The event course (see Course Map for details) follows a lakeside single track north of Camp Toilogt through woods and over windblown lowlands for the first 12km (7.5 miles). In the next 5 km, the course departs the lake and heads up over 700 meters (2,400 feet) into the mountains to spectacular views and 2,300 meter (7,550 ft) Chichee Pass. From this first pass, the route heads south along a ridge, descends steeply into a river valley, follows along the river bed through sometimes marshy sections, returns up another river valley, and climbs steeply through a mossy forest to Khirvesteg Pass. From the second pass, runner’s descend steeply again to another valley and return to the lakeshore to make their way back to Camp Toilogt and the 42km mark – the finish of the marathon and Aid-station No. 4 for 100 km runners.
For the 100 km course, the route continues along the lake to the south-west, following a mostly flat dirt trail for 15 km, then ascends Jankhai Pass at just under 2,000 meter elevation. From Jankhai Pass, the course is primarily a gentle downhill over trails and unpaved single-track roads, with the final 25 km (15 miles) level along the lakeshore. The accumulated elevation gain/loss (see the Elevation Chart) for the marathon distance is around 2,255 meters (7,400 ft) and for the 100 km it is around 3,365 meters (11,040 ft). Lowest elevation is 1645 meters (5,400 ft) and highest elevation is 2,300 meters (7,550 ft). The cut-off time for the ultra-marathon is 18 hours.
Cut-off times (see Race regulations for details) at key aid stations will be enforced so that the last runner finishes the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset before last light (Sunset!). Cut-off times are arranged to ensure that any runners that miss cut-offs can be shuttled to the finish area by last light. Local volunteers assist in relaying supplies and manning the aid stations. Doctors will be able to reach all sections of the course on horseback.
The central feature of the course is Hovsgol National Park and its pristine alpine lake. At an elevation of 1,645 meters (5,400 ft) and with average depth of 245 meters (800 ft), it is one of the largest single bodies of drinkable fresh water in the world. In late June, the surrounding area is at its peak for wildflowers and wildlife. The lake supports a flourishing population of grayling and lennock. The legendary taimen, the world’s biggest salmonoid, can be fished from the rivers in the area in weights of up to 23 kilos (50 pounds). The region around the lake supports a widely dispersed population of mostly nomadic Mongol people who live in gers (Mongolian yurts) and tend herds of horses, camels, cattle and yaks. We may also encounter reindeer herding Tsaatan people, and wild sheep, ibex, bear, moose, and over 200 species of birds.
The staging area for the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset is Camp Toilogt. This rustic and comfortable facility provides guests the novelty of Mongolian-style living, with environmentally-friendly ‘western’ comforts also available, such as hot showers, solar electricity and a satellite phone for emergency calls. Locally-grown organic produce is a staple of meals served to visitors and a minimum of food is imported. With friendly, bilingual staff ready to help and professional cooks preparing hearty Western-style cuisine, visitors to Camp Toilogt are guaranteed a unique and enjoyable experience. Participants and families can also enjoy horseback riding, camping, hiking, fishing and traditional Mongolian musical performances before or after the event.
How Lake Hovsgol Came To Be Named
According to traditional oral history recounted in the Lake Hovsgol region:
“Many years ago, what is now known as Lake Hovsgol was a large lake surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush forests and fields full of flowers. The people who lived there thought it was the best place in the whole world. One bad day, a huge one-eyed ogre came to the lake. He did not like water, he did not like flowers, and he did not like people. He ate all the people and animals and drank all the water from the lake.
The ogre left, but without water, everything died and there wasn’t anything left even to make shadows. Then one day and old woman came to the area. She had only her shadow and her horse for a friend. As she traveled around looking for water and a place to live, she stumbled across a small child. A very small boy who was no bigger than a thumb. The old lady and child decided to become a family and together they traveled looking for water and a home.
For three days and three nights they traveled without resting. They traveled over an ocean of sand until they spied a big, angular rock. The old lady lifted the rock and a little water trickled into the sand. The old lady and the boy decided to make their home near the water. She dug some of the sand away from under the rock to make a well and she was always careful to replace the rock, so the water would not escape.
The child grew amazingly fast and very soon became a normal sized boy. There wasn’t much to do and he was a little bored so he sang songs every day. Once while he was singing, a beautiful girl appeared and then suddenly vanished. The boy wished he could find this girl and hoped that she would come. Finally, after three years had passed, the girl appeared again and this time she stayed with the old lady and the boy.
They were a happy family until one day they forgot to cover the well with the rock and water poured out causing a flood. This flood caused another ogre to arrive (ogres hate water) and he drank up all the water. The boy, who was very strong, killed the ogre and cut off a mountaintop to cover him up. The water still poured from the well, so the old lady dove down under the water and put the rock back over the well. Unfortunately, this took all her strength and she couldn’t make it back to the shore and she drowned. The lake stopped getting bigger thanks to the old lady. The boy and the girl were very sad and they started to call the lake “Mother” in honor of the old lady. Today in Lake Hovsgol, you can still see the mountain top which covers the ogre as it is the biggest island in the lake. The smaller island is the rock that covers the well. So, Lake Hovsgol is the Mother Lake.”