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Human power circumnavigation update: Dimitri Kieffer racing against Russias winter

Posted: Sep 27, 2011 04:59 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) Many rural Yakuts keep their water supply throughout the year in frozen blocks of ice three meters below their houses at permafrost level, observed Dimitri Kieffer while autumn colors in Eastern Russia make way for white, snow covered roads.

Dimitri and Gulnara Miftakhova still have 265km to cycle till they reach Yakutia, Republic of Sakha, and before the Russian winter closes in on them. Winter can fall quite suddenly in these regions, Dimitri stated.

River crossing and snow

It was not all cycling during this stage of Dimitris human powered circumnavigation. He was able to successfully row the Aldan river on a small boat with Gulnara on board and loaded with their gear and bikes.

Thereafter they camped one night on the left bank of the river and proceeded the following morning on their bikes towards Yakutsk on the federal road, he reported.

We covered the next 150 km on a sandy/muddy road which in a way "thankfully" became covered with a good layer of fresh snow after our 2nd night camping.

Indeed, the snow packed by the driving cars and trucks made it easier for us to travel on that surface than having to partially push our bikes on what would have been otherwise more kilometers of sandy federal road.

Local Yakuts

Along the way they came across a few charming abandoned wooden villages which were previously inhabited by nomadic Yakut cow and horse farmers.

They also came across a few inhabited farming communities where they saw a few "wild running" Yakut horses and cow herds coming across their way and were also overwhelmed with Sakha/Yakut hospitality. Some local delicacies were shared Karas fishes pan fried, as well as local berry jam and Yakut fried bread.

Along our way, we were also intrigued to learn and see how so many rural Yakuts keep their water supply throughout the year in frozen blocks of ice, 3 meters below their houses at permafrost level!

600km push

Dimitri and Gulnara arrived in the town of Khandyga after having gone non-stop since Ust-Nera, 600 kilometers away, through mountain passes, multiple intense road construction areas (including a 32 km section through Black and Yellow Prizhim) as well as large rocky and/or sandy sections which fatigued their bodies (especially their knees and backs).

On our way, passing through two time zones, and therefore losing rapidly precious daylight in our evenings, we have had to rely heavily in the evenings/nights on our rechargeable lightweight but powerful multisport lights", reported Dimitri.


On their trail they were greeted with a copious amount of large hungry mosquitoes which they were able to deter successfully when they had to stop, with cream repellent, a sealed proof tent, specific insect shield clothes and an mosquito proof Bob/hat with a net.

However, said Dimitri, the mosquitoes were not a nuisance if they were riding their bicycles fast enough.

But one night Gulnara mentioned to him: Listen, its starting to rain again to which he responded, That is actually thousands of mosquitoes bouncing against our tent!


Once again, I am not allowed to carry a firearm, says Dimitri, since I am not a Russian citizen and furthermore it would not be such a practical thing to do while riding a bicycle for a very long distance.

At one stage road workers told them that last year in 2010, 3 persons were killed in the region by upset bears running away from the numerous fires in Yakutia and Magadanskaya Oblast. 2 km further a 4x4 vehicle travelling in the opposite direction, also warned the two cyclers that they had just come across a mid-size bear on the road.

Dimitri reported, We proceeded further on our bikes carefully when Gulnara spotted 2 km further, about 500 meters away, on the rivers edge, 2 mid-size bears obviously foraging for berries, fishes, etc We stopped, took a few pictures and videos until we saw one getting up on his 2 legs, sniffing.

Not wanting to take obvious unnecessary risks, we decided to ride away before they could spot us.

Latest position

Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 62° 20.497, E 133° 34.289
September 26, 2011
1734 km completed

Dimitri Kieffer was born in France and moved to the USA when he was 17. He runs ultra-marathons and participates 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 to complete the entire Nexus Expedition by 2016.

His Russian girlfriend, Gulnara Miftakhova, is cycling the current stage with him.

Stages already completed:

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 number of miles still being tabulated.

Completed on foot (back country skiing, trekking with a backpack and pulling the sled simultaneously, swimming and using the sled as kayak while going down rivers).

Sixth section:
Vayegi (Chukotka, Russia) - Paren (Kamchatka, Russia)
March 11 - May 13 2010
707 km completed, 63 days.

Location May 17, 2010:
N 62° 25.040'; E 163° 05.160'
Paren, Northwestern Kamchatka
Total kilometers covered Spring 2010: 707.2 km
Manily to Paren 199.4 km

Seventh section:
Paren (Kamchatka, Russia) - Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast.
Dimitri is returning in Kamchatka in February 2011 to continue trekking and skiing 423 miles (680 km) from Paren in Kamchtaka Koryak Okrug to Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast. He covered this section on skis and snowshoes, while pulling a sled on tundra, considering the absence of roads in this remote part of the world. His route should take him from Paren to Omsukchan via Verniy Paren, Chaibura, Ghiziga, Evensk, Tavatum and Merenga.

This section completes the missing link. Dimitri: One can drive year around from South America to South Africa on permanent roads except through the Darien gap and between Anchorage and Omsukchan the missing link.

Position: April 25, 2011:
N62° 30.987, E155° 46.342 Omsukchan
595 km travelled

In an article on AskYakutia.com Dimitri gives a detailed description of the route he has taken from the farthest point of Chukotka, Uelen, to Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast.

Dimitri plans to complete the entire expedition by 2016, upon reaching Knik Lake, after having circumnavigated the globe via human power.

Eighth section:
Omsukchan, Magadanskaya Oblast to Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha.
August 2011 with Gulnara Miftakhovas
Approx. 1760 km

Dimitri: After Yakutsk, our goal is to travel on our bicycles southwest towards Mongolia and continue further through Kazakhstan, and through some of the Central Asian states (Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan), some of the Middle Eastern countries (Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel), and some of the Northern African countries (Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal) where it will be time to row!

Of course, the exact route will be determined as we progress, partly depending on geopolitical conditions.

Dimitri Kieffers expedition videos.

Dimitri Kieffer is blogging over CONTACT 5

#Trek #topstory

Dimitri Kieffer: "On our first night out of Ust-Nera, we chose to pass our 10th mountain pass (Olchansky pass) under falling snow. Indeed, we did not want to wait until the next morning, and therefore taking the risk to be stranded in the mountain pass under a potential thick layer of snow."
Image by Gulnara Miftakhova courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE
Temperatures varied from -10 to +16c, and we were able to experience a mixture of snow, hard rain, and sunny fall days while riding our way up and down the successive mountain passes and hills. Gulnara in the image.
Image by Dimitri Kieffer courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE
We were also able to see very clearly permafrost/ice layer, a few feet under our collapsing/cracking federal road mostly made of argyle/clay before reaching Ust-Nera.
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE
"We followed the Yakut gold mining belt, cycling along the Nera river, and spent a morning playing hide and seek with a curious fox in the ghost town of Ozernoye.
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE
Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE