Red Bull X-Alps

Unfinished business in the Mongolian mountains

Two-time Red Bull X-Alps athlete Steve Nash is heading to Mongolia this August to hike and fly across a mountain range that bested him 10 years ago.

© Steve Nash
 IMG 4858
 IMG 9073
 IMG 4848-2
 IMG 5151

The last time Englishman Steve Nash visited Mongolia he found himself eating marmot stew. Not by choice, mind, but by necessity.

He and adventure buddy Gareth Aston were attempting a hike and fly traverse of the Khangai mountain range in central Mongolia. They were short on food, and desperately hungry so they approached a ger (yurt) and asked for a meal.

“The real show stopper was when we asked what it was,” Nash says. “It was in a big bowl and he rooted into the stew and picked out a marmot skull.

“You become less fussy on these kinds of adventures.”

Scroll through the above photo gallery of their first trip to Mongolia!

People they met along the way also challenged them to horse riding, archery and wrestling competitions – the three traditional “manly sports” of Mongolia.

“We both ended up wrestling, but they’re stocky and strong and were just playing with us,” Nash says.

Despite the good times, poor flying conditions and very strong winds thwarted Nash and Aston’s attempt to cross the range. At the time, few people, if any, had flown there before.

“We were carrying far too much kit and the weather was really difficult to work out,” Nash says. “This area has the biggest spread of temperatures in the world. We were treated to the full experience of weather extremes.

“We got about halfway and with high winds we knew we wouldn’t make it. We managed to extract ourselves using a local livestock taxi. We were in the back of a truck with a whole lot of sheep. When things go wrong like that, and just by surviving, you come back and it’s like, ‘wow, that really happened’.”

Starting on August 19, the two are going back there to try again. This time they have more experience, lighter hike and fly gear and, hopefully (by starting the journey one month earlier than they did last time), better weather conditions.

The adventure starts in the city of Uliastai and ends 350km later in Tsetserleg. They’ll be hiking and flying across 3500m peaks, and camping up high as they go.

“There are no cities or towns on the route as this is the part of the country that even the nomads generally choose to avoid,” Nash says. “There’s just kilometre after kilometre of high mountain steppe.

“It’s an unbelievable place to do these kind of adventures because it’s one of the last places on Earth with no rules. There’s no permits, no fences. Coming from a regulated place like the UK, it’s not so easy to take off and run through people’s land. In this place it is. It’s because there are still so many nomadic people there and they share a similar mindset. No one is that surprised when you do something like that there.”

Follow Steve and Gareth’s adventure on their team Facebook page