Glacial and lacustrine sediments from the Mongolian Altai provide paleoclimatic information for the late Pleistocene in Mongolia, for which only a few sufficiently studied archives exist. Glacial stages referred to global cooling events are reported for the last glacial maximum (27–21 ka) and the late glacial period (18–16 ka). Sedimentary archives from the first part of the last glacial period are infrequent. We present proxy data for this period from two different archives (88–63 and 57–30 ka). Due to the limitation of effective moisture, an increase of precipitation is discussed as one trigger for glacier development in the cold-arid regions of central Asia. Our pollen analysis from periods of high paleolake levels in small catchments indicate that the vegetation was sparse and of dry desert type between 42–29 and 17–11 ka. This apparent contradiction between high lake levels and dry landscape conditions, the latter supported by intensified eolian processes, points to lower temperatures and cooler conditions causing reduced evaporation to be the main trigger for the high lake levels during glacier advances. Rising temperatures that cause melting of glacier and permafrost ice and geomorphological processes play a role in paleolake conditions. Interpreting lake-level changes as regional or global paleoclimate signals requires detailed investigation of geomorphological settings and mountain–basin relationships.