From Leadhills to the Gobi desert for latest challenge

Newall Hunter in training.
Newall Hunter in training.

An adventurer from Leadhills is attempting to become the first person to make a solo crossing of the Gobi Desert on foot, unsupported and in winter.

Almost three years ago, Newall Hunter, now living in Gloucestershire, became the first Scot to ski solo to the South Pole and also the first Briton to undertake that particular route.

Since then he has become only the second Briton and the 16th person in the world to achieve the coveted full Adventurers’ Grand Slam by having climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents and reached both the north and south poles – and all of it was self-funded.

The world’s fifth largest desert, Gobi meaning waterless place, is a vast, arid region in southern Mongolia and northern China.

A few crossings have been made in summer, but none in winter, when temperatures regularly dip to -40C, with bitter winds adding to the chill.

On Sunday, November 5, Newall leaves the UK for a trek of almost 1,000 miles on foot.

He expects to walk for anything between 70 and 90 days, a period which will include his 54th birthday, Christmas and Hogmanay.

And he makes no bones as to how difficult it will be.

“This trip is proving to be much trickier than my earlier one to the South Pole,” he said.

“That was much easier to plan. Water, or rather the lack of it, is going to be the most critical factor. If I can find it, then it will probably be frozen.

“That is why I have been working with a lecturer at the Ulaanbaatar University in Mongolia and local Bedouins to research the best route for me and negotiate access to water, which is often owned by tribes.”

Newall spent most of September on a cycle reconnaissance trip across the desert to identify the best route and to locate sources of water.

“If it hadn’t been possible on a bike, then I certainly wouldn’t be able to walk it pulling a cart with my supplies on it. All things considered, I have now decided that it can be done,” he said.

He hopes to publish daily blogs and photos online at www.newallhunter.com