THIS Brit adventurer has become the first to ever ICE SKATE across one of the world’s most barren and inhospitable landscapes.
And if that looks like your idea of fun, you’re in luck – because the escapade is being turned into an official event which will make its debut next year.
Jim Mee completed the 100 mile crossing of Khövsgöl Nuur – a lake in northern Mongolia dubbed the ‘Blue Pearl’ and which freezes solid in winter – last week.
Braving bone-shattering temperatures that dipped down to minus – 47ºc – and local wildlife including wolves and bears – he’s now the first person to ever to skate the lake’s entire length.
Mee is also the founder of Rat Race Adventure Sports, a firm who hold endurance events across the UK and beyond, from ultra marathons to multi-sport epics.
And having proved Khövsgöl Nuur can be crossed via human power, Rat Race have now added the ‘Mongol 100’ to their roster with entry to open next week (Monday).
The first event will run March 2019 and will see participants traversing the ice ‘by any means’ – either running, walking, skating or biking.
Mee, an experienced mountaineer and wilderness explorer, explains: “Khövsgöl Nuur is an extremely challenging environment.
“But it’s also the perfect place to hold an adventure race and we can’t wait to start taking our intrepid band of Rat Racers there, too.”
Describing the obstacles potential participants will need to overcome, Jim says: “Firstly, it’s consistently cold. The temperature dropped as low as -47ºc and it can be colder than both the North or South Pole at times.
“And skating across the lake also posed unique difficulties.
“I was nervous it couldn’t be done. I wasn’t sure if the surface of the lake would be smooth enough to accommodate skating.
“But this method actually proved to be something of a revelation.
“I skated from dawn ’til dusk, nine hours a day, for three days. It’s a very similar motion to cross-country skiing, where you hit a rhythm and just keep going.
“It was rough on the ankles and the longer we journeyed the harder it got.
“But while it was tough, the rewards were immense.
“There’s no precipitation in this region so the skies are always clear, meaning the sunrises and sunsets were incredible spectacles.
“And just spending so long in such a bizarre, otherworldly landscape was surreal.
“You look down between your feet and, because the water is so pure, you can see for many metres into the water below the ice.
“It’s disconcerting, but ultimately beautiful.”
Mee’s initial group of seven racers comprised a mixture of ultra marathon runners, who trekked on foot, and those who attempted to complete the journey via ‘fat bikes’ – cycles equipped with oversized tyres which, in this case, were also studded to cope with the snow and ice.
There was, however, also an armed support team on hand to deal with the local fauna – including a wolf population known for attacking and killing livestock and horses.
While the ice is a metre thick and capable of bearing the weight of trucks, fault-lines in the wasteland mean there was always a small chance of the world beneath their feet cracking and breaking.
Luckily for Mee and his group, the region’s brown bears hibernate through winter…
At night the team moved from the ice to set up camp on the lake’s shores, sleeping in large tents known as ‘Gers’.
And Mee, whose Rat Race firm will also launch a series of other ‘Bucket List’ events in Namibia, Panama, and the Florida Keys this year, says: “The Gers offered a warm sanctuary after a tough day on the ice.
“We had log burning stoves and we’d eat wild boar and reindeer freshly killed and sourced from the forest. It was bliss.
“And while we didn’t see any of the apex predators, you could certainly hear them.
“We’d go to sleep every night with the sound of wolves howling from the nearby treeline.”
If you thought Mee was proficient at ice skating before embarking on his escapade, you’d be wrong.
He admits: “I’ll be honest. I don’t think I’d actually been on ice skates since the late Nineties!
“I’d tried to get to an ice skating rink over Christmas but I just ran out of time. I eventually had a few minutes the day we arrived in Mongolia to get myself acquainted with both the skates and environment.
“And luckily my years on skis meant I took to it well.
“The skates I used were also brilliant in that you could take the blades off so you could use the boots as normal – something vital when you’re moving in such cold temperatures and want to protect your feet.”
Thankfully, all of the travelling party returned to the UK unscathed, having been well-enough equipped to avoid any cold injures, such as frostbite or hypothermia – two real threats the group faced.
Now Mee and Rat Race say paying customers will soon be able to book their place on the inaugural Rat Race Mongol 100 – in what could prove to be one of the most unique events in the world’s adventure racing calendar.
Competitors will fly to Ulaanbaatar before taking a specially chartered flight to Khatgal, home to a tiny rural airport that sits on the southern tip of Khövsgöl Lake.
The race itself will then last four days, with overnight stops in Gers.
Cost of entry will be approximately £2,500 per person. And Mee anticipates interest will be high.
Jim adds: “Our new ‘Bucket List’ events, of which the Mongol 100 is one, is our attempt to offer racers the chance to experience an authentic journey in a wilderness environment.
“There are no gimmicks, it’s just pure adventure.”
For more information: http://ratrace.com/bucket-list-waiting-list/