Mount Zuchi, Mongolia (3952m)

Holly climbing on Mount Zuchi. Photo credit: Tina Papadopoulou

A six-strong expedition team from Secret Compass has just made a successful first ascent of a previously unnamed 3,952m mountain in western Mongolia’s Altai mountains.

The remote peak in Siilkhem National Park was reached on 13 June 2016. A request to name the peak ‘Zuchi’ has been lodged with Mongolia’s Ministry of Health and Sports by Secret Compass and in-country partners Mongolian Expeditions.

Expedition teammate Tina Papadopoulou said, “The rationale for the name originated from our Mongolian guide, Altra. Zuchi was the name of Ghengis Khan’s first born son and the word means ‘guest’, a fitting name for an impressive mountain in a very welcoming land.”

Kerry O’Neill, communications director with Secret Compass, said, “We specialise in exploratory expeditions and world firsts in remote and wild places.

Incredible, untouched wilderness as we hike to high camp. Photo credit: Secret Compass

“This mountaineering first ascent was challenging for the team. Hindered by the evacuation of a teammate with a leg injury, which forced a return to the valley floor from an advanced base camp, the team showed true grit in retracing their route to ultimately achieve their goal.

“Led by former British Army captain Dave Luke, our international group – with teammates from New Zealand, Britain, the US, Greece and Mongolia – achieved something extraordinary in one of Central Asia’s most remote and inaccessible mountain regions.”

Luke said, “This adventure was a world-first achievement, with our determined team carrying out genuine exploration in a very remote and little-visited corner of Mongolia.


Climbing on steep terrain to the summit. Photo credit: Secret Compass

The terrain was akin to Scottish Grade 1 or up to Alpine PD grade with the glaciers. Fresh snow accumulation on top of considerable daily melt made conditions more challenging but teammates were strong, committed and gelled well, which helped us all to make this successful first ascent.”

“This expedition requires good fitness and previous trekking experience – not necessarily technical expertise or too much previous mountaineering experience – and is far from a mere winter walk. It is adventurous, with technical equipment and training provided on the ground.”

UK teammate Roy Partington agreed, saying, “Everyone really pulled together and showed true British bulldog spirit when things got tough; my fellow teammates were inspirational. I have been with numerous expedition companies over the years on high altitude trips, and have been impressed with most of them. But it has to be said: Secret Compass has impressed me the most.”


2016 Mongolia expedition highlights

  • Trekking at altitude where Mongolia, China, Russia and Kazakhstan meet
  • Making a successful first attempt on a previously unclimbed 3,952m peak
  • Crossing rivers, traversing valleys and exploring glaciers above 2,900m


Tom Bodkin, director of Secret Compass, said, “This was an expeditionary first and we are thrilled that the team succeeded. We are considering a second Mongolian expedition in 2017 to explore other peaks and glaciers the team noted en route.”

Bryony Balen, project manager with Secret Compass’s operations team, said, “We’ve wanted to send an expedition team into Mongolia for years but had yet to identify an original goal.

“Poring over the Altai on Google Earth we found what we were looking for. This remote unnamed peak was the perfect aim for a pioneering Secret Compass expedition.”

One of the UK teammates was Holly Budge, a UK mountaineer with solid technical experience who, in 2008, because the first woman to skydive Mount Everest.

O’Neill said, “Secret Compass seeks to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places, with unique and often world-first adventurous goals like this Mongolian adventure. For this to appeal to Holly, who already has two world records under her belt, is testament to the unique nature of our challenging – yet accessible – expeditions.”


Where no man has walked before. On the summit! Photo credit: Secret Compass

Teammate Tina Papadopoulou added, “This trip proves that one doesn’t need to be a hardy explorer to seek adventure in far flung corners of the earth. If you are prepared to suspend certainty, immerse in the unknown and forgo a little bit of comfort, it is possible to discover pockets of beauty and warmth in the most unlikely destinations.

“The reward is that tremendous sense of achievement and bonding between people who have supported each other in the pursuit of a challenge – made possible through the meticulous planning of our superbly qualified Secret Compass and in-country guides.”

Director Tom Bodkin said, “The team’s pioneering summit claim is a great result for our first foray into Mongolia; I hope their efforts to name the mountain meet with similar success.”

More photos can be viewed here

— Words: Secret Compass press release 27.06.16 —