Sad news from Mongolia today, where it has been revealed that 17 people have perished on Mount Otgontenger, as 4021 meter (13,192 ft) peak that was declared off limits to climbers just two years ago. The team was caught in a massive avalanche high on the mountain’s slopes and were swept away in the disaster, which is amongst the worst in mountaineering history.
Otgontenger is the tallest peak in Mongolia’s Khangai Range, located in the Zavkhan Province. At one point, it was a popular mountain amongst climbers, but the government banned expeditions to the peak due to increasingly dangerous avalanches. This team ignored that ban and continued their ascent, even after a local environmental protection inspector called to insist they leave the mountain.
According to Mongolia authorities, a team of about 30 climbers in all were making their way up to the summit this past Sunday, October 22, when the avalanche occurred. Ten members of the team were found and identified in the rubble, while seven others were missing. A search and rescue team arrived the following day and was able to locate those missing mountaineers, officially declaring them dead as well.
It should be noted that another expedition of about 10 climbers was on the mountain as well and made it down safely. Apparently the ban on climbing isn’t enforced particularly well.
Mount Otgontenger is considered a highly sacred mountain amongst the Mongolians. Many Buddhist in the country believe that it is haunted by vengeful spirits that prey upon those who trespass on its slopes. This incident isn’t likely to dissuade those beliefs amongst the superstitious, although it does reaffirm the government’s decision to close the mountain.
This is a tragic loss and my condolences go out to the friends and family of those who have died.
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