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Dimitri Kieffer update: Tentless in a fierce storm

Posted: Apr 15, 2010 10:40 pm EDT

Dimitri Kieffer and Nyurgun Efremov left the reindeer herders of Brigade #6 and headed towards Slautnoye in Kamchatka territory. A lack of snow on the ground hampered their sledge-hauling. Their tents blew away in a gust. Dimitri walked through the night in a fierce storm while Nyurgun camped in his sled.

Leaving Brigade #6 and traveling on frozen riverbeds

When Dimitri and Nyurgun left Brigade #6 and their 2500 reindeer, the two brothers who own the reindeer, Sergey and Sasha, accompanied them for a day and a half. They separated because they got to an area that burned last year and there was not much food for the reindeer.

The two trekkers made very slow progress, partly because there was not much snow on the plateau, said Dimitri, leaving its bumpy grassy "bogs" exposed and therefore making it extremely difficult to traverse while pulling heavy fully loaded sleds.

The alternative, which we have chosen, is going through connecting frozen riverbeds, where more snow has been amassed, as the result of consequent storms... progressing with thankfully our detailed Russian maps, through a labyrinth of meandering rivers.

Tents blown away

On April 8 Dimitri reported that they were in Kamchatka territory. They started traveling a bit faster on white patches of snow, frozen rivers and lakes and large barren sections.

Disaster struck when Dimitris tents were blown away in a gusty 30+ miles/hr wind. The first night they slept in their sleds. Dimitri said it was psychologically uncomfortably because it felt too much like lying in his own coffin, and if you want to know, I am definitely not ready for that!

Then they built a snow cave, which Nyurgun liked a lot. They buried themselves in ditches. Then they decided to build a makeshift tent out of the surviving two tent layers and the few small extra poles they had.

Walking through a storm all night

The remaining 40-50 km trek to Slautnoye was difficult because the area was hilly and deprived of snow which made sledge-hauling very uncomfortable. Further more a menacing wind, made it very difficult to make water and cook meals in their partly exposed half tent, said Dimitri. It rapidly started to feel as if we were seating on a very tiny sinking raft in the middle of the ocean, after a shipwreck.

Both men were eager to get going and tried to get to Slautnoye as quickly as they could as the wind strength was continuing to grow. With 25 km to go to the village and snowmobile prints in the snow to follow, Dimitri suggested that the two of them separated, as they were not traveling at the same speed.

I was progressing at my own rhythm, allowing me to find the time to adjust myself since my back was starting to feel the stretch. I stopped and extended the length of my pulling ropes, and put on a stretching back brace. [Dimitri injured his back at home last year.]

Dimitri decided not to stop before he got to the village. He said, Around midnight, the snow falling started to turn into a strong storm/purga but this was not going to stop me. Tentless, I was determined to push on before I would lose sight of the snowmobile prints, following them carefully every step of the way with the help of my headlamp.

Around 4 am a very forceful storm hit him right in the face, he said, and finally he lost regrettably completely track of the snowmobile trail. He got his direction from his GPS and set his compass. Having a difficulty to see anything further than the tip of my skis with my headlamp in this moonless night, and concerned that I might not be able to see a sheer drop in front of me.

His fingers started to burn as a result of minuscule holes formed in his first and second layer of gloves because of wear and tear. The wind also started to burn his face because he removed half of his furry hood to improve his vision. There was no time to stop and replace any of this clothing, by fear of potentially losing some of them in the forceful wind, Dimitri said.

At 6 am the morning light was starting to come out in the middle of the storm, helping him to somewhat increase his vision. At 7 am he started searching for the village of Slautnoye, which was, according to his GPS 1.5 km away.

Great was Dimitris surprise when he arrived at a coal smelter only to find out that the town had been moved a few kilometers away in the 1950s after it had been completely flooded and destroyed by the Slautnoye River. His said his old American aerial map still points to the old location, which led to his confusion in the middle of the storm.

Finally he arrived in Slautnoye after pulling his sled for 22.5 hours with 10 hours in the forceful storm or purga.

Nyurgun camping in his sled

Even bigger was his surprise when he found out that Nyurgun, who was a few hours ahead of him, had not arrived in the village.

Dimitri explained, Nyurgun had chosen indeed along the way to stop and bury himself inside his sled during the night, escaping partially the purga and arriving in town around 5pm on Saturday night. I was amazed to find out that, thanks to his smaller corpulence, he was able to not only sleep but especially able to manage to boil himself some water while lying inside his sled fully zipped and cook himself a meal between his legs! Quite a feat, I must say!

Reparations and recovery

Over the last few days the two men spent part of their time sorting and repairing their gear and trying to source a replacement tent. Believe it or not, Dimitri said, we may have actually several options to choose from, thanks to the kind and generous local inhabitants in this small village!

He has also been using bear fat/oil to heal his frostbitten fingers and face as it has been recommended by the locals.

Slautnoye has 350 inhabitants, said Dimitri. It is one of the most remote villages in Northern Chukotka and one can usually access it by boat (in summer time), wezdehod (in winter time) and via helicopters in the event of an emergency. Unless of course, one is demented enough to get there by foot

Dimitri and Nyurgun are staying at the house of Andrei Kazanko and enjoying the hospitality of the local people. The weather report predicted that the last strong phase of the storm should be over by April 16 and then the two men will carry on pulling their sleds.


Day 34, April 15, 2010
Location: N 63° 22.140'; E 170° 09.783'
Slautnoye in Kamchatka
Total distance: 306 km

Check Dimitris website for more photos and detail of their experiences.

Dimitri Kieffer was born in France and moved to the USA when he was 17. He runs ultra-marathons and participate in adventure races. Since 2005, Dimitri has continued to evolve, transferring from adventure racing to full blown expeditions, like this Circumnavigation around the Globe with only using human power.

The circumnavigation started on February 26, 2005 at Knik Lake, near Anchorage, Alaska. Dimitri plans complete the entire expedition by 2016.

Stages already completed in Dimitris Nexus Expeditions around the globe using human power:

First Section: Knik Lake (near Anchorage, Alaska) - Nome (Alaska)
Feb April 2005, 37 days, 1100 miles 1770 kilometers
Completed by foot (trekking & snowshoeing) the Iditarod Trail Invitational race

Second Section: Nome (Alaska) Wales (Alaska)
Feb 2006, 9 days, 115 miles 185 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing)
(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)

Third Section: Nome (Alaska) Uelen (Russia) Bering Strait Crossing
March 17-31 2006, 14 days, 5 days where swimming was required
200 miles 322 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing) + Swimming
(with Goliath Expedition- Karl Bushby)

Fourth section: Uelen to Egvekinot (Chukotka, Russia)
April 12- May 16 2007, 34 days, 425 miles 684 kilometers
Completed by foot (Back Country Skiing and only trekking after Vastoshisno)
Uelen- Anguema(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)
Anguema- Uelen (solo)

Fifth section:
Egvekinot to Vayegi (Chukotka, Russia)
April 15- June 7, 2008
exact amount of trekking days still being tabulated
Approximately 600 miles / 965 km
exact amount of miles still being tabulated.

Completed by foot (Back Country Skiing, trekking with a backpack and pulling the sled simultaneously, swimming, using the sled as kayak while going down rivers).

Sixth section: Vayegi to Omsukchan (Russia)
With Russian, Nyurgen Efremov,
March May 2010. Total expected mileage for the route: 660 miles (1060 km). Trekking and skiing.

He plans to cover this section by skis and on foot, while pulling a sled, considering the absence of roads in the Chukotkan tundra. Once upon reaching Omsukchan, he will switch to biking and continue Westbound towards Europe, connecting the European, Asian and American continents.

Dimitri Kieffer is blogging over Contact5.

#Polar #Trek

Dimitri: I must say that I was amazed at the quantity of reindeer meat, brothers Sergey and Sasha eat on a daily basis... in soups, meatballs, stews with pasta or rice and of course huge chunks simply by themselves either boiled, dried, semi-dried, roasted or even cut in smaller pieces, raw and frozen... Image of Sasha KuKurtski sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Magic moments: The time spent and experience gained in the Chukchi and Koryak reindeer brigades I came across.
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE
Mishka and my faithful sled Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Reindeers... Interesting playful characters to say the least... Reminded me a little of the playfulness I have observed in goats. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Nyurgun Efremov progressing on the Mayn River. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
Image by Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Nyurgun searching for the tents that blew away. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
Image by Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Purely magic landscape we were able to cross over the last month. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Dimitri visiting a school in Slautnoye and made a presentation in front of the 40 enthused students, mostly Koryak children and a few Materik White Russian children amongst them. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE