AN Allendale man has returned to Tynedale following a gruelling 60-hour endurance trek in Mongolia.

Steven Blair, who owns the Allendale Inn, took part in the Spartan Agoge challenge in the Khentii Province of Mongolia, miles from civilisation and thought to be the birthplace of Genghis Khan.

The Agoge takes its name from the process ancient Spartan boys went through in order to become warriors, and saw participants battle all manner of challenges, including the elements, harsh terrain and hunger.

Steven is no stranger to challenges, but said the Agoge was the hardest thing he’d ever done.

He said: “We were a 10-hour drive from the nearest city, it would’ve taken three hours for a helicopter to reach us.

“It’s a 60-hour endurance event which involves no sleep; 32 people started and only 14 graduated.

“Only four of us, including myself, got the Spartan coin, which is the highest accolade you can get.

“It was absolutely amazing, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s hard to explain – it was very hard and very emotional.

“When you finish, you have this bond with people; you become very close in a short space of time. “

Among the challenges the trekkers faced was a cold water swim, which Steven recalled almost ended in tragedy.

He continued: “The bit that almost came undone for some people was a 300m cold water swim in a lake.

“The wind picked up and it was freezing. When I got out, I was shivering and I had cramp. One guy almost died; if it wasn’t for the medical staff there, he would have died.

“People were collapsing; we were huddling together for warmth, everyone was working together.”

Steven dedicated the Agoge to his best friend Stuart’s son, Ryan

Reader, who died in August last year.

He has also set up a sponsorship page, with all donations going to Papyrus, a charity that aims to prevent suicide in young people.

Steven added: “I’ve done a couple of things for Papyrus, but this is the biggest; it’s dedicated to Ryan and Stuart.”

Donations can be made at