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Atacama Desert Run update: Kevin Vallely out of the run Ray Zahab on his own

Posted: Jan 19, 2011 03:33 pm EST

(By Correne Coetzer) In a newsletter from Toronto Airport yesterday while waiting to depart for Chile, Ray Zahab wrote that he will be running without his only running teammate, fellow Canadian, Kevin Vallely. Of course now the stakes are ratcheted up a bit! he stated.

Only one problem

The planned start date for the attempt to run the whole length of the Atacama Desert is January 20 or 21. Ray and Kevin were planning to run somewhere between 70-80 km average per day for 15-16 days in an effort to cross the Atacama from North to South; carrying all of their supplies and have one water/food drop per day.

Only one problem with the upcoming Atacama Expedition, writes Ray, I will now be running alone! Unfortunately Kev's dad has taken ill, and as an awesome son would, Kev is staying with his Dad. The absolute right decision. Family comes first.

Because I know my friend so well, and because we are committed in many ways to attempt this great project we are keeping on! I will communicate with Kev daily via sat phone - and in spirit we will run together. Of course now the stakes are ratcheted up a bit!

Safety and runners joining

Safety and responsibility are of utmost importance, assured Ray, so I will do my very best to stop when it is time stop - or go until I can't go anymore!

He added that i2P Executive Director, Bob Cox, will be out there managing water drops and has generously offered to come out and run a few of the 16 or so stages with him. As well his Chilean ultra running friend, Cris Sievking, who will join at the end too. Should be an exciting time! says Ray.

Following the recently completed impossible2Possible Youth Expedition to the Amazon in October 2010, Ray Zahab will be visiting a contrasting area of the Earth: the Atacama Desert.

Taking inspiration from the 'Chasquis' delivery runners organized in relays throughout the Inca Empire, modern-day adventurer Ray Zahab will test himself on the trails of these highly trained athletes as he traverses the length of Chiles Atacama Desert. He will be carrying a 12kg (25lb) backpack with all his gear/clothing/stove/tent to survive, and food and water (8-10 liters) for one day. Water/food drops will be available when a community or water source is not in the route. He will have a GPS, topo map and compass and hopefully find the water.

The plan is to run between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the approx.1,250 km (1,000 km as the crow flies). His start point at the Northern tip of the Atacama Desert is at Lago Chungara.

Ray will carry a Solara tracking device from start to finish, and will be updating a live website www.atacamaextreme.com and communicating with classrooms via video conferencing software, a Macbook and BGAN.

Ray Zahab was born in Ottawa, Canada on February 11, 1969. He grew up on a hobbyhorse farm in Carp, Ontario with his brother John, and his parents. Fast forward 39 years to today, and I now live with my incredible wife and soul mate Kathy and our daughter Mia Sahara in Chelsea, Quebec, says Ray. He is very passionate about the organizations he work with, and when not running he divides his time sitting on the board of directors.

Rays ultra-marathons:
- 2004 Yukon Arctic Ultra, 160 km
- 2004 Jungle Marathon, Amazon, 250 km
- 2004 Trans 333, Niger, 333 km
- 2004 & 2005, Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 250 km
- 2005 Sahara Race, Egypt, 250 km
- 2006 Gobi March, China, 250 km
- 2006 Libyan Challenge, 190 km
- 2007 Running the Sahara, 7500 km, 111 days, with Charlie Engle (USA) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)
- 2007 three extreme coastal trails of Canada, back to back, 100, 210, 75 km
- 2008 Canada, in each province and territory, 80 km per day x 13 days

Kevin Vallely works as a journalist and is the Editor-at-Large for the Canadian Adventure magazine Outpost. He was born in 1964 (the year of the dragon, he says) and lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Kevin is married with two young daughters Caitlin (7) and Arianna (5). He loves to draw and paint.

Some of Kevins previous expeditions:
- The 1999 Iditarod, skiing 2000 km with two team mates form Anchorage to Nome in 33 days;
- A 2000 km bike ride with two friends down the Yukon River and up the Bering Sea to Nome in the middle of winter on frozen ice, recreating a major journey undertaken by two miners in 1901;
- In 2006 he and 8 Aussie soldiers retraced the 250 km Sandakan Death March Route from Sandakan to Renau across Borneo through grueling jungles where British and Australian WW2 Prisoners of War died a brutal death;
- Kevin was part of a Canadian team who successfully completed the Fiji Eco-Challenge. Out of 81 teams that started only 10 would finish and 11 teams finished a shortened course;
- In 2007 he and four team members traveled to King William Island in the hope to find evidence of the 1845 Franklin expedition who disappeared while searching for the North West Passage. They found some bones from the doomed expedition and, says Kevin, made me reflect on man's need to explore and the danger that often comes with it.

In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Canadians Richard Weber, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab set the fastest time for a team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole (1130 km) in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

March 14, 2010 Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab completed their speed record expedition across Lake Baikal in a time of 13 days and 16 hours; running/walking the 640 km (as the crow flies) in an average distance of 50 km a day with special screw in spikes shoes. They started from the small village of Kultuk on the southern side of the lake and finished at northern tip at a community called Nizhneangarsk


Ray Zahab: Safety and responsibility are of utmost importance. In the image, Ray running during the Libyan Challenge.
courtesy Ray Zahab, SOURCE