12-Apr-2009 -- My sometime-colleague Peter Grieve, who has submitted a number of confluences in Mongolia and elsewhere, introduced me to the Degree Confluence Project as well as to Mongolia as a country that had to be experienced.
My visit was made on April 12, on Day 3 of an 8-day solo hike starting from Bulgan sum (village) in the southern part of Arkhangai aimag (province). I’d chosen this area to hike in and to "bag" a confluence, as I was confident I would find enough water to keep thirst at bay as I lumbered along with my once-again-too-heavy backpack. Plus the area had some forests meaning tranquil evenings beside a campfire under the wide Mongolian sky could be enjoyed.
If I’d had a 4WD vehicle I could actually have driven to within a couple of kilometers of the confluence as it is situated on the slope of a fairly wide valley in typical Mongolian terrain. But sometimes it’s more interesting and physically beneficial to do things the hard way.
I spent the morning going up and over one mountain ridge (talused with granitic boulders on the north side) and in the afternoon cut across the valley to the slope in question. I temporarily foiled the grazing plans of a herd of sheep and goats as I cut across their path of movement and made a group of yaks uneasy as I threaded my way through them. I was glad to leave my pack behind some trees at the base of the slope as it had been increasing in weight as the day wore on – at least so it seemed to me.
I cut diagonally SE up the slope, which was reasonably steep, walking just over a kilometer before I reached the confluence. The way was mostly forested – predominantly larch trees, the rare pine. Last year’s fallen larch needles lay on the moss, a pale russet against a bright but deep green. New larch needles had yet to appear on the trees. Shrinking patches of snow lay on the ground here and there.
The target was found and reached with no real difficulty, though I was quite tired by that point as it was late afternoon and the slopes had taken their toll on me. After some moving around and finally just waiting in one spot I managed to get 3 zeroes after the decimal point for both the lat and long, with an accuracy of 7 meters (the surrounding trees affected the accuracy slightly). This confluence is in a peaceful and remote location, and is not likely to be disturbed for quite some time yet.
I returned to my pack, and as I was walking out towards the mouth of the valley, two young men rode up behind me on white horses. They had spotted me from their ger using a monocular/spyglass (an essential tool for the Mongolian shepherd). Upon their invitation, I rode with them back to their homestead, where I spent the night, refreshed and replenished by mare’s milk, homemade cheeses and boiled mutton gnawed straight off the bone...