British Team Sets New Lake Baikal Speed Record

A trio of British endurance athletes has broken the speed record for an unsupported crossing of Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal, completing the 639 km journey in 12 days, 21 hours and 13 minutes.


The team of Scott Gilmour, Michael Stevenson and Rob Trigwell completed polar endurance training in Sweden before the expedition and actively targeted the speed record for Lake Baikal, a 13 day, 16 hour crossing by Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab in 2010.

They set out at 04:55 on March 1 from Kultuk, with sled weights of 60-70kg each, as well as a fourth sled carrying communal items that was rotated among them every couple of hours. The fourth pulk was used in an effort to improve performance in crosswinds, reducing the vertical profile of their individual sleds. The team carried 16 days of dry rations and a further 14 days of snacks for the journey and were quickly hit with their first setback when one of their two stoves died four days into the expedition, leaving them with just a single burner.

This winter’s heavy snowfall on Lake Baikal affected their pace, reports Gilmour. The team stuck to bare, windblown ice where possible, but in deep snow they had to switch to skis. Gilmour estimates that they completed 30 percent of the total distance this way.

Temperatures fluctuated from highs of -8C to lows of -35C. Despite whiteouts and periods of poor visibility, the team’s daily totals remained fairly consistent, averaging 50 km in approximately 14 hour shifts. By the end of day 10, with roughly 140 km to go, the team elected to hurry in an effort to register a time below 13 days. They slept just two hours during this final 42-hour push, bringing them to Nizhneangarsk on March 14 at 02:08. Their time of 12 days, 21 hours and 13 minutes bested the previous record by around 18 hours.

Despite a tough last couple of days, the men are all in good condition, though Stevenson admits that “relief is my number one emotion.”

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Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Gregory Kaczor
Gregory Kaczor
3 years ago

In the straight line there is a minimum of 650 km from Kultuk to Nizhneangarsk.
I am undermining this feat, unless there is a record from the travel route.
The record belongs to the Russian Peter Mekhonoshin who passed the lake in 11 days!