2019 Winter Expedition to Mongolia

The Migration of the Eagle Hunters

Moving through a snow storm

February 13th – 27th, 2019

In our time-honoured tradition of providing incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences to adventurous photographers, this year we will be offering 8 people the chance to come with us on an awe-inspiring nomadic migration across Mongolia’s Altai mountains with a Kazakh family and their livestock.  Your journey will give you intimate access to an incredible cultural experience in a beautifully remote corner of Mongolia.

In 2015, I was the first foreigner to walk the length of this nomadic migration over 5 days.  Accompanying my good friend Shokhan, a Kazakh eagle hunter, our group made the 150km corral with around 1000 animals including camels, horses, goats, sheep and yaks.  A collection of the photographs from that trip can be found on the BBC’s website here.

Shokhan braves the cold.

Our expedition will follow roughly the same route that I took that first year, crossing snowy passes, frozen lakes and through the incredible winter scenery of the Altai mountains.  Backed up by a team of 4 off-road vehicles and 12 staff including cooks and translators, we will erect a camp of warm yurts every night at each stage of the journey, providing home cooked food and cosy beds in the evenings when outside temperatures regularly fall to minus 30°C.  Our destination will be Shokhan’s family’s Spring camp in Tavan Bogd National park, a place that few outsiders have witnessed in the winter months.  Once there we will set up camp alongside Shohan’s family and enjoy a few days in this truly remote location, accompanying him hunting with his golden eagle and spending time with his extended family at their homestead.  After the migration we will return to the capital of Western Mongolia, Ulgii in our expedition vehicles and round off the trip spending a relaxed day enjoying a private ice archery tournament on a frozen lake.

Following the herd..

We will be using the same fixers and guides who organised my first trip to Western Mongolia with the BBC’s Human Planet team… trusted friends who understand precisely the kind of opportunities that photographers and filmmakers crave.  We have limited the attendance to 8 people in order to give everyone the chance to shoot great images without creating too much impact on our surroundings.  I will be traveling with you at all times and offering as much advice and help as you can absorb as well as guiding you through my methods of shooting, editing and image preparation in post production.

This is a specialist photo expedition for the adventurous type and for this reason I will be personally vetting participants.  This will involve a brief Skype or phone conversation prior to booking so that we can ascertain whether or not you will be a suitable member of our team.  Traveling in extremely cold environments throws up uniquely complicated problems for living and you must expect the possibility of a certain degree of discomfort on this journey.  Equally, we will expect you to come with a sufficient level of clothing and personal equipment to deal with the potential harshness of the environment. I will discuss all these things with you before you book.

To give you an idea of what my expeditions are like, here is a short film shot during our 2016 winter trip:

… and here is a link to an article written by a novice photographer who joined us in 2018:    https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2018/03/16/weekend-reads-western-mongolia-edition/

What is included in the price of this trip?

Everything except your international flight, personal travel insurance, Visa fees and the costs of the kind of things you would normally expect to buy with your own personal money supply (gifts, personal treats etc.)  Other than that, from the moment we pick you up at Ulan Bator’s Airport we will take care of everything for you.  Accommodation, 3 meals a day including alcoholic drinks, internal flights to Western Mongolia, overland transport, tips, translators… anything you can think of… and probably quite a few things you can’t.

Herding the animals

Ascending into the mountains

Traversing a frozen lake..

What kind of things should I bring?

This is a specialist cold weather trip and your packing should reflect that.  Clothing-wise, layers are the key since you will be potentially both walking and sitting in cold vehicles… the amount of each that you choose to do will depend on your fitness and preference… our support vehicles will follow our route at a distance as much as possible offering everyone the chance to travel in a vehicle if need be.  Part of our team will travel ahead each day and set up camp at our daily destination with mattresses, camel wool blankets and wood stoves in each ger.  Our staff will stoke the fires throughout the night allowing us to dry clothes and stay warm, however a 5 season sleeping bag is essential and you must provide your own.

Hot food

Our team will endeavour to create a comfortable experience under tough circumstances

Equipment-wise… You should bring cameras, laptop (for editing in the evenings), head torch… these kind of things instantly spring to mind. Don’t worry about recharging since we will have generators to top up our gear each night.  Once you confirm your booking with a 25% deposit, we will send you all the information you need to fully prepare yourself for this epic journey.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

How fit do I need to be to join this trip?

If, like me you choose to walk the full 150km of the migration then I suggest that you will need a fair to good level of fitness. The migration moves at a normal walking pace and includes breaks for food and tea throughout the day.   However, since you will always have the option to rest your legs by calling a vehicle with your walkie talkie, I feel that hardiness is a more important quality to have than fitness on a trip like this.  If you are the kind of person who can’t live without your home comforts then you will struggle on this journey.  We will be sleeping together in gers and toilets will only be available each night at camp in the form of ‘long drops’ dug by our crew in the frozen ground and enclosed in a small tent.  Similarly, due to the freezing cold, showers will NOT be available during the 5 day migration (a bowl of hot water and some wet wipes in a warm ger will have to do)… however, we will be able to set  up a shower once we reach our destination.  The weather will have the greatest effect on the harshness of this trip.  Most commonly, days are fine with blue skies and cold (around -15 °C)… nights will be -25 °C and beyond.. be aware though… snow storms and wind chills can affect this drastically.

An expedition camp

Life under canvas… an expedition camp

Carrying an exhausted animal

Can I join this trip as a non-photographer?

Sure!  If your significant other wants you there by their side then be our guest! Similarly, if you just want to come alone without a camera then don’t feel that you need to be into photography. This expedition is designed to be an immersive experience for everyone and we have hosted many non-photographers on previous expeditions.  Last year on the migration I spent many hours just walking alongside the animals helping to corral them rather than shooting photographs.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of things to occupy your time as a non-photographer.

Crossing a high pass

Crossing a high pass

Portraiture using natural light

Learn to shoot epic portraiture using natural light

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Itinerary 

 
Day 1

13.02

After arriving from your international flight, a driver will bring you to our hotel in the centre of Ulan Bator.  During the day will be visiting the black market and Gandantegchinlen Monastery. In the evening we will enjoy a traditional meal at a local restaurant.
Day 2

14.02

Catch the early morning flight to Ulgii arriving at 9.30am, This is the largest town in western Mongolia. After a quick breakfast we will drive to our first camp set up alongside Shokhan’s winter place.
Day 3

15.02

Packing down the winter camp:  A day spent with our Kazakh hosts who will be packing up all their possessions ready to leave the next day.
Day 4

16.02

Leave on the migration at first light.  
Day 5

17.02

Migration day 2
Day 6

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Migration day 3
Day 7

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Migration day 4
Day 8

20.02

Final day of the migration. Arrive at Spring camp late afternoon.
Day 9

21.02

Rest Day.  A leisurely day spent at Shokhan’s Spring camp.. a beautiful and very isolated spot in the snow covered mountains of Tavan Bogd national park.
Day 10

22.02

Eagle hunting:  A day spent shadowing Shokhan and friends as they hunt foxes and wolves with his majestic golden eagle.
Day 11

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Portraiture day:  A natural light masterclass followed by portrait sessions with our local friends.
Day 12

24.02

Drive to Ulgii (full day driving).  We make the long overland journey back to the capital in our expedition vehicles.  In the evening we will stay at a local hotel.
Day 13

25.02

Ice archery:  Today we will spend the day photographing an ice archery contest on one of the area’s frozen lakes.  
Day 14

26.02

7am internal flight back to Ulan Bator. In the evening we will have a final supper at my favorite restaurant in UB… then get a well deserved night’s sleep back at the UB Hotel, famous for being the first 5 star hotel in Mongolia.
Day 15

27.02

Tearful goodbyes as our driver drops you off at the airport to connect with your international flight.  Have a safe trip!

A note about this itinerary:  There are many factors that can cause this itinerary to change.  For this reason we have allowed a few days either side of the migration to mitigate such an occurrence.

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Ice archery

Ice archery

Amazing Western Mongolia

Eagle hunting in the frozen wilderness: One of the highlights of the trip

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A maximum of 8 places are available on this trip. A brief Skype/phone interview with applicants is required prior to booking.

Price  This expedition is SOLD OUT. If you would like to join us on any of next year’s trips in 2019, please fill out the form below and we will add you to our mailing list. We release details of all our projects, expeditions & workshops via this list before announcing them publicly. We will never reveal your data to anyone else and you can unsubscribe from the list at any time. Many thanks.