British Soloist Sets Baikal Speed Record

Michael Stevenson has broken the speed record for an unsupported crossing of Lake Baikal in Siberia. He completed the 639km journey in a blistering 11 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes.

This marks Stevenson’s third trip to Baikal and his second speed record on the frozen lake. He previously broke the speed record in 2018 with Scott Gilmour and Rob Trigwell. This year he broke the solo speed record of 11d 15hrs and 28 minutes, set in 2019 by Scott Gilmour, his previous teammate.

Photo: Michael Stevenson


He began his expedition on February 25 from Kultuk, pulling a 63kg pulk. His pace was fast from the start. In the first two days, he covered over 105km. By day 6, with only 311km left, he decided to push a little harder. In the last few days, he managed about 60km a day and covered 62km on day 11.

Photo: Michael Stevenson


His last day on the lake featured more snow on the ice than he had expected. The extra friction of the snow compared to bare ice made his pulk haul a lot more reluctantly. But he put his head down and pushed through to the finish.

The trip didn’t all go smoothly. On day 3, a stove flared up and partly melted his tent. His backup stove was also functioning poorly, forcing him to cover 53km with just a litre of water. Later, he managed to repair both his tent and main stove.

Photo: Michael Stevenson


He said that “the last day was a bizarre experience”. Twelve inches of powder snow created a “draining” resistance hauling the pulk. He skied the last bit in the darkness, without a headlamp, as the moon lit the sky and the snow glistened enchantingly underfoot.

One note re “unsupported” on Lake Baikal: Everyone follows the ice road, which is easier hauling, so by normal adventure criteria, virtually no expedition is ever unsupported.