Brit braves -47C temperatures to become the first to travel the 85-mile length of a frozen lake in Mongolia, writes Sadie Whitelocks for the Mail Online


A hardy adventurer has become the first to ever ice skate across one of the world's most barren and inhospitable landscapes - despite not having skated for about 20 years.

Jim Mee, 40, from York, said he meant to pack some skating in before Christmas in the run up to his epic challenge last week but he ran out of time.

Instead he blindly tackled an 85-mile crossing of Khovsgol Nuur in north-west Mongolia - the distance climbing to 100 miles when zig-zags to the edge of the lake to camp were taken into account - skating for nine hours a day for three days, in temperatures plunging to minus 47 degrees Celsius.

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Luckily his experience on skis served him well and he completed the frigid traverse unscathed.

Mee is now the first person to ever to skate the lake's entire length. Talking about his accomplishment, the gutsy globetrotter said: 'Skating across the lake posed [lots of] 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 Mee said the pain was all worth it, as the rewards were immense.

He continued: '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.'

If Mee's traverse 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.

Mee is the founder of Rat Race Adventure Sports, a firm that holds 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 has now added the 'Mongol 100' to its roster, with entry possible from next week.

The first event will run in 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.'

Mee's test 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.

Luckily for Mee and his group, the region's brown bears were in hibernation. At night the team moved from the ice to set up camp on the lake's shores, sleeping in large tents known as 'gers'.

Mee said the traditional shelters offered a warm sanctuary after a tough day on the ice and had log-burning stoves in which wild boar and fresh reindeer sourced from the forest were cooked up.

'It was bliss,' he mused.

The team said that while they didn't see any of the apex predators, they could certainly hear them and they went to sleep every night with the sound of wolves howling from the nearby treeline.


Regarding his lack of expertise at skating, Mee said: '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.'

Luckily, Mee's years on skis meant he took to skating well.

The avid adventurer added: 'The skates I used were also brilliant in that you could take the blades off so you could use the boots as normal - 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 in good form, having been well-enough equipped to avoid any cold injures, such as frostbite or hypothermia - two real threats the group faced.

Competitors who book themselves a place on the event next year 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.

He concludes: 'Our new "Bucket List" events, of which the Mongol 100 [that's the name he's settled on for the crossing of Khovsgol Nuur] 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.'