Baikal Wrap-up: A New Speed Record, and a Record for Most Unscheduled Swims

Michael Stevenson crosses broken ice on Lake Baikal. Photo: Scott Gilmour

Sledding on Lake Baikal in Siberia has come to a close for the season. Most expeditions were unsupported, full-length crossings of the world’s largest lake by volume.

Scott Gilmour (GBR) broke the speed record of 12 days 21 hours and 13 minutes that he and two other Brits set last year. He shaved 29 hours and 45 minutes from that previous time. Michael Stevenson (GBR) started with Gilmour, but had to withdraw after six days due to injury, around the halfway point (300km).

“It was a selfless act,” Gilmour said, “Mike made a really tough decision to pull out, and reaching the end without him was a bittersweet moment.”

Scott Gilmour walking into the late evening as he pushes for the unsupported speed record. Photo: Michael Stevenson

“I thought it was all over with 35km to go.” said Gilmour, about a leg injury that he sustained right near the end. His solution was to walk backwards for long periods and also devise a makeshift crutch, although that disintegrated before long.

Gilmour also had a spicy start, as a 4.6 Richter earthquake hit Baikal four hours before he set off. Tremors shook the ice for several days afterward.

“The cracking noise from the lake is something that you can’t describe, it’s pretty magical. ” Early in the season, Gina Johansen completed the first Swedish crossing of the lake. Photo: Gina Johansen

Mike Laird had perhaps the most eventful trip. Most people begin in the south, but he chose to start in the north in order to meet his companion, Rosie Stancer, halfway. She was doing the reverse journey.

He couldn’t get either of his stoves working, and rather than accept a replacement stove, which would qualify as a resupply, he endured the entire expedition on cold snack food. He also fell through the ice twice during the early stages, presumably when fetching drinking water from leads, since he had no means of melting ice or snow.

Near the end, the unfortunate Laird fell through the ice twice more and became completely immersed about 90km from the finish. He had to hurry for the small coastal resort of Listvyanka — the so-called Baikal Riviera — to dry off before continuing to the finish in Kultuk on March 25.

Ice breakup near Listvyanka in the south. March 23, 2018. Laird likely encountered similar conditions in 2019, which suggests that a late-season north-to-south crossing isn’t advisable. Photo: Ash Routen

Summary of Main Expeditions (assume unsupported unless stated otherwise)

Gina Johansen (SWE) – Full-length crossing with some support — unscheduled refueling — from Kultuk to Severobaikalsk in 14.5 days.

Rosie Stancer (GBR) – Full-length crossing from Kultuk to Nizhneangarsk in 21 days.

Mike Laird (GBR) – Full length crossing with some support — unscheduled overnight in Listrvyanka — from Nizhneangarsk to Kultuk in 25 days.

Dan Born and Ladislav Smrz (CZR) – Full-length crossing from Sludyanka to Nizhneangarsk in 16 days.

Rick Garrigan (USA) and Alicja Barahona (POL) – Partial crossing from Listvyanka to Severobaikalsk in 12 days.

Chus Lago, Veronica Romero and Rocio Garcia (SPN) – Full-length crossing from Kultuk to Severobaikalsk in 24 days.

Jose Trejo (SPN) – Partial Crossing from Ust-Barguzin to Kultuk in 10 days.

Related Links

Lake Baikal Expedition Database

Sledding Season Begins on Lake Baikal

Baikal an Ideal First Expedition for Winter Haulers

New Baikal Speed Record

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.


Leave a Reply

5 Comments on "Baikal Wrap-up: A New Speed Record, and a Record for Most Unscheduled Swims"

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I’m pretty sure you misspelled the Polish name

Scott Gilmour

Loads of great stories from Baikal this year and was a pleasure to cross paths with so many great people on the lake.


Ok ,now I know the new record ,and I’m going to get a new record in February 2020


What date do you start?