Introducing Tsambagarav Uul National Park
The permanently snow-capped Tsambagarav Uul straddles the border between Khovd and Bayan-Ölgii aimags and is accessible from either side. Despite its altitude of 4208m, the summit is relatively accessible and easy to climb compared with Tavan Bogd, but you’ll need crampons and ropes. A neighbouring peak, Tsast Uul, is slightly lower at 4193m and also good for climbing.
The southern side of the mountain (near the main Khovd–Ölgii road) contains the Namarjin valley, where there are outstanding views of Tsambagarav. From here you can head west and then south to rejoin the main Khovd–Ölgii road, via several Kazakh settlements and a beautiful turquoise lake.
An alternative route from the Khovd side leads from the town of Erdeneburen (where you can see a deer stone dating back to the pre-Mongol era) and up the mountainside to the Bayangol Valley. The valley itself is nothing special but there are fine views southeast to Khar Us Nuur and you might be able to rent a horse for the hour-long ride to the Kazakh-populated Marra valley.
The Bayan-Ölgii (northern) side of the mountain is even more impressive. To reach the massif, a steep pass runs between Tavan Belchiriin Uul and Tsast Uul. Between the mountains is a 7m-high waterfall that flows down a narrow gorge. A couple of kilometres to the east of the waterfall is a glacier and small glacial lake.
From the glacier, the road dips through some spectacular rocky gorges before finally tumbling down to Bayan Nuur, a small, slightly salty lake.
The best time to visit the massif is late June to late August, when it’s populated by Kazakh nomad camps. You can rent horses from the nomads to explore the area. Outside of these months it’s a cold, empty and forbidding place.
From Bayan Nuur, a desert road travels east through a Martian landscape of red boulders and rocky mountains. Near the town of Bayannuur and close to the Khovd Gol is an interesting white-stone balbal.