Alaskan For The Mongol Derby 2018

The pursuit of adventure seems a common goal among certain types of humans. Many fellow Alaskans know what I am talking about. We fear comfort, reject stability, and poo-poo the idea that one's life is meant to be predictable. We take seasonal jobs that may not pay off, and play in a wilderness that often seems unequivocally inclined to destroy us. I will blame my restless Alaskan soul on this I have signed on to race the Mongol Derby-worlds toughest horse race-August 2018.  

What is the Mongol Derby and why am I doing it?

It has taken two application rounds and one long interview to be accepted for this race. Each year 40 participants are chosen from across the globe for 1000 kilometers of remote cross country horse travel and ass chafing. You travel on semi-wild Mongolian horses (each rider will use 25 horses throughout the race), navigating your way from one check point to the next. You travel across the open step, through rivers and in the shadow of mountains. It is a unique challenge of survival skills, equestrian abilities, persistance, and navigation. There is no cash prize, and it is guaranteed to be one of the most trying experiences of your life. So why would I want to do it?

The Mongol Derby represents a raw opportunity to confront one's character and challenge limitation. It is an opportunity  to explore a world unlimited by roads, private property, or fencing. A way to learn from the people who live there. It is an epic adventure during which I hope to grow into a slightly better human.  The Derby hopes to bring attention to the beauty of remote places in the world and the lifestyle which exists there. It celebrates Mongolia's rich equine culture and the communication "pony express" which was used throughout history. 

Kelsey age 12 competing on Zzorro

Derby Map 

What will the funds be used for? 

As my friends and family well know, I am a commercial fisherman by trade. This race happens to occur during the summer (fishing season), and it happens to be very expensive to participate. The $12,995 entry fee is used to pay everyone involved. Entry fees pay a huge number of Mongolian families for use of their beloved horses, pay herders to assist at horse stations, pay for expedition medics to be on scene, and for veterinarian participation to ensure welfare of the horses. Then there are travel expenses, insurance, gear, and the fact that I don't exactly work professionally with horses (which means volunteering a LOT of time)...It is a poor financial choice to be sure. I have found some side jobs for the winter but am still concerned about missing the end of my fishing season, and am trying to stay ahead of the game. 

A Humble Side Note... 

This is not an emergency situation. It is not an illness, a catastrophic loss of property, or a desperate situation of any kind. It is however, a vehicle for inspiration. In telling people about my upcoming challenge I have been blown away by the interest and support expressed by friends, family, and strangers alike. I have also come to terms with the significance of the financial burden and the consequence of timing for the race . I am hoping that people will help support the amazing with as much enthusiasm as they support the tragic. I want to energize the passion for discovery, and rekindle the childlike confidence that anything is possible. It is my goal to share this journey via blog and photography, but first I must make it to Mongolia.  

The Charity

In order to give back, each participant is asked to raise around $1,000 for the official charity of the Mongol Derby-Cool Earth-dedicated to protecting our endangered rain forests. In this way, $40,000 (or more!) can be given to Cool Earth at the duration of our Derby! 

Win a Sockeye?

I have created some fun reward levels, and will also be making "win a sockeye!" tickets for everyone who donates $40 or more. At the end I will be selecting 4 winners which will receive two delicious Copper River sockeye salmon each (processed into filets). If you live outside the U.S. you will have to come to AK for your prize or accept canned salmon. 


You could win this tasty salmon!

In Summary...

My participation in this race is far from practical, but I simply cannot walk away from the chance to be involved in something so incredible. All I can think of is to ask my community for help.  Help bring passion and excitment into this world. Help create the adventure of a lifetime. Anything will be appreciated, and I will be forever grateful for your support. 

Kelsey on Robby in southern Oregon

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Kelsey Opstad 
Anchorage, AK
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