Transarctic Kiters Finish 6-Year Crossing of Siberia

Arctic Poles

In 2015, a group of Russian explorers began a multi-year plan to travel thousands of kilometres across northern Siberia by wind. The 6,500km journey would follow the North Sea Route, from the Arkhangelsk region to the Bering Strait.

Each year since 2015, they began where they left off the previous season. This year marked the last stage of their route. The skiers have changed slightly over the years, but Kirill Korabelnikov led everything except parts of the final stage, where they split up and took slightly different routes.

Photo: Transarctic Kite Expedition

Dmitry Smurov, Dmitry Botov and Konstantin Epišin have also skied all six stages of the journey. Evgenia Kotlyarova — the only woman in the group –- skied stage one.  All were accomplished, medal-winning athletes in windsurfing, kite surfing and skiing. They hoped to show the recreational potential of the Russian North.

Each participant had three or four kites of different sizes. If there was no wind, they skied or walked.

Starting in Mezen, Russia, it took the initial team 21 days to complete the 1,210km first stage in April 2015, finishing in Vorkuta. They averaged 70km to 100km per day, depending on winds and obstacles. Stage two took them from Vorkuta to Dudinka (1,400km) and lasted 17 days.

Expedition leader Kirill Korabelnikov. Photo: Transarctic Kite Expedition

In April 2017, they covered the longest leg, 2,190km from Norilsk to Tiksi. Before starting, they felt anxiety about this ambitious route, which was so much longer than the others. But in the end, they completed it in 36 days.

The following year, they reached the mouth of the Indigirka River, known as the Russian Estuary (800km). Their plan had been to make it 1,700km to Pevek, but four windless days delayed their start. Their leader, Kirill Korabelnikov, also had a fever and bruised ribs from a kiting fall. Light winds persisted, and over the 26 days, they managed to cover 100km only twice and averaged barely 30km a day. In 2019, they completed the last 900km of that section to Pevek.

Unlike so many other expeditions this spring, they managed to launch their expedition, thanks to Russia’s much later COVID lockdown. For unclear reasons, they split into two teams. Korabelnikov went 900km from Pevek to Anadyr, while Dmitry Botov, Dmitry Smurov and Konstantin Epišin kited 1,200km to Uélen.

Photo: Transarctic Kite Expedition

About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Aspiring sports and travel journalist based in the UK.

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