Mongolia by Horse Across the Alti Mountains

This is a quick post about travels across Mongolia by horse. It is a narrative of our Altai Mountains crossing by horse and photos and videos. This is a self-guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.

Mongolian Horse with no Name

This short journal was written upon my returned to the world of Ulaan Bataar (for those that even knew that I’d left or even care).

What was I doing in Mongolia? This was part of my unconventional Siberian Express trip. But let me focus on Mongolia here.

This is an Easy ActivityI had left Ulaan Bataar the previous week to find and ride a Mongolian horse, ‘with no name’, thru the Altai mountains. Naturally getting to the mountains was brutal, and once there the weather was cold & snowy, the horses short, the local food disgusting, and I got diarrhea from the local Ger yak food and spirits to boot. But all in all, the video footage is excellent and the adventure was spectacular.

For those that want more details let me add the following.

I hooked up with two foolish backpackers in Ulaan Bataar (UB) that subsequently placed their faith in me. We purchased a cheap summer tent for $20, a gas burner, some winter clothes (I actually got a winter coat), and a topo map of the mountain area and a letter of instructions, written in Mongolian, that we could give to people when searching for horses.

From UB’s Dragon Center we caught a 12 hour mini-van ride (with 18 people packed aboard) to Bayanhongor via rutted roads, trails, fields and pastures. We then spent a day in the dirt town trying to get horses. No one would agree to loan us horses because it was too late in the season and the mountain passes would soon be full of snow (the locals are afraid of snow it seems).

Click to watch Video

Lacking horses we settled for a 65km jeep ride to the first mountain pass from which we would either hire horses or hike for five days to the village of Tsetseleg on the northern side. On the jeep ride north we spotted some nomad’s on horses and settled down for a long negotiation session (drawing pictures, making gestures and using the provided letter). We finally settled on a price and route.

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We then spent the next four days riding Mongolian studs through valleys and across the mountains. We slept out (bundled like three peas in a cold pod), cooked on an open fire and shivered a lot. The land, people and animals were stunning. On each day (except the last) the wind was at our backs and clouds threatened to dump snow. Our party included two of the Mongols to look after the horses at night and they (the Mongolians, not the horses) kept insisting that we would have to turn back if it snowed because there would be no grass for the horses eat. We pushed on anyway.

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Then on the fourth night it finally dumped snow (and to add insult to injury, I acquired a case of Mongolian diarrhea, which made for a cold night of squatting in a snow storm). The next morning we agreed to push the horses, cut some mountain corners, and attempted the town by nightfall. We had a hard day of trotting and galloping, short cuts, river crossings (the horses’ legs are short but my legs are long so I got wet feet naturally). We made it to Bulgan by 5pm exhausted and with lathered horses.

The day had been cold, my squatting had continued unabated, my toes had frozen and the wind and snow had been in our faces the entire time. We found a room (in a two room shack) that served as a hotel and slept the sleep of the dead, cold and poor while the well paid family happily huddled in the adjoining kitchen.

In the morning we hired a jeep to take us to Tsetseleg (or original objective) and began the two day return journey to UB where I became comfortably ensconced in a Nassan Guest House dorm room with the facilities down the hall. The recovery process continued nicely and I was back in the game within a week.

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Part of the Siberian Express Adventure

Visit the Belukha trek post for a side-trip adventure.

Last leg, Beijing.

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