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Tavan Bogd Rivers

Tavan Bogd Rivers

Pat's attention to safety, and knowledge of Mongolian and Kazakh cultures gave me great confidence to go run whitewater rivers at the extreme ends of the earth. My hat is off to MRA for providing an adventure in a professional, responsible, yet still exciting, manner.

Dr. Miguel Flores - Flagstaff, USA

Trip Description

Camel/self/vehicle support raft and kayak.

Go deep into the Altai Mountains to a remote corner of the world where the borders of Mongolia, Russia, and China all meet. Be among the first to raft or kayak descents of the Tsagaan Gol (White River)!

Hike or horseback ride to the source of the Tsagaan Gol, the Potanin Glacier, then pay our respects to Mongolia’s highest mountain, the massif Tavan Bogd Uul, or ‘Holy Five Peaks’ (4374 m/14,350 ft.) Take time to wander among petroglyph and burial sites from millennia gone by, and respectfully visit a timeless Shaman ceremonial site at the mysterious Shiveet Khairhan (Sacred Mountain).

Use camels to cross 10,000 ft. Takalbai Pass for the first raft descent of the Class III/IV Ag Su River. Explore other drainages for white-water potential, ride horse with the local Kazakhs, or reel in some fresh lennock, then relax in evening at our comfortable expedition camp in the heart of the incredibly scenic Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. Finish off the trip is a three-day river expedition originating at the source of the majestic Khovd Gol (class II/III), western Mongolia’s largest and longest river.


Day 1: Day 1: Arrive to Ulaanbaatar by plane or train. A guide will meet you at the terminal with transportation to our hotel near city center. After checking into the hotel and freshening up, we will take care of details like changing money and last minute shopping. Sightseeing if time allows it. A Mongolian translator will accompany and assist us during our time in the capital city. We will eat together that evening and enjoy a traditional Mongolian music performance. Sleep!

Day 2: Fly (3 hours) to Ulgii in the morning. Drive west 4—5 hours into the mountains and camp that night in the majestic Tsagaan Gol Valley, home of Mongolia’s ethnic Tuvan tribe. The Tsagaan Gol, or ‘White River’ springs from Mongolia’s longest glacier (Potanin- 12 km) perched on Mongolia’s highest mountain, Tavan Bogd Uul, or ‘Five Saints Mountain.’ Khuiten Uul, highest of the five ‘saints’ at 4374 meters (14,350), is the meeting point of the borders of Mongolia, Russia, and China.

Day 3: Scout upstream and kayak, or make the first descent by raft of, the upper Tsagaan Gol. Bomb down fast-paced class III whitewater on the swift, surreal, glacial milk river, and when it flattens out, navigate the braided channel while scanning the slopes above for ibex and wolves.

Day 4: This day we have the opportunity to scout the Tsagaan Gol to its source while we hike or horseback ride up the river to base camp near the terminus of the Potanin Glacier and Malchin Uul, a 4050-meter (13,287 ft) peak on the Mongolia-Russia border.

* If circumstances are appropriate, Class V kayakers may choose to attempt a descent of this 6 km gorge the following day (in which case we will shorten our itinerary later in the trip by one day). One waterfall portage and steep gradient make a raft descent of this section unlikely.

Day 5: After crossing the Tsagaan Gol with our vehicles in the morning, we 4-wheel up the Khar Airik ‘Black Valley.’ Along the way we’ll pass Shiveet Khairhan ‘Holy Mountain’, where we’ll stop to visit a timeless Shamanist worship site. We’ll also take some easy hikes to stretch our legs and check out fascinating petroglyph panels and ancient Balbals (‘stonemen’ burial sites) that testify to the rich history of the Altai region*. If there is enough time and water, Khar Airik Creek has potential as a class III/IV kayak run. That night we will camp poised at the base of Takhilt Pass, and partake of Tuvan nomads’ hospitality, introducing us to their shaman beliefs, and maybe have a wee bit o’ yak milk vodka for medicinal purposes…

* A good source for more information on archaeology in Tsagaan Gol valley is:

Day 6: A very unique day in your life. In the morning we will meet our camels and guides, and then marvel as all our camp and river gear is loaded on these noble beasts of burden for the all-day, 20 km (12 mile) trek over 3133 meter (10,280 ft) Takalbai Pass . Both the ascent and descent traverse magnificent glacial valleys filled with alpine wildflowers, burbling creeks, and stunning views. Horses and/or camels will be available for those who prefer to ride, but some walking will be required at steep places. We will set up our expedition camp, with all the comforts of home, in the captivating, un-touched Ag Su Valley on the banks of another pristine glacial river.

Day 7: Claim the first raft descent of the upper Ag Su! Or the second kayak descent! We can put in right from camp and weave through the braided channel, eat lunch on the river, and then negotiate a series of class III/IV rapids before reuniting with our vehicles. We say farewell to our Bactrian camels and Tuvan guides here, then drive about one hour to an idyllic camp spot beside the clear running (Fish!) Khorimdik Gol.

Day 8: Enjoy a well-earned day of rest to do as you please. You can strike out and explore nearby drainages for whitewater or fishing opportunities, hike more of the looming Altai Mountains, or relax and take in the picturesque snow-covered peaks and deep alpine lakes.

Day 9: Today we will explore the area around lakes Khotan Nuur and Hurgan Nuur for archaeology and other possibilities as we make our way to the source of the Khovd Gol. Driving time will be several hours, depending on route and creek crossings. Anglers will delight, as the lennock are aggressive, feisty, and delicious!

Day 10 - 12: Raft or kayak the class II/III upper Khovd Gol expedition style starting from its source at the outlet of enchanting Hurgan Nuur. We will self-support for three days (60 km) down Western Mongolia’s biggest river; passing through two road-less canyons, the Tuvan village of Tsengel (Joy), and the confluence with our old milky friend, the Tsagaan Gol. On the last day we will take out and reunite with our shuttle vehicles before driving 2 –3 final hours back to Ulgii and restaurants and beds.

Day 13: Fly back from Olgii to Ulaan Baatar. Rush around frantically buying gifts, then relax and get a foot massage. Savor one last dinner with your expedition mates, and then rest well.

Day 14: Depart Mongolia for your next adventure.

Trip itineraries are subject to change at the discretion of the Trip Leader for reasons of health and safety or to improve over-all trip experience. Itineraries may be changed to accommodate strong interests among expedition members, with group consensus

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Region: Northern Altai
Dates: July
Trip Length: 14 days
Rapids Class: III / IV
Cost: $2900 - $3250 per person *

* Cost based on group size.

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Mongolia (Jun - Aug): 976 9950 1685
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