Six members of the Eagle Ski Club have recently made nine ascents, and in many cases ski descents, in the Tavan Bogd, the highest summits of the Mongolian Altai.
Derek Buckle, Martin Josten, John Kentish, Iona Pawson, Howard Pollitt and expedition leader Dave Wynne-Jones are likely the first self-sufficient ski team to visit the Tavan Bogd, which lies in the north west corner of Mongolia, on the borders of Russia and China.
They had hoped to repeat ski descents of all five holy summits, a feat achieved only once previously; in 2002 by the American female team of Melissa Mcmanus, Hilaree Nelson, Margaret Wheeler and Kasha Rigby.
The five holy summits are thought to be named after Buddhist saints or Boddhisatvas, all dating from around the 1800s, when Buddhism arrived in Mongolia by invitation of the government.
They are: Huiten (aka Khuiten, Mongolia's highest peak, 4,374m), Nairamdal (4,192m), Burged (aka Chinggis, 4,068m), Tavan Bogd (aka Friendship Peak, 4,014m) and Naran (3,884m).
From a base camp on the Potanina Glacier east of the peaks, the team enjoyed a snowy summit day on Tavan Bogd, before a superb day on Huiten, including wild skiing down its North Ridge. On the way back they took in Nairamdal via its airy South Ridge.
However, it was now clear that a windy and dry winter had converted the slopes of Naran and Burged into bullet-proof ice, completely infeasible for skiing. Instead, they decided to make the best of the situation by exploring the ski potential of other peaks around 4,000m.
The weather held, allowing them to make ski descents of four peaks on the Russian border, the most interesting being a very steep south-facing couloir on Peak 3,926m (sometimes called Shepherdess), quite likely a first.
The group then moved south to the Alexandrov Glacier, booting up a short steep ridge to the Chinese border peak 3,862m, and later reaching a high pass west of Burged, from where two of the team summited Naran on foot.
The allowed level of flexibility that came with their self-sufficiency certainly opened up many possibilities in the range.
The group found this glaciated mountainous area to be fine and remote, eminently suitable for ski-mountaineering, and with some challenging descents. And the Mongolians met proved to be both friendly and helpful.