Learning from our mistakes, or making new ones…

 
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Building On Experience

March, 2018: Unsupported Record Attempt (Abridged Version)

When we planned our first expedition to Baikal in March, 2018 we were ambitious, but not overly committed to breaking the record held by Kevin Vallelly and Ray Zahab, as the defining hallmark of the expedition. Our goals were simple; if it were possible to achieve the record we would try, otherwise we would complete the expedition unsupported. We were prepared to go the distance but how quickly was the unanswered question.

Our preparations for this expedition (and we kid you not) mostly involved group messaging to discuss the many ways we could achieve our goals. Brain exercise more than physical. Everyone in the team was already comfortable in a cold environment, we had skied together in the Arctic or trained together. The main focus was to refine our equipment, agree on the principles and try to establish some benchmarks we could aspire to each day, which would allow us to proceed each following day; as often as required. A realistic plan for the challenge ahead.

The time flew by and before we knew it we were boarding flights to Irkutsk.

Upon arrival we were greeted by our travel agent/ fixer. Two days of preparation followed sourcing our fuel, supplies and spares. Essentially any last minute whims, rational or otherwise that could be considered. We did not believe that the weight of equipment would prove to be as significant an issue as in say, a mountainous area. Baikal is after all relatively flat. So we could be a little more flexible here. Your mind can be pre-occupied prior to a trip, one of the factors, perhaps, why we failed to adjust to the local time quickly.

We’d planned on 2 days in Irkutsk and an early start to our adventure, which began on the western shore of Baikal at Kultuk. The night was cold, clear and crisp. Conditions were perfect.

Without giving too much away we eased in to the challenge. For example, on Day 1 we needed to deal with the effects of jet lag. However, we were conscious to make a good impression and eat in to the distance so we pushed. It was the first day after all. Day 2 we experienced white outs and fresh snow as the sun set reducing our anticipated distance. Some days we faced extreme cold with heavy winds, particularly around Olkhon. Others were tolerably warm. The expedition had an ebb and flow, very much dictated by the weather, as these endeavours so often are. In fact 2018 was one of the snowiest on record, and we can attest to that!

The weather would change, we would react or anticipate that change. We settled in to a rhythm of predictable pace bonded by a great team dynamic.

As we progressed, and in part to occupy our minds from 15 hour days, we discussed all elements of the trip to that point. The equipment we took, rations, what we could improve. In truth we were looking too far ahead, but that seed of ambition, wanting to do better is why we are going back in 2019.

We continued for days skirting the shoreline of Baikal as we made our way to Nizhneangarsk. In the end it took a huge final push, little sleep and a bivi out for us to break the record. It was worth it though. Our time was 12 days 21 hours and 13 minutes. Our 2019 target time is much more ambitious.

 

Training & Preparation

For the 2019 attempt we will be fitter, faster and stronger. Our training focus goals will enable us to increase our average moving speed, and hopefully reduce our stopped time. Simple goals which should translate to a significant improvement.

 

March, 2019: How fast can we go?

We hope to make a significant improvement on the 2018 time, if we face similar conditions to those we experienced. How much time? We could say but that would spoil the fun of following the expedition. We will be carrying a tracking device, and you will be able to follow our progress live. Links and information will be published at an appropriate time.

 
 

“It bears down and on you, constant exposure to extreme temperatures, the wind buffeting you, there’s no let up, no time out.”

Mike Stevenson

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