CULTURE AND PEOPLE

Mongolia has had a long and turbulent history. Towards the end of the 12th century the nomadic inhabitants of northern Asia became united under the leadership of the remarkable Mongol king, Genghis Khan. Two generations later, during the reign of Genghis’s grandson Kublai Khan, the vast territory of Mongolia reached its greatest extent, stretching from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea of Eastern China. After the Khan dynasty fizzled out at the end of the thirteenth century, the unity of Mongolia evaporated and the country experienced a period of several centuries which was dominated by inter-clan warfare. At the end of the eighteenth century, Mongolia came under the rule of Manchu China and then in the early twentieth century the country experienced a “Peoples Revolution” (1921) and became allied to the Soviet Union. Since 1991, with the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mongolia has been an independent democracy and has become readily accessible to foreign travellers. The first major geographical expeditions to the remote Altai Tavan Bogd region were in the 1920’s, led by the famous Russian Botanist, Potanin. No successful climbs of the snowy peaks were made at this time. MountKhuiten was first climbed by a Mongolian team of Mountaineers in 1956. The 1960’s and 1970’s saw numerous expeditions from Czechoslovakia, Romania and Poland claim first ascents of other peaks in the region. The region opened up to western climbers in the early 1990’s and first British ascents were made in 1992 by teams from Operation Raleigh. Since that time, a small number of expeditions do visit this region, each year, during the brief summer months. Fewer than 20 people will summit MountKhuiten on a yearly basis. Much of the Mongolia’s steppe is quite rich grassland which supports several species of wildlife, including antelope, gazelle and wild ass. It is also home to the nomadic Mongolian pastoralists who tend often large numbers of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, yaks and camels, travelling widely across the plains and living in very portable homes known as “GERS.” Remarkably, out of a population of two and a half million people, fully fifty percent live in this traditional type of dwelling, which incorporates a framework of slender poles and a covering of tough felt.

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