Ski Expedition Across Kamchatka Begins

Koryaksky volcano rises from near sea level, just outside Kamchatka's capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, to 3,456m. Photo: Ray Zahab

Canadian endurance athlete Ray Zahab and his partner, Italian ultrarunner Stefano Gregoretti, have just set off on a 500km, coast-to-coast journey across Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula. They aim to traverse the thick waist of Kamchatka unsupported, west to east, dragging 45kg sleds. Although the pair have supplies for 25 to 30 days, they’ll travel light, keeping calorie intake low and using a wood stove to reduce their fuel payload.

Kamchatka lies in what Russians call Diki Vostok — the Wild East. It competes with Iceland for the title of The Land of Fire and Ice, because both regions combine an arctic environment and volcanism. Kamchatka’s grizzlies, wolves, salmon rivers and volcanoes up to 4,750m give it the edge in the wilderness department. Its geothermal highlights include the Valley of the Geysers, the second largest geyser field on the planet after Yellowstone, and a crater lake with the pH of battery acid.

A seasoned adventurer, Zahab has run 14,000km across the world’s deserts, including 7,500km across the Sahara and 2,000km across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. He has also trekked unsupported to the South Pole and completed several expeditions in the Canadian Arctic. Gregoretti has partnered with Zahab on past arctic expeditions and is an elite ultrarunner. In 2018, the pair ran the length of Namibia, including 1,850km across the Namib Desert.

Kamchatka, with the pair’s west-east route marked in red. Photo: GoogleMaps

Zahab and Gregoretti started south of the town of Ichinskiy, on the west coast. They will travel in a southward-sweeping arc through the community of Mil’kovo and finish along the Zhupanova River, on the east coast. They intend to ski frozen rivers for the most part, but will likely have to schlep through a lot of deep snow and undergrowth on foot. They will also need to find a safe route through two avalanche-prone mountain ranges which scar that part of the peninsula.

Zahab and Gregoretti had to wait out some bad weather on the west coast. They spent the time making final kit preparations and consulting with locals about the route ahead. The weather broke on Sunday and they hit the trail.

Zahab (middle) and Gregoretti (far right) talk route-finding with a Kamchatka local. Photo: Ray Zahab


Relevant links

Expedition website and live tracker

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is a postdoctoral scientist, globally published outdoor writer and arctic traveller. Ash's next expedition is a 700km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in 2020.

Read more at www.ashrouten.com

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