Arctic 2020: Week Two Roundup

Arctic
Lake Baikal's often bare ice makes for effortless hauling. Photo: Mike Stevenson

This spring’s arctic expeditions have begun to ramp up. A French duo began their long-distance  trek from the central Canadian Arctic to Alaska. In Siberia, multiple Lake Baikal crossings are now underway, in Lapland, a sledding expeditions continues while in Iceland, another wraps up.

Lake Baikal

Carlos Garcia (Spain) had set off on February 22 and had traveled 337km by day 7. Despite the impressive distance, problems plagued him, and not all of them seemed to be bad luck. Two stoves broke, and he had significant fuel leaks. Unable to melt ice for water, Garcia had to stop at the nearest town, Khurzhir, to regroup.

He set out again on March 1, into strong winds and temperatures of -15°C.  Then he suffered severe frostbite on one finger. At last word, he is holed up in a cabin somewhere. Drawing, as Baikal does, a lot of inexperienced arctic travelers, it is perhaps not surprising that dramas should occur.

Carlos Garcia poses on Lake Baikal. Photo: Carlos Garcia

Mike Stevenson (GBR) is on his first solo crossing of Baikal.  In 2018, as part of a three-man team, he broke the speed record for crossing the lake. This year, he started at a blistering pace. By day 6, he had covered 325km was north of Khuzhir. With 311km left in the crossing, he says he feels good and might even push a little harder.

However, his journey has also not been without complications. On day 3, Stevenson’s primary stove flared up, which partly melted his tent. Then he noticed that his back-up stove also wasn’t functioning. On day 4, he covered 53km with only a litre of water, then had to repair both his tent and main stove.

Why so many stove problems on Baikal? It may be that because clean white gas is hard to find in Russia, trekkers are using poorer fuels with Primus stoves, which don’t deal with the impurities as stoically as MSR multifuel stoves, according to ExWeb writer Ash Routen, who skied Baikal in 2018.

Photo: Mike Stevenson

James Redden (GBR) has already completed his crossing of Baikal. He covered the 639km in 12 days and 23 hours, finishing on February 29. Although he didn’t break the speed record, he said, he did feel “like I broke some body parts”. Despite his aches and a mild case of food poisoning, Redden enjoyed the “immersive experience of being in near isolation”.

James Redden: aches but no drama. Photo: James Redden

Charlie Smith (GBR) set off from Irkutsk on March 1. So far, he has covered 70km. This will be his first long trek in the cold, but previously Smith rowed from Singapore to Australia, has done a lot of ice climbing and mountaineering in the Alps and is an experienced ultrarunner.

Oli France (GBR) is on his way to Irkutsk and will start his solo crossing on March 5.  He aims to average at least 30km a day.

Roland Banas (France) is also now en route to Lake Baikal and will begin his crossing in the coming days. This is his first long polar adventure and he says that he will not push for any records.

1,000km Ski Across Lapland

As we reported, Switzerland’s Rachel Bandieri skiing 1,000km through Finnish Lapland. After one week, she has covered 240km.

Rachel Bandieri in Lapland. Photo: Rachel Bandieri

At the 200km mark, she savoured some fresh food at the Luosto ski resort. “The first section to Luosto was really tough,” she said. “Some waypoints were hard to get to, and a few times I chose to turn back rather than go through the deep snow again.”

She continues to find night temperatures uncomfortable, and on March 2, her sleeping bag froze, and she woke up cold and wet. She has now stopped in Tanhua to dry the bag out. It is unclear what happened, unless she slept with her head inside the sleeping bag and gummed up the insulation with her breath.

Crossing Iceland in Winter 

Lukasz Supergan completes his winter crossing of Iceland at Cape Öndverdarnes, Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Photo: Lukasz Supergan

On March 1, after 36 days and 800km of wind, cold and snow, Lukasz Supergan completed a solo winter crossing of Iceland from east to west. “My dream came true,” he said.

Denali via the Canadian Arctic

As we reported, Matthieu Bélanger and Loury Lag have begun part II of their Icarus Project, Denali via part of the Northwest Passage. They set off from Repulse Bay, in -35°C temperatures, on February 29. Their destination: Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 3,000km away. From Prudhoe, it’s off by bike to climb Denali.

Team Icarus training in Norway. Photo: Matthieu Bélanger

About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Aspiring sports and travel journalist based in the UK.

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