The world’s first lonely crossing of the largest Asian desert – Gobi. No outside support (no food discharges and no car assistance).
Gobi is not the largest desert in the world (the Sahara is bigger), nor the driest (Atacama), nor is it desert with the most diverse life (Namib). So what’s so special about it?
Gobi is the northernmost desert on Earth, and one of the least populated environment outside the poles. Conditions are extremely difficult there. Huge amplitudes of daily temperatures (even up to 70 degrees Celsius), sandstorms and almost no shadow – these are just some of the obstacles to face. Gobi is located on the border of China and Mongolia, it covers 1.3 million square kilometers, an area more than four times as large as Poland. Mongolian word Gobi means “anhydrous place” – during the year the rainfall does not exceed 200 mm, and there are places on the Gobi where rain drops four times less.
The expedition will start in Bulgan (Khovd Province) in western Mongolia, near the border with China. The route will lead through the mountains of the Altai Gobi in the provinces of Khovd, Govi-Altai and Bayankhongor. During this part of the trip, Mateusz Waligóra will have to overcome passes exceeding 2000 metres above sea level. Then, in the provinces of Ömnögovi and Dornogovi, the road passes through the proper Gobi desert. The expedition will end in the village of Sainshand in eastern Mongolia, from where the Trans-Mongolian Railway reach the capital of the country – Ulaanbaatar. Walking distance according to plan will be approximately1800 kilometers.
HISTORY OF WALKING THROUGH GOBI DESERT
Gobi is a desert inhabited temporarily by nomads. People have been pacing it for centuries. Among the attempts to cross the desert the Sarah Marquis expedition deserves attention. She tried to cross the desert twice during her march from Siberia to Australia (2010). She used previously prepared discharges of food and equipment.
Reinhold Messner, one of the greatest explorers of all time, the first conqueror of all 14 eight-thousanders also tried to pass this desert in 2004. Messner assumed that he would use the help lifts by nomads. He also benefited from their hospitality. As he concluded in his book Gobi: “The desert is so enormous that the walker could not make it.”
In 2010, the traveler Ripley Davenport stopped his attempt after several kilometers of the march, because in the cart which he pulled, the bearings broke down. Davenport returned to Gobi a year later in a large international team (13 people). With the help of camels and car assistance they passed Gobi on the Bulgan – Sainshand route. In the same year, the British Leon McCarron and Rob Lilwall moved through Gobi during the Walking home from Mongolia expedition. Helen and Bill Thayer also used the camels during their trips in 2001, who also placed deposits with water and food on the planned route, as well as British Richard Johnson and Patrick Hutton, who were accompanied by a Mongolian guide (2011). In 2014, the Welshman Ash Dykes moved around the northern boundaries of the desert. It’s worth mentioning the Australian-British team: Elisa Hoefsmith-Richmond, Luke Richmond and Mathew Bennett, who in 2017 finished the route from Bulgan to Sainshand in very good style. The travelers were accompanied by two cars securing the expedition. In November 2017, an experienced Scottish traveler (summited all of the peaks of the Crown of the Earth and walked to both poles), Newall Hunter tried to make the first in the world traverse of the Gobi desert. He stopped after 5 days of walking.
The history of Gobi desert passages also has a Polish accent. In 2000 Michał Thlon and Piotr Różalski crossed over 1,000 kilometers of desert, interrupting the expedition due to the sun stroke of Piotr.
It is not without reason that no one managed to pass the Gobi alone and without car assistance or prior preparation of deposits. People who try this have to face loneliness, extreme temperature changes, hurricane winds and sandstorms. As in other deserts, the success of an expedition is determined by the amount of water, and its occurrence changes every year. Another threat is too high water level in periodic rivers.
The key is effective navigation. There are thousands of paths on the Gobi, but the trick is to find the right one, leading to the goal. In the case of pedestrian crossing, the margin of error is small or – in brutal writing – there is no margin.
EXPEDITION IN NUMBERS
Date: July / August / September / October 2018 (departure from Poland 29.07)
Duration: approx. 80 days
Distance to walk: approximately 1800 km (more than normal route to South Pole)
Style: without external support (all equipment will be transported on a specially prepared cart)
The lowest expected temperature: -30 degrees Celsius
The highest expected temperature: +45 degrees Celsius
Food weight: about 60 kilograms
Amount of transported water: maximum 120 liters
The expedition planned for 2018, which assumes a lonely crossing of the largest Asian desert, will be a challenge on a global scale. As a person who reached both poles of the Earth in one year and walked the Australian desert of Gibson, I am well aware of the seriousness of this trip. If it succeeds, Mateusz Waligóra will do a great achievement, which will not be equal in the exploration of deserts by Poles