Arctic 2020: Week Three Roundup

A speed record has already fallen on Lake Baikal, and multiple crossings are underway, as we enter peak season on the Siberian lake. Meanwhile, a sledding expedition in Lapland hits the halfway point, and a French pair battle across the Canadian Arctic far more slowly than they had anticipated.

Lake Baikal

On March 7, Mike Stevenson (GBR) broke the speed record for a solo crossing of 639km-long Baikal. He completed his journey in 11 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes, averaging about 55km a day. Smelling the finish, he upped that to 60km during his last few days.

Carlos Garcia (Spain) overcame last week’s problems of fuel leaks, broken stoves and frostbite to complete his own crossing on March 8, in 15 days and 7 hours.  By March 4, he had covered 490km, but the following few days brought strong winds, snow and temperatures of -18C. On days 15, he covered 54km, despite knee-deep snow near the end of the day.  He is now on a train back to Irkutsk, relaxing with fellow finisher, Stevenson.

Mike Stevenson and Carlos Garcia swap tales on the train home. Photo: Mike Stevenson


Charlie Smith (GBR) has covered approximately 300km since beginning on March 1.  On day 4, he fought through the same strong winds as Garcia. However, those same winds have kept large section of this year’s ice snowless, making for easy hauling.

Oli France hurries along a bare section of Baikal’s ice road. Photo: Oli France


Oli France (GBR) has covered about 220km since March 5.  He traveled 45km on day 1 and another 41km on day 2. After slogging through the same snow that afflicted other haulers, he reached bare ice again at the end of day 2. On day 3, he covered 42km despite storm-force winds.

Heavy snow blankets Lake Baikal. Photo: Roland Banas


Roland Banas (France) also set off on March 5 and has maintained such a similar pace to Oli France that he caught up with him on March 9.  Banas too was thrilled to reach bare ice on day 3, after the early snow cover, although he found the ice cracking and moaning underfoot “very unsettling”.

Roland Banas on noisy Lake Baikal. Photo: Roland Banas


Across Lapland

Two weeks after setting off, Rachel Bandierei (Switzerland) has reached Inari, the halfway point of her 1,000km ski across Finnish Lapland.  The arduous journey has exhausted her, both physically and mentally, she says. Bandierei is now resting before the 500km return leg.

Photo: Rachel Bandierei


Heavy snow in the last few days and a broken ski binding slowed her pace and caused her to change route slightly, as she made her way to Ivalo. The distance covered was the same, but she thought the route was slightly safer.

Denali via the Canadian Arctic

Matthieu Bélanger and Loury Lag started Chapter 2 of their Icarus Project on February 29. Setting off from Repulse Bay in -35°C, their aim was to reach Kugaaruk, 275km away, in 10-12 days. Alas, they have covered just 80km in those 10 days. On March 7, they were tentbound because of 80kph winds and temperatures of -50°C. Now they have set off again and hope to reach the faster sea ice in two days.

Minus 50°C, but at least no coronavirus in sight. Photo: Matthieu Bélanger


Three months solo in Arctic Canada

On February 1, Japanese explorer Yuki Sekiguchi set off on the third winter of his four-year solo traverse of northern Canada from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Resolute, Nunavut, via an indirect route. This year, he plans to ski the 1,500km from the Great Bear Lake to Gjoa Haven. Before setting off, he made it clear he would not use any communication device except in an emergency. So in this case, no news is good news.