While some people might consider adding an extra chocolate bar or a pack of chewing gums to their shopping basket at the checkout an impulse buy, my impulse buys are somewhat... different. I tend to buy the most random things, whether it's a chunky seal plush or an eye massager. But my most recent impulse buy blows these all out of the water: I signed up to complete the Mongol 100, a race across the frozen surface of Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia. Was this a smart or a terribly stupid idea? There is only one way to find out...
I blame the current heatwave for this decision. Running on a frozen lake for days sounds extremely tempting (and also terrifying) when the temperatures outside are above 33°C/91°F. All it took to click on that 'buy now' button on the Mongol 100 website (opens in new tab) to see those beautiful images of people crossing the lake under the cool skies, wearing their thick coats and hats. While I'm sitting here practically in my underpants with the fan on, writing this article.
Why the Mongol 100?
The description of the Mongol 100 sounds equally as promising: 'In winter, the ice freezes across its entire near-100-mile length to a depth of over a metre thick, creating the ultimate adventure challenge course. This is the Mongol 100 – the most surreal, audacious and hauntingly beautiful adventure challenge known to Man." Scary? Sure. Exciting? Absolutely!
Better still, there are a number of ways you can traverse the entirety of the lake from north to south: on foot, by skating or on a bike. It's supposed to be hard to do the Mongol 100; apparently, it is cold. Very very cold: as the website explains, "Experience a true wilderness, ancient boreal forests, traditional ger camps and temperatures of down to -40°C/-104°F." Eek!
I'm not concerned about not completing the race, though. The Mongol 100 is fully supported, including 4x4s, sweeper crews, professional medics, a full race safety comms network, a safety evacuation and event extraction system, and professional campsite crews along the track. It's basically a beefed-up Spartan race for people who don't mind the cold.
The route is also full way-marked, checked for ice depth and constantly monitored and patrolled by the organiser's local guides. Plus, there are three pit stops per day whilst on the route – featuring energy foods and hot and cold drinks! Finally, there is an after-event party with beers, vodka and access to the Khovsgol International Ice Festival!
Race to the end
Rat Race – the organiser – has other events in its lineup, including two more adventures I was eyeballing: the Panama Coast to Coast (opens in new tab), which is a 124miles/200km one-way journey across the Americas from coast to coast, where you travel 100 miles/160km on foot followed by 25 miles/40km in pack-rafts, over seven days.
The other option – which was in the running, but I couldn't bring myself to sign up for it in this weather – is the Race to the Wreck (opens in new tab), a 188 miles/303km one-way journey across the Namib Desert to the Skeleton Coast. You complete 125 miles/200km on fat bikes, followed by 64 miles/103km on foot over 4.5 days.
Even considering all the other options, I'm happy with my decision to complete the icy Mongol 100. I'll make sure I pack some warm clothes, of course, and do plenty of running to build up my endurance. I'm usually okay with cold, and I'm sure running for hours will also keep me toasty. My biggest concern is how I will be able to shower, but it's a small price to pay for an adventure of a lifetime. Hopefully, anyway.
Check out the Mongol 100 and other adventure options on the Rat Race website (opens in new tab).