Driving the Lake Khövsgöl ice road

Lake Khövsgöl is a high mountain lake at an elevation of 1.645m (5,396ft) above the sea level, located in the Khövsgöl Province of northwest of Mongolia.

Lake Khövsgöl ice road

Part of the Khovsgol Nuur (Khuvsgul lake) National, the lake, also known as Lake Hubsugul, Khövsgöl Nuur and Khövsgöl dalai, is located near Russian border, at the foot of the permanently snow-capped Sayan mountains. From October the surface of the lakes starts to freeze, creating then 1.3-1.6 m ice thickness, and offering passengers a shortcut and respite from an otherwise uncomfortable journey across unpaved mountain tracks. The lake freezes in winter with 120cm of ice allowing huge trucks carrying fuel to cross from Siberia. This practice was officially prohibited in the 1980s (but still continues regardless) when it was realized that leaking oil from the trucks was polluting the lake. Around 40 trucks have fallen through the ice over the years. It spends more time as a roadway than a waterway. The best time to visit the area is spring, when it rains less but it will still be very cold (there will be plenty of snow on the ground). The summer is a little more crowded but it can still be cold, and it often rains. Winter is amazingly cold.

The lake is 136km long and 262m deep. Its high elevation means that ice remains on Khovsgol well into June, and even at the beginning of July there can be brief snow falls at Hatgal. On an otherwise smooth ride, ice drivers keep a wary eye out for pressure ridges, a break formed by expansion and contraction of surface ice. Straying too close can prove fatal. It is the deepest lake (up to 262m) in Central Asia.

This lake and its surrounding areas are simply stunning. It’s nicknamed "Younger sister of the Sister Lakes (Lake Khövsgöl and Lake Baikal)". Every winter, dozens of small vehicles ply the ice across the lake. Traversing a frozen lake in temperatures dipping to 30 below poses a serious set of risks, however. Every winter some vehicles fall through the ice. The lake claims many lives. You need to know where to drive. Most years a truck or jeep will plunge to the bottom because someone drove on ice that was too thin. A short gravel road on the western shore of the lake climbs up to the top of Kadan Khyasaa, a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.417m (7,929ft) above the sea level.
Pic: Mongolian Bike