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ExWeb Interview with Eric McNair-Landry, "an expedition in which more decisions had to be made on the trail than during the planning

Posted: Jul 20, 2009 01:35 pm EDT

Brother and sister Sarah and Eric McNair Landry of polar fame recently did a kiting expedition across the Gobi Desert for a change; swapping sleds for custom buggies.

Eric spoke to ExWebs Correne Coetzer about why the Gobi, their preparations, gear, permits, lessons he has learned and future plans.

ExplorersWeb: How did you get the idea kiting the Gobi Desert and not another cold place?

Eric: Simply put we were looking to be challenged in new ways. We have lived most of our lives in the Canadas Arctic, and so cold travel comes naturally to us.

A desert trip, especially in a quadrant of the world where few have heard of, looked like it would be challenging enough. While a few buggy trips had been done in the past, to the best of our knowledge, no one had done a trip hulling their equipment and supplies.

ExplorersWeb: Why this time of the year in the Gobi? How would the weather otherwise be?

Eric: There seems to be two seasons too venture into the Gobi, spring and fall. Generally we were told that spring had stronger winds, at the cost of the occasional sand storm. The temperatures from May 9th to June 17th were tolerable, generally between 0 and +35°C. Realistically however this spring fit better with our schedules.

ExplorersWeb: What preparations were involved?

Eric: We obviously did a lot of research on this area, and contacted the people who had attempted similar crossings of the Gobi. There was a lot of logistics involved with getting to the Gobi and some research was involved in finding our start and end point.

Securing our equipment and organizing its transport to and from Mongolia was a challenge. Unfortunately we were unable to chose the exact route we would travel between our start and end points until we arrived in Mongolia, simply because we were unable to buy detailed topographic maps back in Canada.

ExplorersWeb: Did you have to get special permissions or permits for the area?

Eric: Because or expedition exceeded 30 days we required an extension on our visa. This was somewhat of a confusing affair, dealing with bureaucracy in a different language, but it was neither time consuming nor difficult. We avoided the national parks, and other restricted areas.

ExplorersWeb: What clothes did you take?

Eric: The Gobi like most deserts is capable of a large range of temperatures, which meant we had to match with a large range of clothing.

All our outer clothing was supplied by Klattermusen, namely their Einride cotton jacket, their Hild insulated jacket and their Gleipner pants. We had normal hiking shoes and camp sandals for footwear, and generally wool undergarments along with light cotton t-shirts and shorts for the hot days.

ExplorersWeb: What did your water bags look like? How much water did one take?

Eric: Our complete water system (per person) included: two 10 L MSR water bladders, a 6L MSR water bladder, a 2L camel pack, and a Sigg bottle. We chose to take many small containers over one large one in case a bag became punctured.

The large water bladders contained dirty water, which we would filter into our camel packs and Sigg bottles on a daily basis. We would usually leave towns with 18 L of water per person, and if necessary fill up along the way.

ExplorersWeb: What lessons have you learned?

Eric: I have learnt how to complete an expedition in which more decisions had to be made on the trail than during the planning, and how important a find a way or make one mentality is. Simply put we did a lot of flying by the seat of our pants. I also learnt how to chug vodka.

ExplorersWeb: What did you like least and what best?

Eric: Lets start with what I like best, it always better to look at the positive first. For one I enjoyed the Mongolian hospitality and its nomadic culture.

The two things that I liked least were the food and the winds. Firstly I am a vegetarian, and Mongolia lives off a diet of meat, in the Gobi no stores stocked more than two vegetables, and the nomads never seemed to cook with them.

The winds here have been somewhat turbulent and rarely cooperative, there are often gust fronts and dust devils, which can make the kiting rather dangerous.

ExplorersWeb: Future plans?

Eric: There are always future plans. Sarah and I would like to refine this method of buggy travel, which means we will most likely cross another desert. We have talked about doing a river trip in Mongolia/Russia, and in general a long trip in Russia is some where on the horizon. And as always the Arctic is still always on our minds, eventually we would like to do a longer trip (+4000 km) on Greenland.

Head back north hopefully in time for the end of Iqaluits [on Baffin Island] summer festival. Spend some quality time renovating our cabin/home, and head out on a short river trip with some friends. After that who knows!

Eric McNair Landry was born in 1984, I can only remember because someone wrote a book about that year, or something like that, said Eric. He works as a contract guide and he lives on the trail, in a cabin that needs some work and with friends and family. Erics hobbies are tinkering, graphics and web graphics. The latest books that he has read are The Omnivores Dilemma, Assault on Reason, In Defense of Food, Garbage Land, The Kite Runner, Pillars of the Earth.

During the Spring of 2009 sister and brother, Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry and their friend Curtis Jones, all from Canada, attempted a kiting expedition across the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. They started their adventure on 16 May, but Curtis had to leave the expedition 10 days later due to family reasons.Sarah and Eric carried on. The team used three-wheeled buggies powered by their kites or pulled by themselves in no winds. The expedition ended on 17 June.

Previously, in 2007, Sarah, Eric and Curtis kited together along a vertical route on Greenland and pulled sleds.

Sarah and Eric undertook several polar expeditions with their father and mother, the polar guides, Paul Landry and Matty McNair, on Antarctica and in the Arctic. In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Sarah guided an ALE team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and kited back to Patriot Hills.

#Polar #Trek #interview

Sarah and Eric on their buggies ready to go (click to enlarge)
Riding the winds (click to enlarge)
Eric waiting for the winds (click to enlarge)
Mongolian camel transport vs Canadian kite transport (click to enlarge)
A remote Mongolian family. All images courtesy of Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry (click to enlarge)