Wylie vs. The Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 8: Horsing Around

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

What it feels like to finish! MP RHW GC BW JW complete on Day 8. Leslie is on track to complete tomorrow! Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

The first finishers completed the 2017 Mongol Derby yesterday (in record-setting time!) and more followed suit today with much celebration. Our Leslie Wylie’s “traveling group” is projected to finish tomorrow, one day early, with just three legs left in the 1,000 kilometer journey.

As the sun sets on Day 8 on the steppe, let’s just remember that not only have this lot been riding hard for a full week and then some, they’ve also been dealing with harsh weather conditions, staying in gers hosted by nomadic herdsmen and eating food provided by their gracious hosts. We can only imagine on Day 8 how inviting this lovely lake at the finish line must be:

Read on for the day’s full report.

Day 8 Recap

As Ed Fernon, Barry Armitage and Jakkie Mellet — the top three finishers from yesterday — lounged around victory camp, perhaps sleeping off the celebratory vodka they had knocked back the night prior, the race continued across the steppe for the rest of the field.

Warren Sutton and Will Comiskey (aka “Dingo”) had only the last leg to finish after their overnight at Urtuu 27, and they rolled across the finish line together in what seems to be becoming a new Mongol Derby tradition, taking the tied finish for fourth place around 11:10 a.m. local time, 11:10 p.m. EST last night. This was Will’s second Mongol Derby completion, and he “blessed” his final mount with a bit of mare’s milk:

Warren Sutton reportedly forgot to turn on his tracking device, so the tracking map still shows him as being at Urtuu 27. We are assured that he did, in fact, complete the Mongol Derby.

Later in the afternoon, the joint sixth-place finishers crossed into victory camp, including the first lady riders to complete in 2017: Brooke Wharton, Rebecca Hewitt, Marie Palzer, Jodie Ward and Greg Chant.

The final riders of the day to finish were Roberta McLeod at 5:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST today) for 11th place and Jen Cook at 8:18 p.m. local time (8:18 a.m. EST) for 12th. Rebecca Pumphrey turned up at the finish at 9:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EST) after getting lost in the dark for the last three kilometers.

Rebecca earned herself a three-hour technical penalty that could possibly bump her to lower than 13th depending on when the first riders finish tomorrow. Regardless of final placing, we’re sure she’s happy to be across the finish line. Congratulations to all the day’s finishers!

While the dangers of the Mongol Derby certainly aren’t diminished just by proximity to the finish line — riders can still contend with hazards like marmot holes, unpredictable and semi-wild mounts, spooky things like cars popping right up out of nowhere and the various injuries and illnesses that everyone has been battling from Day 1 — we’re perceiving from our desks on the other side of the world that the focus now is not just on surviving each day on the steppe but on finishing.

Spirits are high among the back pack: high enough that a few riders got into some fun shenanigans along the trail.

BW, or Brooke Wharton, already finished earlier in the day, so this last tweet is a typo that should be LW. If there’s one person we trust to take things to the next level, it’s Leslie. So look out, Lucy and Jimbo. You’ve got LW on your tail now.

Leslie and the rest of her new trail friends have safely made it to Urtuu 25 for the night, giving them three legs to ride tomorrow and on track to finish on Day 9, one day ahead of the Day 10 deadline. We’re sending them all our best thoughts for a safe final day of riding.

Injury and Accident Assessment

In an impressive display of grit and tenacity, some of the Bloodwagon riders — those who retired earlier in the Derby due to injury or illness — are reportedly “itching to ride again.” Medical staff have been dispatched to assess Jane Boxhall, Rick Helson and Liv Wood to see if they can be cleared to ride again, at least giving them the opportunity to ride across the finish line.

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

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