved, in the Ukok plateau, clearly visible in the Russian side of the photo.
To explain, I cannot do better than quoting from Colin Thubron, «In Siberia» (Penguin Books, pag. 76):
«There is only one *She* in Russian archaeology now: the Ice Princess of the Altai, excavated in 1993 - a lone woman entombed in barbarian splendour on a remote plateau above China. Nobody knows who she was - shamaness, noblewoman, or bard - and a tempest of controversy soon brewed up about her race. Her mummy was brought to Akademgorodok and placed in a freezer which had once been used to store cheese. Soon fungi were crawling over the body, fading its delicate tattoos, and it was rushed to Moscow, where embalmers restored it. Slavic experts declared that she was Caucasoid, an early European. But the people of the Altai, who claim descend from her culture, protested that she was theirs, and a Swiss forensic pathologist supported them: she was Mongoloid, he said, close to the modern inhabitants.»
I hope that this story can give an essay of the fascination hidden within the "Golden Mountains of Altai"...
Description of "Nairamdal":
While shooting these photos, I was convinced to be for some dozens of meters in Chinese territory. From subsequent studies, however, I understood that I actually was on the Russian side, since the "triple point" involving Russia, China and Mongolia does not lie on the main summit, but on the little bulge 4082 m lying 1 km south. In any case, I think that the name Nairamdal (meaning friendship) applies to the highest point, although the cartography of the region is very confused.
Only 40 km W from here there is another "triple point", namely, the one involving Russia, China and Kazakistan. From there rightwards, the Kazakh-Russian border points N to reach the Gora Beluha, culminating point of the Altai, from where it continues W without interruption to the Caspian Sea. Leftwards, on the other hand, the Kazakh-Chinese border stretches for more than 1000 km, just to meet Kirgizistan. But when this happens the mountains have already taken on another size, and we are among the 7000m peaks of the Tien Shan.
The present panorama begins in Mongolia, with the W flank of Mount Huithen closing the view. Then it enters China, where the 4082 m bulge largely hides the valley of the Przevalsky glacier, the only one on the Chinese side enabled to compete with the Mongolian side Alexandroff and Potanina glaciers (see N.9744). Here we also have the Udeuschle-computed maximum distance, lying 270 km far, already inside the Junnggar Pendi, the desert north of Ürümqi, in northern Sinkiang.
Incidentally, it is worth to note that in all this section the Udeuschle rendering appears to be somewhat unreliable. For example, at both 211.5° and 252.5° it draws non-existing sharp horns while, on the other hand, of the powerful triptych near 260°, reminiscent of our Gran Zebrú - Zebrú - Ortles, it draws only the "Ortles", that is, the rightmost summit. Somewhere still on its right is hidden the triple point with Kazakistan. The large marshy plain is already in Russia.
In this lonely spot, in the late afternoon, I was comforted by the sound of the waters flowing from the glaciers spread out like a mantle on the northern slopes of the mountain. In such immense spaces I was not able to evaluate their distance, but from time to time I had the "forbidden thought" that a 1.30-2 hour rush down the scree-covered ribs bordering the glaciers would have brought me onto the Ukok plateau, well close to the kurgan site of the Altai Princess (see N.8227).
Behind the plateau one sees the Chuyskiy mountain range, binding the Katunskiy range (the one featuring the Beluha) of the Altai to the Sayan range, extending eastwards until Lake Bajkal. The above chains are named after the rivers Katun and Chuya, the main branches of the great Siberian river Ob, featuring among its sources also the waters that were lulling me.
The Southern Chuyskiy in the foreground hide almost totally the higher northern chain, of which only some snowy peaks emerge: among them, the mighty 4177 m Maashey-Bashi. The northern chain is also said to hide fabulous glaciers and mountains, such as the triptych formed by the Krasavitsa (Beauty), Mechta (Dream) and Skazka (Fable) peaks. Northern and southern chain are joined by the so-called Karaghem Connector Range.
Curiously enough, nearly the whole of the region depicted here is drained by the Ob-Irtysh system. Namely, the farthest branch of the Irtys originates in southern Mongolia, from the flanks of the sacred mountain Mönkh Khairkhan Uul (some 200 m higher than our Mönch...). Then it crosses northern Sinkiang and western Kazakistan before bending decidedly north. Ob and Irtysh meet at 62° N and flow into the sea right at the Polar Arctic Circle, after 5568 km. More precisely, they still need the 800 km of the narrow Ob gulf, a sort of wide fjord, to get to the open Arctic sea.
The lower mountains beginning at the right end of the panorama separate the Ob-Irtysh basin (3 millions square km) from the Yenisey basin. Where the panorama ends, we find these mountains pointing again towards the Mongolian border, where the culminating peak is the Mongon Uul (see N.9272).
The history of the Yenisey is very similar to that of the Ob. The main branch, the Bolshoi (great) Yenisey, originates in Northern Mongolia and flows directly through the Tuvan Republic. But the Horidol Saridag (see N.9020) separates these waters from others following a much more tortuous way: they take the direction S, arriving close to Ulaanbaatar. Then they bend and, under the name of Selenga, enter Lake Bajkal at 90° with its rift, exiting, likewise at 90°, under the name Angara. The Angara meets the mainstream Yenisey at some 58° N, and flows together with it to the Arctic, which they reach at a distance of 300 km (very little on a Siberian scale) from the mouth of the Ob fjord. But the Selenga-Angara-Yenisey system turns out to be 18 km shorter than the Ob-Irtysh: only 5550 km...
The place is close to what the geographers call the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility, that is, the point of Eurasia lying farther from any sea. From this point, lying in Northern Sinkiang, one can draw a circle of 5200 km diameter lying entirely on mainland, tangent SE to the Gulf of Bengala, SW to the Arabian Sea and N to the Arctic sea; for a little it misses a fourth tangency point with the Yellow Sea, E of Bejing. There is no general agreement on the precise location of this pole, since there is some controversy about whether the Gulf of Ob should count as a sea in this context. Wikipedia explains the topic in detail.
To end: there are recent (January 2012) news about the Altai Princess, whose excavation site, located 2 km W of Bertek, at 49°17'59"N 87°33'44"E, lies no more than 24 km from the standpoint of the photo, although slightly hidden behind a hill.
According to http://en.tuva.asia/197-altai.html a new dedicated museum will open in 2012 in Gorno-Altajsk to host the mummy, who is at least as important as our Similaun man. On the topic, I strongly recommend to have a look at the booklet whc.unesco.org/uploads/news/documents/news-433-1.pdf
The 29 pictures are taken around 4.30 pm in West Mongolian time, the one adopted in the aimags of Uvs, Bayan-Olgii and Khovd.