Trio to trek 15,000 miles across Europe, Asia in a tiny car for charity

From left, Hanna Derby, Austin Fogt and Gordon Mortensen pose for a promotional photo near Lake Superior. The three former NMU students are participating in the Mongol Rally, a 15,000 mile journey from Great Britain to Siberia as a fundraiser for two charities: Cool Earth and Baycliff Health Camp. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — A little car, a paper map, a good cause and some generous donations.

That’s all the “Yooper Troopers” — three former Northern Michigan University students — will need this summer as they cross 19 countries from London to Siberia during the 13th annual Mongol Rally.

The 15,000-mile route will take Hanna Derby, Austin Fogt and Gordon Mortensen from London on July 16, through eastern Europe and onward through countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan before crossing the grasslands of the Mongolian Steppes and ending in Ulan Ude, in Russia, on the shores of Lake Baikal on Aug. 26.

Many of the countries the Yooper Troopers will pass through have strict visa requirements, where overstaying your welcome is strictly forbidden.

According to the Mongol Rally website, participants are required to follow three basic rules:

1. The cars participants use can have a 1.2 liter engine or less, the junkier, the better. “With a small car, you’re more likely to break down, so you’re more likely to interact with locals,” the site states.

2. Participants are on their own. “If it’s not dangerous and you aren’t lost — you’re not on an adventure. That means no on the back-up or road support,” the site states

3. Save the world. Teams are asked to raise a minimum of $1,300 (1,000 British pounds), half of which must go to Cool Earth, the official charity of the rally, and half to the charity of the participant’s choice.

Fogt said he was approached by Mortensen a couple of years ago with the prospect of participating in the rally.

“Gordon came up to me one day and said, ‘I really want to do this.'” Fogt said. “At the time it seemed like one of those far-off kind of fantasy things, but I told him I would go.”

Fogt said two of the most important aspects involved with the rally were mapping out a route in order to obtain the proper visas, seven are required, and buying a car for the trip.

“Not a lot of people want to sell you a car with just a credit card and a promise that you will pick it up a month from now,” Fogt said. “But we were able to get another participant to help us find a car and broker the sale, so he’s holding it until we can pick it up.”

The car, a 2006 Toyota Yaris, set the trio back $1,200 (900 British pounds)

“We had three requirements,” Fogt said “A 1.2 liter engine, four doors and air conditioning, which apparently is a tall order.”

The team will buy a paper map in each country because there is not an atlas or a book of maps that covers all the countries of Europe and Asia, Fogt said. They will not rely on any electronic GPS devices.

“I just want to really experience all these different cultures. Who can say they have been to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan?” Fogt said. “I wanted to add that element of adventure, to get lost and find something really cool.”

Half of the money the trio raises will go to Cool Earth, a charity that protects rain forests with the help of indigenous villages around the world. The other half of the proceeds will go to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay.

The trio believes that Bay Cliff Health Camp is an important cause and a point of pride for the Upper Peninsula, according to the “Yooper Trooper” GoFundMe page.

“Bay Cliff is an organization where children and adults with physical disabilities go for adventures of their own,” the page states.

The Yooper Troopers’ goal is to raise $6,000. Anyone wishing to donate to the cause can visit

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is