Adventurer aiming to tap into nomads’ knowledge in ‘daft’ mission to cross Gobi Desert in winter

A veteran of polar expeditions says that at least the Antarctic had snow everywhere, but he could be battling to find water on his next adventure

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 10:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 10:02am

Newall Hunter climbed Everest, helped lead an expedition to the North Pole and became the first Scotsman to walk solo and unsupported to the South Pole. But crossing the Gobi Desert in the dead of winter did not even seem possible until he consulted the nomads.

“If there’s more than three days between water sources, it’s undoable,” Hunter said. “The nomads have said it’s doable ... but they haven’t tried it themselves because it’s a bit daft really.”

Hunter will be crossing from Bugat in the west to Sainshand in the east– some 1,600 kilometres – on his own with no support.

He will be dragging over 100kg in a cart on wheels through temperatures ranging from -25 degrees Celsius to -40 degrees, with only the sand for company.

Hunter estimates the journey will take between 70 and 90 days.

Only a handful of people have crossed the Gobi Desert even in summer, and most used camels.

Ex-Hong Kong rugby player Adam Rolston embarks on 14,000-shot golf odyssey for charity, adventure and a world record

Because he is on his own, Hunter said running out of water was not an option. He will be in contact with a support crew in Ulan Bator, but they could be three or four days away by jeep.

With the help of a friend in the Mongolian capital, Hunter was able to make contact with nomads to obtain advice.

Now, he is heading out on reconnaissance to cycle his intended route to source water and talk to locals about where they will be settling for the winter.

“There will be some frozen water sources, like rivers and maybe snow,” he said. “There are also deep wells that I’ll be looking for on my cycle trip.”

The locals freeze water in mud baths for emergency supplies if they find themselves far from home and that could prove life-saving for Hunter.

Furthermore, as he cycles, Hunter will ask where they plan to spend the cold season so he has the option of aborting to the nearest settlement.

How Hong Kong runner in Ultra Gobi race, Samantha Chan, is preparing for gruelling non-stop 400km desert challenge

“It’s going to be different to the South Pole trip,” Hunter said. “I was dragging a sledge on skis, which went across the snow quite easily.

“The cart is on wheels so I’ll be searching for hard ground. Also, I was surrounded by snow, which I could melt if I needed water.”

Hunter works in IT between his adventures, but trains by dragging tyres to replicate his sledge or cart.