The Frozen Highway
A short trip to Lake Huvsgul
Our Nomadic Expeditions colleague Ider Batbayar speaks about his recent experiences trekking through northern Mongolia and over the frozen Lake Huvsgul, the world’s cleanest freshwater lake.
My recent trip to Lake Huvsgul in northern Mongolia occurred while the lake’s surface was frozen as deep as 3-4 ft. I journeyed with the team from the Mongol Ecology Center, the enterprising environmental local NGO [non-governmental organization] that has been working to help strengthen the management of Lake Huvsgul National Park since 2010. Our company, Nomadic Expeditions, has supported various initiatives of the Mongol Ecology Center.
This time we had a very ambitious schedule, as we had only two days to meet with the local community members in two separate towns located 100 miles apart on the southern and northern edges of Lake Huvsgul. Despite the challenges, everything worked out as planned. We couldn’t have asked for better weather! It was so pleasant, and because of it I was able to take a few photos during the trip that I’d like to share with you. I truly believe you will enjoy them—particularly the photos of the Khoridol Saridag Mountain Range, the frozen Lake Huvsgul, and the beautiful sunrise over the mountains—as much as I did.
Day 1, March 5.
We flew from the capital of Ulaanbaatar before sunrise via the newest airline in Mongolia, Mongolian Airlines. Little over an hour later we landed at Murun Airport, located in the center of Mongolia’s northernmost province, Huvsgul. This airport has one of my most favorite statues in the country, the statue of Gelenkhuu. He dreamt of flying, and made several attempts to do it.
Statue of parachutist Gelenkhuu.
Photo by B. Ider.
I was thrilled to see that the paved road from Murun to Hatgal, the town south of Lake Huvsgul, was completed. A little over an hour later and we were there—previously, it would have been a long three hour drive. Our meetings with the local community members at Hatgal were great successes, and we called it a night under the beautiful starry sky.
Day 2, March 6.
We rose before sunrise again. Our plan was to reach Hanh district, located on the northern tip of Lake Huvsgul and on the border of Mongolia and Russia. We aimed to meet with the local community members there for the same purpose as our first day. The area is also an important site for the park’s management planning.
Normally, it takes nearly ten hours to drive along the eastern shore of Lake Huvsgul to get to the Hanh district. We made it there in only four hours. How can that be? Any guesses?
Let me tell you about it. We drove over the frozen lake—from the southern end to the northern end—between the two settlements. This is how the locals travel back and forth in the winter. It was my first time driving on the frozen lake and actually experiencing what it’s like. It reminded me of a saying: “It’s better to see it once than hear about it a thousand times!” I was anxious in the beginning; but now all I can say is that I loved every minute of it.
A number of times in the past, I have heard locals talking about the terms ‘black ridge’ and ‘white ridge’ that appear on the frozen lake. Black ridge refers to a cut line on the frozen lake that we can see space between the two sides. And white ridge refers to the lined mountains of ice pushed above the surface of the frozen lake. We encountered a few of these during our drive on the lake. No words can describe how excited I was in reality to see them!
Finally we reached the Hanh district and enjoyed a hearty lunch with our friend Hurgaa, who happens to be one of the local park rangers. Our meeting with the local community members was held at a local school and went very well. The principal of the school invited us to her office at the end of the meeting. We were all so impressed with the view of Lake Huvsgul from her room. It was gorgeous!
In the late afternoon, we hit the road back to Hatgal village. As with most journeys, it was faster coming back than going, and another day full of new experiences came to an end.
March 7, 2013
This was the day we said goodbye, and “See you soon!” to Lake Huvsgul. Though it was a short trip, it was so memorable, and I’m looking forward to the next time I visit!