I try to go on an adventure every year and the more exotic and remote the location, the better. I didn’t stumble upon these adventures on my own. I have help. From crazy friends. You know the ones, they usually were the ones that were a bad influence on you in college.
Anyway, my friend Erik had talked me into a taking a trip back to Mongolia to visit the reindeer herders. So in the heart of Mongolian summer I took a break from Adventures In Seattle and we traveled to the taiga to visit the Tsaatan Tribe in North Central Mongolia.
The trip took us on a flight from Ulaanbaatar to Moron. Then two days traveling across the steppe in a rusty, diesel van before we mounted up on horses and rode two days into the remote tribe.
It was magical. After we crested the mountain pass on our horses we descended into a lush, green valley dotted with wildflowers. Reindeer were everywhere! A handful of teepees dotted the valley, marking the homes of the 30 some families that remain. We spent a week learning to milk reindeer, care for them and ride them. Our afternoons were spent lazying in the summer sun by the small creek that gurgled and flowed through the valley.
The reindeer were shedding their coats and we couldn’t help but pluck the soft tufts of loose fur from their backs. We were promptly chastised by the locals who informed us that such an act would bring about rain or worse. We scoffed at their superstition.
And then we woke up the next day - to snow. Not just any snow, but a full on blizzard. We huddled in our teepee as the horsemen prepared our mounts and then we headed up over the mountain pass and the worse of the snow. It was freezing. The horses had icicles hanging from their whiskers. The wind made it bone numbing cold. I was prepared with my layers but after 8 hours of being exposed, it still was barely enough.
After crossing a flooded river and nearly losing two of the horses, we were all wet and desperate. But one of us was even worse off. Our Mongolian translator was more of a city boy from Ulaanbaatar and had made the trip in a simple track suit. He had packed more hair cream than clothes. He was near hypothermia.
After a couple more hours we came upon an abandoned cabin. We immediately set up our tents INSIDE and started a fire. Our translator was not well and my comrades had little to offer.
However, after running Adventures In Seattle, I’ve trained to be prepared for anything - even in Mongolia (or more so because you are in Mongolia) and I had my emergency foil blanket as part of my gear. We stripped him down, tucked him in the blanket and stuffed him in a sleeping bag. We then lit a fire and dried our clothes.
It took a little while, but soon he warmed back up and returned to the land of the living! We all survived the summer blizzard and after crossing another flooded river the following day, we were able to return to the herders’ camp safely and then begin our journey back to civilization.
I share this story because it highlights the importance of the ten essentials. The ten essentials in the past referred to ten specific items for outdoor survival but it’s evolved now into more of a system of ten essentials. We always carry the following when we head out into the wilderness whether we are hiking near Seattle or in the vast steppe of Mongolia:
1. Navigation – compass, detailed map of area, and GPS
3. Nutrition - Adventures In Seattle provides lunch and high energy snacks
4. Rain Gear and Insulation – Adventures In Seattle provides additional warm clothing in case of emergency
6. First Aid Kit
7. Tools – Adventures In Seattle always carries knife
8. Illumination – We provide headlamp and spare batteries to all guests
9. Sun Protection – We carry sunscreen, min 30 SPF and requires all guests to bring sunglasses
10. Shelter – We carry emergency space blanket