It’s six in the morning and still pitch dark here in Ulaanbaatar as we stumble around doing a final count on bags and gear, packing stray items into bags to be left in storage here, testing the weight of our backpacks one last time. The van that will take us north to Murun will arrive in an hour. Due to the need to register our border permit, we are not yet sure whether we will set out from Ulaan Uul, in the Darhad itself, or from Hatgal, which is across the mountains on the edge of the Lake Hovsgol.
I will attempt to post our locations and send messages to my project’s facebook page and also to the tracking page attached to my Spot device, although both of these depend on finding a way to get in touch with the company, which has apparently locked my account because I tried to access it from Mongolia (this is the second time this has happened. For a global rescue service, this is a major flaw) so no one panic if messages and locations don’t show up. We should also be updating via satellite phone at the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation page, rotating among the five of us over the course of the expedition. Through ASC, if you’re an educator, you can also find a curriculum that will help students follow the expedition and learn about wildlife in Mongolia. We’ll be back in Ulaanbaatar around May 1st, and I look forward to telling the story then.
I am nervous, but also really excited, and very grateful for the contributions of everyone who helped make this happen: to National Geographic for funding this expedition, to Gregg Treinish and Forrest McCarthy for the hard work of organizing, route-finding, and figuring out what it takes to get five people on skis across 400 miles of mountains; to the numerous sponsors who have donated gear and food; to Jim Harris, our photographer, for being willing to come with us on short notice, carrying additional weight in camera equipment; to my many Mongolian friends, who have taught me the language and helped me to understand what wildlife means to people here; to everyone who reads this blog and has been supportive of my work in the US and in Mongolia over the past six years, particularly the Mongolia-Bozeman community, and the wolverine research community (because without the background they provided and the support for my previous trips around Mongolia, we wouldn’t even know where to survey intensively for wolverines in Mongolia, let alone have a context in which to make what we find meaningful); and especially to Jason Wilmot, who first told me back in 2006 that there was an unstudied wolverine population in a country that I knew and loved, and thereby sparked a seven-year effort (and counting….) to bring knowledge of that population to light – and who has come back here for a second trip despite the manifold quirks and discomforts of the first.
See you all in May, hopefully with some great wolverine stories, or, failing that, at least some great ski stories.