Nexus Expedition Journal - 2010
Back on the Trail! Trekking and skiing 700 kms (430 miles) from Vayegi (Chukotka) to Paren (Kamchatka), Far Eastern Russia, tundra, reindeer herders, trekking in company at first of Nyurgun Efremov and afterwards in company of the dogs Rice, Rex and Dunia.

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Shooting for February 2011!
Thursday October 14, 2010 -
On track to resume the expedition in February 2011 in the Koryak village of Парень (Paren), in the Northwestern corner of the Koryak Okrug, which is itself in the Northwestern corner of the Kamchatkan region, in Far-Eastern Russia.

I plan to return to Paren via:
- Moscow-Magadan-Evensk by plane
and then proceed
- Evensk-Verhny Paren-Paren by vezdehod and/or snowmobile.

I will then start in Парень (Paren), where I last left off in June 2010, and proceed towards Omsukchan by foot, using skis and snowshoes while pulling a 150-200 lbs sled.

I plan to complete this coming spring 2011, the 700 kms section which separates Paren from Omsukchan.

Once in Omsukchan, I will be able to join the M56 Kolyma Highway also known as the infamous "road of bones" .

At that point, I will have completed and therefore connected by human power, what I like to call the "missing link" between Omsukchan, Russia and Anchorage, Alaska,USA.

This"missing link" is indeed where no connecting paved roads exist between the European & Asian continents and the American continents.
Rice, Rex & Dunia
Thursday July 1, 2010 -
Rice, Rex and Dunia were three faithful dogs that accompanied me in April 2010 from about 5kms after Slautnoye to Kamenskoye and this is why I count them as past expedition partners!

No! In response to some of your questions, they were not my sled dogs by any means, but rather roaming dogs that came to enjoy the trek!

My expedition is exclusively human-powered which precludes me of course from using any dog sleds!

Five kilometers after leaving Slautnoye, I stopped at a spot where koryak fishermen were ice fishing to do some filming.

We talked a bit and I was then invited to a great cup of tea around a fire, accompanied with diverse little snacks:bread, smoked fish, reindeer fat, and cookies.

These three beautiful dogs were sitting there near the fire.

I threw at them a few small reindeer fat and skin tidbits which apparently led them to believe that I might be a good feeding machine to follow...

I left the fishing spot, and from then on, they followed and preceded me for an entire week, sleeping faithfully outside my tent, rolled in the snow or on top of my sled.

They mostly lived off whatever they could scrounge along the trail (birds, moose leg, etc..) since obviously I did not have very much of spare dog/human food to share...

In the end, we covered together 140kms in a beautiful and memorable week!
And yes, they were safely returned to their homes in Slautnoye a few weeks later, up the river on a barge once the thawing of the river was completed!
Leaving Russia in the next few hours!
Tuesday June 8, 2010 - 55.7517° N, 37.6178° E
There is so much I want to write on what I have experienced since my last post while spending time in Paren, Manily, Korf-Tilichiki, and Petropavlosk-Kamchatka on my return home... and I will do so soon as well as post pictures and edited videos!

However, for the time being, here is a very quick update: I was not able to leave Northwestern Kamchatka promptly because I faced a complete unexpected lack of transportation. No land (wezdehedod, urals,snowmobiles), Air (helicopters, planes) or water transport (Barges, small or larger boats) were available in this remote part of the Russian federation and I had to wait for 18 days for transport to leave the town of Paren in Koryaki Kamchatka Okrug.

Recent events:

May 13th 2010: I arrived in the village of Paren, ready to leave and depart Russia as soon as possible.

May 31st 2010: I was able to depart Paren on the first small boat able to leave and arrived in Manily, Kamchatka.

June 3rd 2010: I was able to depart Manily on the first postal helicopter and arrived in Tilichiki, Kamchatka.

June 5th 2010: I was able to depart Tilichiki on the first plane and arrived in Petropavlosk-Kamchatka.

June 7th 2010: I was able to depart Petropavlosk-Kamchatka and arrived in Moscow.

June 8th 2010: Today, I am departing Moscow, finally able to leave the country through the fastest route I could get since leaving the village of Paren, on May 31st 2011.

At this stage, I plan to return next winter in February 2011 to continue forward towards the Magadanskaya Oblast (Verkhniy-Paren, Chaybukha, Evensk, Tavatum, Omsukchan). Indeed, I need to wait until February 2011 to potentially be able to benefit from stable solidly frozen rivers and consequently established zimnik-winter roads to travel on as efficiently and swiftly as possible between Verkhniy-Paren and Omsukchan.

In the meantime, I very much want to thank once again everyone, friends, sponsors and administrative representatives who has helped me on the ground in Chukotka and Kamchatka , back home in Seattle as well as in Moscow and Kazan to be able to complete successfully this 2010 challenging section of 700 beautiful kilometers of Russian tundra.

Dimitri Kieffer
Nexus expeditions
Slushai Paren, ya v Paren!!!
Sunday May 16, 2010 - 62.25040° N, 163.05160° E
Translation: "Listen dude, I am in the village of Paren!!!"
Coincidentally, "Paren" in Russian means: "dude, guy, boy, fellow, lad, chap, boyfriend"...

Monday May 17th 2010

N 62° 25.040'; E 163° 05.160'
Paren, Northwestern Kamchatka

Total kilometrage covered
Spring 2010: 707.2 kms
Since Manily: 199.4 kms

Yes, I finally reached the village of Paren (my last village in Kamchatka!) on Friday morning May 14th at 02:30, my 63rd and last day of the 2010 Nexus expedition edition.

I was hoping to be able to continue further with a backpack, and reach the next village of Verkhniy Paren, 60 kms of tundra away...

My local koriak friend and host Yura Chansev was going to bring and drop my sled and remaining gear/supplies/food/fuel via snowmobile on the "tundra trail".

But Mother Nature decided otherwise...
Between here ( Paren) and Verkhniy Paren, they are now a lot of exposed snowless tundra and three rivers to cross which makes now the journey impossible with a snowmobile...

The rivers crossing points are indeed currently 1.8 meters (6 feet) deep, thanks to the large amount of melting snow pouring down neighboring mountains...

And of course, the usual winter alternative "Paren river trail" is obviously now closed to snowmobiles for the season! A few more weeks actually and it will be open to small boat traffic!

So, for now, my only option is to stop my expedition and plan to return next winter in February 2011 so that I can continue forward towards the Magadanskaya Oblast (Verkhniy -Paren, Chaybukha, Evensk, Tavatum, Omsukchan).
Why not return any sooner in the 2010-2011 winter?

Because I need to wait until the later stage of the winter to potentially be able to benefit from stable solidly frozen rivers and consequently established zimnik-winter roads between Verkhniy-Paren and Omsukchan.

This will also give me enough time to find a way to repair my sled which took a beating over the last section of dragging and pulling through dirt, sand and rocks. The two damaged plastic covers of the rudders/fins underneath needs to be replaced if I want to make sure that I can still pull my sled efficiently in 2011.

Now, in the meantime, my next big challenge is to find a way to get home, back in Seattle, USA!

Paren, a koriak village of 62 koriak, white Russians and metisse inhabitants, located in a small forest of birch, poplar and mountain ash trees, near the northwestern coast of the Penzhinskaya Guba/Bay is quite isolated indeed with a very limited amount of transportation available with the outside world.
Especially during the spring snow/ ice melting season when the rivers are already closed to wezdehods/snowmobiles but yet not open to boat traffic.

Therefore, I now need to wait here in Paren, 2-3 weeks until early June, for the ice in the bay to melt sufficiently to allow for the first barge to come and return to Manily, one day of sailing away...

The ice melting process might still take a while considering that it was still snowing here in Paren, 48 hours ago!

The only exception to this long wait would be if I could benefit from getting a ride in a "sanreis" medical emergency helicopter, which is very rare and that I certainly don't wish to happen to anyone!

However, Olesia, my host is 7 months pregnant and gave birth at 7 months for her first child! If she needs to give birth anytime soon, I will be getting a ride on the medical helicopter with her taking her away to Manily!

In any event, from Manily, I will have to wait up to a week to take the weekly helicopter flight to Telichiki.

Then in Telichiki, wait 3-4 days for the helicopter flight to Petropavloski-Kamchatka and then wait potentially a few more days to fly to either Moscow or Khabarovsk to be able to leave Russia either westbound via Europe or eastbound via Asia and from there find a way back to my permanent home in Seattle, USA.

So, the whole repatriation endeavor might take up to a month and a lots and lots of patience!
But, such is life in this forgotten northwestern koriak corner of Kamchatka.

Paren is in deed a poor village, with one of the emptiest Russian store I have seen, where I can only buy a very few products such as pasta, rice, wheat, honey and coffee.

The village used to have up to 500 koriak inhabitants and was for a long time specialized in the blacksmith trade. Local craftsmen hammered out the so-called parenkie knives of metal fragments, which were found on the beach after a shipwreck....

This is definitely no longer the case and the village population has now tremendously dropped to 62 souls, living in a few individual wooden modest homes and a few great banyas where I have thankfully been invited.
The wooden rectangular homes are spread apart the middle of a small forest clearing, near the river Paren.

The houses are heated with wooden stoves, which is not always an easy task to follow when one considers that in winter it is not uncommon for temperatures to drop to -50c.

Water is available at a few wells sparsely located in town and electricity is provided by a centralized diesel generator from 08:00 to 13:00 and from 15:00 until 01:00.

The town has a very small school and even an old "Club"-Hall for communal special celebrations/holidays.

Transportation is assured by a few snowmobiles, tractors, dogsleds and small boats.

The paths between the houses are currently quite difficult to navigate by foot, unless you are wearing high overall boots because of the large quantity of snow melting very quickly, inundating/flooding the village.

Each house seems to have at least 3-4 dogs, some charming and others much more guarding and threatening!
It's a good thing I did not try to bring along with me my three canine compadre and left them in Kamenskoye to be shipped back to their homes in Slautnoye! Their lives in Paren could have been very miserable and/or short!

The town only has 2 phones (3 if you now count my satellite phone that I have been loaning from time to time to relief some of my Parenski peers...), of course absolutely no internet access and only one TV channel (Piervere Canal Russia).

I can only say how much the games available on my Ipod have provided some welcomed distraction for my hosts!

I have been looking in vain while in Paren for a computer to allow me to sort off-line through my thousands of pictures... No luck!

I guess someone wants me to focus on higher priorities right now, such as experiencing Parenski life to its fullest and working on my Russian, which badly needs some attention!

Since it is quite challenging and very expensive to bring in any food items, the local population diet rely heavily for proteins on what they are able to fish and hunt... Smoked koruchka, salmon, caribou stew, etc...

Right now, almost everyone is spending their days, hidden in bushes on the coast, waiting for the flocks of big geese and "Juravel" migrating North, to pass by in V formation flight, high above in the sky.

Shooting at the flocks with homemade bullets, one is hoping to shoot a few down to add some protein to their soup... Exciting news in a region where live chicken and any other domestic poultry are non-existent, because of the prohibitive cost of having to feed them during the rude extreme winters!

I have entered a few houses in the village over the last 48 hours, and almost every time, I came face-to-face with a dead big wild goose or "Juravel" laying on the kitchen floor and waiting to be plucked!

My koriak hosts and very welcoming new friends in Paren are Yura and his 7 months pregnant wife Olesia Chansev, both 23 years old, with their charming 3 years old Carina, their 5 years old nephew Mishka (my Russian teacher in-residence!), a cat and three new and intriguing dogs!

But, for now, enough on Paren...

Let me tell you how I got from the brigade to Paren which was yet another 7 epic days adventure, where I encountered wrestling bears, geese hunters and had to navigate my way through melting rivers, ice floes, bare tundra, melting frozen swamps and an overall very edgy coastline!

Back on Saturday May 8th, Sasha, my brigade #8 host kindly asked me how I felt that morning after having eaten some koriak "ramlochka" (raw reindeer bone marrow), telling me finally "post-mortem" that it was not rare for someone with a weaker stomach to feel ill upon its digestion!

Needless to say that I was happy to report that as far as I knew I was in good health and feeling just fine!

Sasha also taught me that morning that reindeers mostly eat "yagel",(moss), which finally explains to me why reindeer herds tend to mostly gravitate in Nordic regions around the planet...
Although I saw my reindeer pal Kalabok make an exception and truly enjoy some smoked salmon as well!

I left Sasha & the Koriak Brigade #8 posse, after having been offered two copious successive breakfasts of reindeer meat & pasta stews, and receiving 3 important gifts: several large slabs of cured and salted smoked salmon, one pair of classic Russian binoculars and one pair of furry/leather homemade sleepers to keep my feet dry and warm on cold winter nights to come in the tundra!

Now that I no longer need to find my way through ice floes, (at least for this season...) I have decided to pass on the binoculars to my hunting Parenski host Yura so that he can in turn better scope incoming geese V formations way up in the sky!

I started by walking back the first 6 kms to the wezdehod Manily-Paren trail with my filled backpack, wading my way through tundra, bushes and the Mekino river to be reunited on top of a barren hill with my sled/gear/supplies which had been kindly transported and dropped off by wezdehod, from the hunting cabin of Shestakova, 25 kms away while I backpacked this snowless section to the koriak brigade #8.

No snow in sight, I decided to proceed with my alternative plan which was to leave the now snowless wezdehod trail, and go amphibious!

Putting on my dry suit, walking and swimming down with my floating sled in tow the somewhat stable and still partly frozen Mekino river to its estuary in the Penzhinskaya Guba/Bay where I will make my way on the thin line of ice longing the coast!

I was able to thankfully proceed fairly quickly the 10 kilometers down the Mekino river.

Needless to say that after the two close-calls I had two years ago on the Lamutskaya river in Southeast Chukotka while going down a raging river filled with ice shelves, log jams and underwater tows, I was somewhat nervous in anticipation of this section!

This time, closer to its mouth/estuary, the Mekino river was a much more stable river. Therefore, not giving me too many surprises besides the sight of quite a few fresh bear prints, and a few deep holes I had to swim through...

My main concerns while going down the river were:

-managing the current and the river bends without tiping and potentially sinking my fully loaded Akapulka sled, which has a much lower water line than my previous bigger Snowsled sled used to have.

-stopping from time to time to remove the water sipping in my sled.

-removing the ice cold water of my Neos boots often enough to avoid any potential frostbitten toes. My ice cold feet were also exhausting and hurting me prematurely!

-and remembering to stop often enough to still enjoy the scenery and especially the V formation of geese flying above my head as well a filming/photographing some of the most intriguing ice formations coming along the river bed....

Coming to my last river bend, I finally welcomed the smell of the sea, my first ice/sand floes and the apparition of sea clams and sponges laying on the ice shelves...a new spectacle for me, since I neither was able to see sponges nor sea shells while crossing the Bering Straight , further North on Chukotkan and Alaskan shores.

Within minutes, the landscape has completely changed from a partly frozen river bend to a tumultuous and beautiful coastline with ice blocks the size of cars, piled up on top of each other for as far as my eyes could see...
An icy labyrinth that I will have to maneuver through!

At that moment, I also noticed on the eastern side of the river mouth, a few summer fishing cabins which were built by brigade #8 as Sasha had mentioned to me the previous night:
"It's ours, feel free to spend the night there!"

I made my way through, found one of the cabin only 1/2 full of snow, with a working stove, an incredible amount of drift wood, an iron mattress frame and even a skinned animal fur left drying on top of the stove... Plenty enough comfort for me!

I spent a good night in a fishing cabin, enjoying my first sunset on a frozen beach, piled with logs from faraway lands washed ashore on summer stormy days while listening to seagulls!
Besides the ice and snow surrounding me, I would have thought that I had been "transported" to the shores of Washington state, back where I live, in the US...

The next morning, my first day on the coastline started with a very challenging section, pulling my sled back across the Mekino river, moving West and jumping from one ice floe to the next...often having to jump gaps/crevasses 10-12 feet high and a few feet wide as well as having to avoid numerous treacherous deep holes hidden under fresh snow...

It really started to feel like I was back at it, crossing the Bering straight once again!

I spent the next 6 days progressing slowly but surely along the next 86 kms of coastline making my way to Paren, enjoying a few easier sections following either an icy section of a pebble beach or the ledge of a cliff or crossing a few challenging river mouths where water was often gushing out dangerously from under the ice, similar to what one can see at some hot springs.

At a few capes , such as at Mys Entaugyn when there was no longer any ice left on the ledge of the cliff, I had to swim in my dry suit from one ice surge to the next pulling my sled behind me.

Climbing back on top of ice surges after having swam in between represented some challenges as well, for my sled and I.

At one point, I tore off a piece of my essential harness while pulling my sled on top of a ice floe which had washed ashore. Thank god, I had a spare harness! But from then on, I had to operate more carefully...
I was now without a " safety net" since it would have been quasi-impossible to pull my sled without a working harness!

In some of these sections, trying to avoid to have to swim between ice floes, if the landscape allowed, I would drag my sled over the cliff and pull it through that section overland on top of the barren tundra.

I was able to either camp on small sections of pebble beach, between mud/sand rivers/slides and once on top of the cliff, in the exposed tundra where the view of the bay with its birds and its massive amount of ice floes/surges was magnificent!

While camping on pebble beaches, amongst the snow and ice, I was able to observe all types of flotsam washed ashore such as, buoys, mussels, crabs, clams, interestingly shaped sponges and even collected 2 beautiful traditional glass balls used by Japanese fishing boats!

It definitely was a refreshing change after having pulled my sled through mountains, rivers and tundra over the last few winters...

The weather was for the most part very cooperating, sunny and "warm" although I had two mornings of snow falling and menacing stronger winds to deal with, threatening yet once again the structure of my partly broken Chinese "kitaizik" tent...

The "warmth" actually made it very difficult to progress through the early afternoon hours when I would punch through the slurpy/soupy snow patches while walking all the way deep to my thighs...

This is why progressively through the week I continue pulling my sled later and later each evening when the snow/ice was firmer and easier to travel on.

I was also taking advantage of the late spring season, with now a sun setting around 21:30, and therefore having to deal each night with only a few hours of complete darkness from approximately midnight until 04:00.

However, while on the sea ice, I did not want to move during these hours of complete darkness since I needed the best visibility I could get to find my way through the ice floes, watch for deep gushing crevasses, and look out for BEARS!

Throughout the week, I saw quite a large amount of fresh bear prints either following the coast or aiming straight out in direction of the open sea, where they apparently enjoy strolling/fishing/hunting on top of ice surges.

One evening, as I was progressing on the coastline, I saw far away enough in front of me, two bears playing and frolicking in the snow.

I stopped to film them and especially prepare my not-very threatening bear attacks defending weapons!

Since I am travelling alone, not part of a hunting party, and not a Russian citizen, I am not allowed to carry any types of firearms in the Russian federation, even to protect myself in the event of a bear attack.

So, I have with me to defend myself what I am allowed to, which is:
- US made powerful bear pepper spray (which works though only if activated within a few feet of the attacker!)
- a few flares
- a Russian device given to me in Manily by my friend Vova Palmin: a tool that can once detonate a large amount of smoke and once a large amount of noise, supposedly enough to deter attacking bears...

I have also been told many times the comforting news that in spring time, bears just coming out of hibernation, still fat, are less hungry and aggressive than in later summer months....

So, here I was, partly confident, enjoying the wrestling match as long as I was not asked to join in!

Although wondering from time to time if two bears together had more the tendency to attack humans than one alone... In the past, I had encountered numerous bears, but always travelling alone...

So, after a certain amount of time of filming, sitting and waiting, and now properly "armed" with my meager weapons, I decided to move forward carefully on my way which of course also happened to be where the bears wrestling match was taking place!

Thankfully, they quickly ran away up the cliff/hill once they saw me move forward, stopping a few times along the way to observe in their turn, in the distance, the scary bushman that I was!

On my 60th day, after having passed overland/overcliff the challenging Mys Entaugyn, and found a beautiful campsite on top of the cliff, I woke up to the welcoming sound of machinery operating and gunshots!

I was at the time, still 63 kms from Paren and the sound of "human activity" was definitely a welcomed one!
It meant the potentiality of a stable wezdehod or snowmobile trail leading me into Paren!

I packed up and proceeded to find one kilometer further down the beach, four really adventuresome Parenski geese hunters (Arsen, Sanya, Loch & Matvei), somewhat hiding behind logs, sipping their tea, seating on top of their reindeer furs near their campfire while being ready to shoot at the first incoming V geese formations...
I could already see 4 very unfortunate geese laying on the ground, proudly displayed around the campfire!

They had come from Paren for a multi-day hunting trip, travelling along the coast in the opposite direction from me, acrobatically jumping from one big ice surge to the next with their Russian made antiquated yet strongly performing Burran snowmobile. They had gone as far as they could, making it almost to Mys Entaugyn where they had to stop.

They invited me for tea, accompanied with smoked fish, homemade bread and jam which of course I could not refuse!

We spent an hour or two sipping tea, asking each other questions and learning as much as we could on each
other lives!

They offered me a ride back to town a day or two later, once they had shot down enough geese.

I of course turned this offer down but mentioned that I would be glad to entrust them with some of my extra cargo (food, fuel, etc...) if I saw them again on their return to Paren.

Less cargo to pull would of course facilitate my work while jumping from one ice floe to the next and even potentially increase my speed, especially now that I had a badly twisted ankle after having been caught by surprise by a hidden treacherous deep hole in the ice, hidden under the fresh snow!

The next morning, as I was scouting my route, walking ahead of pulling my sled through a particularly challenging section, Matvei and Arsen appeared on their Burran snowmobile offering to relief me from some of my cargo.

I jumped on the opportunity and give them a heavy duffel bag to bring back to Paren, especially since the sea "trail" was definitely not getting easier as I was "approaching" town...

They invited me for tea once again at their hunting base camp which was located 2 kms away at the next river mouth.

I pushed forward on these 2 challenging kilometers, pulling my sled over the cliff and overland, wondering once again how could these antiquated snowmobiles manage to pass through these cliffs and especially through the long sections of snowless tundra land while pulling heavy loads!

I finally made it to their base camp, where I met 3 additional hunters, a young boy and about 10 dogs, sitting around a fire and a tent and enjoying some tasty freshly made goose soup!
They invited me to stay over during these midday hours when the snow was the hardest to travel on, enjoy some tasty soup, warm and dry my wet feet near the fire and take a nap inside an open log frame, wrapped up in a comfy reindeer kukul!
An offer I could definitely not refuse!

Around 5 PM, while most of them were gone on a search & rescue mission to retrieve one of their riders stuck on an ice floe in one of the gnarliest sections; I departed the camp, well fed and rested, for an evening of sled pulling...

I woke up on my last and 62d day, packing my camp, this time located on a small pebble "beach"/shore, somewhat dangerously located right below a threatening recent mud slide and I proceeded forward under the falling snow...

In the early afternoon, wanting to finish as quickly as possible the remaining 30 kms which were still separating me from Paren, I was once again, pulling my sled during the wrong warmer hours of the day...

Exhausted and barely making any progress, I came across two more and last hunters, hidden and checking out for geese V formations. I stopped for tea, and had the pleasure to meet my future welcoming host Yura Chansev and his older friend Pietr.

I warmed my feet a little too close to the fire for the sake of my synthetic dry suit ... and took a quick nap!
I woke up, eager to go and determined to finish the remaining 25 kms that same night, now able to follow backwards the great hardened snowmobile trail that Yura and Pietr had left behind!

I stopped in the evening, after having crossed my last difficult river mouth, in front of dilapidated fishing cabins to enjoy an energy boosting Mountain House sugary meal of blueberries cheesecake [normally good for 4 servings!], dressed warmer for the night walk and push on!

At midnight, and 9 kms from the village, moving over a pass inland, I was happily able to see the light of 6 street lamp posts, appearing in the distant horizon.
This was a very welcoming sign of civilization!

At 01:00, Yura and Pietr, on their way back to town from their geese hunting trip, sadly goose-less, stopped by and offered to tow my sled, which I gladly offered! I was definitely committed to finish the remaining 6 kms that night, since I was now left without neither a sled nor a backpack with nothing to sleep with or on!

I finally marched through town at 02:30 where I was greeted by an armada of barking dogs and Yura, patiently waiting for me to welcome me in his modest home where a warm caribou stew and a bed with sheets were kindly waiting for me!

Since arriving in town, I have been making new koriak friends, as well as adapting myself to Parenski life , as well as cleaning/sorting/storing away my gear for the summer season...

And for now, I actually need to go on and pluck my first goose!

Note: I expect to be able to post within a week or so, an additional report on my slice of life in Paren and want to expand on some of my recent background notes which I did not have time to post while I was on the trail, expanding especially on:

- What intriguing characters I had the pleasure to meet along the way.

-What discussion I was engaged in and what did I learn from them.

- What local delicacy I received from whom to take on the trail.

-Who provided me the most help, feeding me, hosting me and helping me to transport via wezdehod /snowmobile my gear from where to where...

Once again, as my Koriak friends would say...
Spending one more night in Koriak Brigade #8 before going amphibious!
Friday May 7, 2010 - 62.41451° N, 164.37136° E
Thursday evening May 7th 2010
N 62° 41.451'; E 164° 37.136'
Mekino River
Brigade #8 (Manily section) Kamchatka

A quick update since this morning....

Sasha & the Koriak Brigade #8 posse somewhat "kidnapped" me earlier today, making it very clear that they wanted me to stay one more night as their guest, telling me to leave tomorrow around 4am, when the soil and water would still be partly frozen and easier to travel on and with hopefully a clearer sky.

To facilitate my decision to stay, they have even "stored" some of my gear 2 kms away in an undisclosed location in the middle of the tundra which they only took me to late in the afternoon... No joke!

And finally, they went and kill their biweekly reindeer today so that we could enjoy together a good meal tonight!
As a guest, I was often prized pieces: tongue, heart and a new one for me, a koriak special treat known as "ramlochka" which is nothing else than RAW bone marrow!

In the end, I am very glad I took the time to spend the day with brigade #8, sharing stories once again, responding to all of their curious questions, and showing them the videos I shot in Chukchi brigade #8 in Chukotka which they were eager to see!

Based upon brigade #8 feedback, what my friend Vova back in Manily told me over the Satellite phone today and what I have seen from the top of a mountain yesterday while on my way, there is still a thin line of ice on the coast and therefore I have decided that I am going to change my route.

I am going to leave the wezdehod trail I was following across the mountain ranges, and go amphibious,walk down/ swim down the partly frozen Mekino river down to the sea and try to follow the coast line on the remaining coastal ice to Paren, making use of my drysuit if I need to swim from time to time with my sled in tow...

For now, I need to go back to my photo shoot with my favorite reindeer named Kalabok!

As my new Koriak friends would say...
Starting my 56th Day,
Thursday morning May 7th 2010
N 62° 41.451'; E 164° 37.136'
Mekino River
Brigade #8 (Manily section) Kamchatka

Total: 605 kms
152.8kms since Kamenskoye
97.2.kms since Manily

I will send a much more complete report as soon as I can but for now, here are the latest news.

I will especially add on the logistics involved lately to be able to move forward...
-Which wezdehod is helping me to transport my gear
- Who is supporting me tremendously
- Who is feeding me abundantly what latest local delicacy I am sampling
-What discussion I have been engaged in and
-What intriguing characters I am meeting along the way...

Yes. I have been blessed this spring to keep meeting colourful, kind and incredibly giving russians and it keeps coming as I am pursuing my route further southwest!
What a great experience I get to live this time again, despite a few physical hardships here and there...

However, for the time being, I need to focus on pulling my sled for the remaining gruelsome 90kms to the Koryak village of Paren (50 inhabitants) through mud, dirt, moss, water and a few patches of snow..

So, somewhat briefly....
I left my new friends and dogs in Kamenskoye on Thursday April 29th.

I left the dogs in kamenskoye with the sister of the owner. They are goihg to be shipped home in slautnoye on a barge when the river fully opens in late may.
They were fed and locked in a cabin when I fled town in the morning, to prevent having them migrate further west with me....

I would have love to have their company further on but it would not have been fair to them and their owner in the long run!
On a side note, I have found out that in fact some of the dogs are mixed blood wolf-dog which really explains some of the bigger dog (Rice) predatory behaviors....

My friend Kairat walked with me the first 2 kms out of Kamenskoye, eager to experience what it would be like to pull a sled. Profusely sweating and tired, having enough of the experience, he quickly return my sled ropes...and it was time to say a last goodbye!

A few hours later, I sat for my first meal near yet another older barge abandoned on the side of the trail and realized how much I was missing my dogs! Finally able to enjoy a meal on the trail, peacefully, without any canine begging, but surely missing their company!

I covered the very wet 55.6 kms between Kamenskoye and Manily in 1.5 days, travelling mostly through the opening penzhina river, leap frogging part of the way between ice floes and arriving in Manily in the afternoon of Friday 4/30.
The next day, I found out that one last vehicle for the season tried to use the river road, sunk and had to be salvaged by Vova Palmin's mighty Ural truck!

Manily is an older wooden village somewhat in disarray... Though it was quite charming to see the hundreds of small tasty koruchka hanging and drying at everyone's window.
Received a very warm welcome by Aksana & Vova Palmin who hosted me, fed me tremendously and went out of their way to do everything they could to feed me!

Sunday May 2d, I left for Paren 190 kms away and since then here is briefly what has happened:
- thanks to the help of two different wezdedod (the only two vehicles I have seen...) I was able to transport my sled and some of my gear for some sections and therefore was able to backpack 2 sectionsof 25kms! Relief since these two sections were snow-less for the most part!

-welcomed a snow storm which brought in some badly needed snow but tore apart one of my new "Kitaiizki" replacement tent ("Chinese made", as the Russians love to point out!)
I was able to somewhat fix it with a metal brace, fishing line, metal tube and some good old American duct tape! Just like back in the South, You' All!

-Took a 30 hrs break in the remote single cabin of sheshtakova (kamchatka), resting, in company of Ivan & Igor, two 60 years old koryaks hunters and fishermen who got dropped off here by wezdehods for a week long geese hunting and fishing trip. I walked here with my sled and surprised them and their two dogs when I landed at 4am after having searched for 6 hrs... The cabin was of course marked 3.5kms away on my old American aerial map...

Together, we shared a lot of stories, I learned about their koryak vision of modern Russia and the world and we shared a few good meals together. I will relate more on this great experience in one of my later posts...

-And finally now, yes, I am visiting my 2d brigade and my first one in Kamchatka! A much smaller one than the one I had the pleasure to spend time with in Chukotka.
500 reindeers, 5 men, 1 women and a 6 years old boy named Vanka roofed under a single tent.
I somewhat stumbled upon them when I found out that they had migrate 70kms down the mountain with their reindeers for the summer, and were just 5kms of my path!
A necessary detour when knowing that I am not expecting to see any dwellings (except for two known old dilapidated cabins) over the next 90 kms!

Brigade #8: Great hosts! Gave me a warm spot in the communal tent, a warm reindeer kukul to sleep in, warm tea and pasta interestingly mixed with sweetened condensed milk!

I returned the favor, gifting a bag od dry abricots which some of them have never seen/tasted, shared my satellite phone so that they could call "home" in Manily (100 kms and 1 month of brigade work away) and share all the pictures on my camera where they could see the shots I took coincidentally of their family members and old dogs down in Manily and Kamenskoye!

Yes, it is summer already here, raining hard, melting any remaining snow very quickly, making it harder and harder to pull a sled...

For now, waiting for the heaviest rain to pass, learning a bit more about life in a brigade, sharing a bit of life and it's back on this muddy trail for the remaining 90 kms til Paren...

Paka paka!
The first few shots of Kamenskoye!
Wednesday April 28, 2010 - 62.300° N, 166.120° E
Photos from Kamenskoye!
Photos from Slautnoye-Kamenskoye section, in company of Rice, Rex & Dunia.
In Kamenskoye and getting ready to leave for Manily!
Tuesday April 27, 2010 - 62.28074° N, 166.12529° E
After having discussed this matter at great length with locals, wezdehod drivers and administrative representatives, I have decided to take the river/bay trail between Kamenskoye and Manily since it is still partly frozen!

There is a risk that I might have to swim some sections in my dry suit, but it is supposed to be a much faster route than the mountainous route marked in green on the map above and since time matters, I will go down by the river….

I have luckily been able to send ahead some of my cargo to Manily on a Ural Wartovka Bus Truck, and will therefore only carry 5 days worth of food and fuel, allowing me a certain margin of security since I am planning to complete the ~55kms between Kamenskoye and Manily in 2-3 days.
I am planning to leave around 5pm today once I have posted this report…
I regret but because of the limited internet access that I have, I am still not able to post the pictures that I want.
However, I will do so profusely in the future!

47th Day
Wednesday April 28th 2010

N 62° 28.074'; E 166° 12.529
Kamenskoye, Koryak Okrug Kamchatka.
Total: 452.2 kms
146.2kms since Slautnoye

First of all, I want to mention that I have added notes to some of my last few posts, because I noticed that some of the posts I have sent through my PDA and satellite phone while on the trail were cut... Maybe the system is trying to tell me to post shorter posts while on the trail!

I especially added a missing last section to the last post where I was describing the trail "my" three dogs and I were on.

On Saturday 24th at 23h30, the four musketeers Dima, Rice, Rex and Dunia (Yes, I found out the names of my three vagabond dogs!) rolled into Kamenskoye, ready to tear the town apart and especially keep every local loose pack of angry territorial dogs at bay!
Not an easy task, I must say!

So, yes, in the end, since these 3 beautiful dogs decided to join me at the fishing camp, 5 kms after Slautnoye, we were able to cover together 141 kms.


Ok, before I go on and talk about “my” three dogs current fate, let me take you back to the beautiful and peaceful time we got to spend together on the Slautnoye - Kamenskoye trail over the last week...
After the last report that I sent a week ago, I realized that I had clearly left the wezdehod trail for good and joined the ural zimnik winter trail.

Wezdehod trails are the trails made by the amphibious wezdehods, military-issued tank type vehicles... They can butcher everything along the way... hills, rivers, bushes, dirt, snow, ice and therefore tend to travel in straighter shorter lines, sometimes leaving quite a bumpy butchered trail to follow.

Ural zimnik trails are the winter trails made by the heavy Ural trucks, and therefore need to work with the landscape, often following river beds, no matter how sinuous the rivers might be, and therefore often adding a great amount of mileage. However, they tend to leave great stable tracks that are most of the time easier/faster to follow on in packed hard snow. It is another story if the snow is fresh/new when one needs to pull a sled in/out/around deep crevasses left behind by the Ural large tires.

I believe I made the right choice on the Slautnoye - Kamenskoye route, where I combined the two:
- the first 60 kms on a somewhat straight wezdehod road along the Penzhina river
- the remaining 86 kms in the Penzhina river bed, when the Penzhina tends to be less sinuous, and progressively more and more "stable" as I was approaching her mouth/delta near Kamenskoye.

By "stable", I mean a frozen river offering more and more large patches of smooth ice easy to travel on and having to cross progressively less and less open water, slush, pebble stones, gravel and dirt patches.
Usually, the further down the river you travel and the more time you have before logically the ice melts!

Going down the Penzhina river also lead me to bypass completely the Oklan village and therefore, I did not have to swim across the potentially dangerous open and fast Oklan river, which tends to remain unfrozen most of the year because of its underwater springs.
I was indeed trying to postpone as long as I could this year, the use of my dry !

So, the three dogs and I took advantage of a beautiful Ural zimnik trail on the wide Penzhina river and progressed our way down, benefiting as well of a wonderful spring weather (-20c at night, up to 0c during the warm afternoons…) leading me to change to lighter “spring clothing attire” and only had to deal with one morning of light snow in an entire week!

The dogs were obviously enjoying themselves, honing their hunting skills along the way, cornering white rabbits from 3 angles which was an intriguing show to watch every time!

The larger one, wolf-like, curiously named “Rice”, enjoyed every time tearing apart my left-over Mountain House dehydrated meals, shredding them to the last bit to get the last drop!
This incredible shredding machine was also keen of any types of tin cans that will come across his way on the trail!
One morning, Rice spent about 2 hours, trotting along my side, while munching to the last bit on a moose lower leg that he had picked up along the way…

The dogs were also amusing to observe at night.
The first few nights, they were simply contented with sleeping in burrowed nests that they made near my tent…
Though starting with the 3rd and 4th nights, the larger dogs Rice and Rex started to want to sleep on my sled which I was quite willing to concede to.
I drew the line though on the 5th night when Rice started to want to sleep inside the tent!
We came to a satisfactory agreement when I finally let him rest in the small space available between the 2 layers of the tent, where he could get a bit of extra warmth.
A demanding husky I must say!

On our 5th day of trekking after Slautnoye, we were woken up by our first human contact, since koriak Valeria left us six kilometers after Slautnoye.
Two Ural trucks were driving in the opposite northern direction, near my campsite, which reassured me that obviously the kilometers ahead of river bed were still “stable” enough to let through 2 heavy Ural trucks, let alone one man with a sled and his three dogs!

Around 16h00 on the same day, 70 kms from Kamenskoye, we came across along our way a fairly large barge which has been “beached” during the summer months in the middle of the river, most likely thanks to a dangerous underwater sand bar.
An interesting site in the middle of the frozen river which lead me to stop, enjoy a Mountain House meal and partake into a photo shoot with my 3 canine friends!

On our 6th day, we were this time woken up by Aleg, a Gas Ural truck driver who was Kamenskoye bound with my 2 red cargo bags thankfully strapped on top of his cistern. I was quite relieved to see that my gear was on its way promptly to Kamenskoye and should be there before “we” even arrived!
I was also quite pleased to follow the tracks of this truck, able to pack down the fresh snow that had fallen down during the night!

Further on that day, we were suddenly dealing with a lot more traffic!
At 17h30, 1 ural and 1 wezdehod full of koryak passengers came by from the Northeastern port of Telichiki… a 1-2 days journey…
They stopped to check out what was this crazy man doing on the trail alone with his sled and 3 sleds, and of course profusely inundated me with questions starting with the ever-essential one: “ARE YOU A SPY?”
To which I responded ‘Of course, I am, there is so much to report on this Slautnoye-Kamenskoye strategic trail!”

It was for me the opportunity though to turn around and ask them about the trail condition for the kilometers to come and how far did they think I will be able to trek/ski this month through Kamchatka before I completely ran out of snow!

At 19h00, 3 more Ural trucks came by, loaded with wooden logs and bound for Kamenskoye.
I filmed them and they took pictures of me…

A few minutes later, athe mouth of the Oklan river, I arrived at the balok/izbuk/cabin I was counting on for the night, knowing that it was the only known dwelling between Slautnoye and Kamenskoye, besides the locked cabin of the beached barge I came across.

However, it was in a sad dilapidated shape, full of snow and therefore could not housed me for the night… The dogs and I pushed then further on to a section of the trail that left the river for a while (because of an open water section) in order to punch through a bumpy and bushy section.

We finally stopped at 21h00, camped and were woken up around midnight by Aleg’s gas truck on his way back to Slautnoye, followed a few minutes later by two wezdehods which were Kamenskoye bound as well.

A koriak driver, named Gosha, (the brother of Genia, the woman who sold me the tent in Slautnoye!) coiffed with a beautiful koriak hat, popped out of the first wezdehod to exclam:”THOSE ARE MY DOGS!!! AND THEIR NAMES ARE RICE, REX AND DUNIA!”

To which I responded: “Great! Nice to meet you! Can you please take them home in your wezdehod!”
Gosha: “No, I can’t, the wezdehod is full and not supposed to transport dogs! They will have to find their way home themselves!”

I went back inside my tent, shared the news with rhe dogs and quickly felt asleep…

On the next morning which was our 7th and last day of trekking since Slautnoye, we were first woken up by a strange tractor contraption pulling logs along the trail, thankfully smoothing the trail a bit in this bumpy section.

Around noon and 25kms away from Kamenskoye, I came across 3 fishermen parked with 2 snowmobiles on the river and their 2 dogs…The first non-moving humans we saw since the fishermen, five kilometers after Slautnoye.

Craving for a bit of human contact, I decided to stop, park my sled along the side of the trail, and the 4 of us start marching across the frozen river towards their encampment.

After a few standard questions, Sanya, his son-in-law Misha and grandson Kosta decided to invite me for a cup of tea, while taking a break from ice-fishing for Ritons!
A cup of tea led to shashlik kielbasa, bread, chocolate, biscuits and in exchangem I gladly gave them a bit of bottled “southern comfort”!

A great break for the four of us, although I had to keep myself on alert at all times, watching my mercenary dogs and preventing them from stealing any more food than their first ½ loaf of bread and stopping them from threatening/attacking the two smaller dogs present…

Sania in his 50’s, had been a wezdehod driver in the past and was in deed a wealth of information on the region various routes…One thing led to another and soon enough, I realized that I had been 4 hours in their company!

It was 16h00, and time to leave if I still wanted to cover the 25 remaining kilometers to Kamenskoye before my night….Sania invited me to join him the next day in Kamenskoye to spend a few hours in his banya, which of course I accept, especially after having spent a few days on the trail!
The dogs and I finally left , continuing our way, switching back and forth along the river bed between a snowmobile and a wezdehod trail, depending on which one was the best packed at the time!

At around 18h00, I called my next hosts in Kamenskoye, Kairat and Anna to ask them if it would be OK for me to arrive late in the evening in their abode to which they responded a very kindly:”of course yes! Come on over at anytime, we will be home all night!”

In fact, I have noticed in the past that in the Far Eastern part of Russia, it is quite acceptable for someone who has traveled far by foot, snowmobile or wezdehod to arrive in people’s home at all hours of the day and night, taking into consideration that it is often better to travel at night when the snow tends to be harder and therefore easier to travel on.

At around 20h30, 10 kms away from Kamenskoye, I came across a cute yakut-russian couple fishing out of another ice hole. We exchanged a few words, a few pictures and I tried hard in vain to have them adopt at least one of my dogs!

6kms before Kamenskoye, I was passed by my 3 inviting fishermen Sania, Misha and Kosta who had decided to go home instead of spending a manly Saturday night in a cabin off-trail because they had forgotten their stoves… My two biggest dogs Rex and Rice decided to chase their snowmobiles as they passed us and therefore left Dunia and I in the “dust”…

Dunia and I finished the remaining 6 kms in the night, leap frogging between a few section of water and snow.
When Dunia and I finally arrived on the outskirts of the village at 23:20, we were quickly reunited with Rex and Rice who had been apparently waiting for us to enter the town!

We marched in the town, and immediately Rex, Rice and Dunia rushed to the nearest garbage dump site to feast on any grub they could get their paws on while I took the opportunity to use my sat phone to alert my new host that we had arrived!

Since then, I have spent the last four days in Kamenskoye and was able to:

- enjoy a great deal of homecooked meals by my great hosts , Kairat, a native of Kazakstan and his metisse Koryak wife Anna, who happens to be a fine chef! Reindeer stews, borschs, fishes, buckwheat, stuffed red peppers, etc, etc....

- enjoy a few hours in Sanya’s great banya! A great little and cozy space he built decades ago with any kind of recycled materials he could get his hands on! Enjoyed as well some great local berries compote and succulent semi-dried Koryuchka fishes!

- enjoy the opportunity to give a school presentation to the Kamenskoye students with the help of Lubova, a great local English teacher and been able to answer a large amount of questions submitted by these eager, curious and smart students

- have the pleasure to meet the mayor Igor Anatolevich Sinietzinski and get the latest information on the various routes between here and Paren, my last outpost on the Western front of Northern of Kamchatka, after Manily!

-enjoy a great snowmobile ride on the river with my dogs running by my side in order to go and partake in a few hours of ice fishing in the company of Slav and Maria. Being able to catch my first Riton ever!

- able to withdraw money from the local bank, the only bank hundreds of kilometers around.
Of course, no debit / credit plastic cards allowed here!
To be able to withdraw a reasonable amount of money to cover my expenses between now and the time I need to leave Russia at the end of the month of May, I had to get the help of my US financial advisor aka "sugar daddy", the help of my girlfriend Gulnara with her Moscow bank account, the help of Anna, a local bank account member in Kamenskoye and even the help of the famous Russian pop band Reflex! No joke! (Thank you all for your help indeed!)

- have the pleasure to be interviewed by the local Kamenskoye newspaper “The Polar Star” and being able to answer intriguing questions and in exchange receive a good set of local Koriak cultural dance digital pictures.

- able to convert with the help of a fine local seamstress my tent from a 3 to 4 seasons status, adding a layer of synthetic cloth on top of the mosquito net.

- stash up on antibiotics, Vitamin C and antibiotic cream at the local pharmacy.
Although, I could not get any new medical to cover my frost bitten finger. Need to recycle my old ones when I run out... Will have to see what I can find in Manily!

- Visit the local museum, and tour the town with countless wonderful local kids, showing me the highlights of their towns. Quite a few wanted me to sign some authographs and a teenager girl even offered me to give me some money to get some food for the road!
I must really start to look deprived!

- Had the pleasure to watch local kids cross-country skiing in the streets, a rare site that I have not seen since Anadyr!

- Meet as usual the local police and administration representatives to be able to register and respond to a certain amount of questions on my expedition and current plans /route.

-and finally, but not least worry about MY DOGS FATE!

Since I arrived in Kamenskoye, my great hosts Kairat and his wife Anna were kind enough to give me some left-overs for the dogs to feed on. However Kairat and Anna wanted me to feed them myself since they were now "my" dogs and until recently no one wanted them in this town already oversaturated with dogs...

No potential new owners meant no homes where they could enter and rest, like I gratefully could!
Kairat & Ania already have their own dog Julia who is definitely not looking forward to host any canine company, even for a few minutes...

So over the last few days, I launched on a major PR campaign on behalf of Dunia, Rex and Rice, mentioning to anyone I could their great merits, especially as hunting dogs!
and I am glad to say that I have finally found an option!
Maria, the Koryak immigration officer with whom I went fishing, and the sister of Gosha, the actual owner of the dogs, has conceded to keep the dogs until they can be sent back to Slautnoye later on this summer by barge!

On the fishing trip, I spent a long time selling to Maria, the hunting merits of ‘my’ dogs, knowing how much of a avid hunter she was, and I am happy to report that it worked!

If I did not take any initiative to find them a new home, I know that the dogs will want to follow me and continue vagabonding with me further down ...
And in fact, they were already following me in every one of my steps, patiently waiting for me outside homes and buildings while I was roaming through town...

The challenge for them, while they are in an town is to try to give themselves a bit of a free zone in this "No Man's Land" where at every corner a pack of hounds is marking their territory as clearly as they can.
Walking through town by their side felt like if I was thrown back in a samurai movie, watching how different factions interact...

This is definitely NOT the land of dogs on leash and prepackaged dog food that can be bought in a store...
Here, each roaming dog needs to clearly guard his "own" garbage dumpsite!

The plan is: since the dogs follow every one of my moves, I am going to lead them into a “getapant”, taking them into a locked stored space where they will stay in for 24 hours until I am way far out of town… and they no longer can follow my tracks!

I would love to keep the dogs on this journey with me but it would not be fair to them because:

-the further west I go, the least chances they will ever get to make it back home in Slautnoye!

-they will most likely not be welcomed in the towns to come and potentially could be attacked/mauled by the local hounds! My next two towns Manily and Paren are known to be towns with a large amount of loose menacing dogs...

-it would be difficult to bring these dogs back to my permanent home in Seattle, where people are naturally less tolerant of wolf-like aggressive dogs behaviours! I am not too eager to end up in people's court after Rice or Rex decides to swallow a barking yankee poodle!

-it would be difficult to carry a reasonable amount of food for the three dogs in addition to my own supply in the remote and challenging Manily-Paren!

So, yes, in a few minutes, I am going have to part myself from Rice, Rex and Dunia, but I will at least have pictures and films to help me cherish the memories of this fun week spent together!

Besides the two days spent traveling with Sasha and Sergei’s reindeers and watching Iditarod dogs passed me by in Alaska, it was the first time I got to spend accidentally or not, a serious amount of time side by side with animals while on an expedition and I must say that going forward, I would consider doing it again and even potentially planning on it, despite the complexity that it might bring along!

Before departing for Manily, I must say that I have quite enjoyed the last 4 days spent in Kamenskoye in company of new friends and acquaintances and I will also cherish the memories of their company. Kairat and Anna, thank you again for your great hospitality!

And finally, for the record, Kamenskoye has a population of about 670 inhabitants, composed of white russians, ukrainians, koryaks, evenks, and chukchis.
It is the regional administrative center for the Penzhina region and is connected to Manily, an old soviet-type port (operating obviously only in summer months!) of 1000 inhabitants with either a gravel inside road or a winter river trail.
According to the traffic police report, the town has only 5 buses, three trucks, and 20 cars!

Similar to what I have seen in Slautnoye, Kamenskoye has numerous 2 floors wooden apartment buildings (with most of them operating without any running water for the last two years and obvious lack of proper garbage collection!) and a few interesting wooden structures such as the library and the local court where I have absolutely no desire to spend anytime soon!

From what I have seen so far, this northwestern forgotten corner of Kamchatka, also known as the Koryak Okrug has been heavily struggling financially since the end of the soviet regime in the early 1990's and has not been able to benefit from more glorious times ever since, to the contrary of neighbouring Chukotka which saw a great amount of investment under oligarch Roman Abramovich's regime in the early 2000's.

Well... in any event, iis grand time for me to hit the road!
So long Kamenskoye and thank you all for the fine hospitality!
Trekking with three travelling dogs!
Tuesday April 20, 2010 - 62.55102° N, 167.08416° E
Starting my 40th Day,
Wednesday morning April 21st 2010
N 62° 55.102'; E 167° 08.416'
On a bend of the Penzhina river, between Slautnoye and Oklan.

Total: 369.7 kms
63.7kms since Slautnoye

After having spent 8 days in Slautnoye, making new friends, doing repairs, healing partly my frostbites, updating the website, waiting for the cyclone to pass and even dancing at the local "disco", I was able to depart on sunday April 18th.

Yes! I was able to purchase a new green tent strangely called "Eldegreen, the green hills of ireland" from friends Genia & Sasha in Slautnoye .

I have rigged it in a way that it can hopefully sustain strong windy blows, but I will need to convert it from a "3 seasons" status to a "4 seasons" status upon landing in kamenskoye, adding/sewing a 2d layer of synthetic cloth to the mosquito screen, to avoid the potential penetration of snow and wind.

Nyurgun stopped definitely in Slautnoye and from there, he has decided to return to Anadyr via wezdehod, helicopter and planes to resume his work in early May.

After having said goodbye and taking pictures with everyone I knew in slautnoye, I departed with Andrei, Vitte, Ania, her 2 years old son Timothei riding a sled, and her father Valeria.

On the outskirts of the village, I left everyone, except for koriak Valeria who wanted to accompany me for a while.
Upon departing, I promised to send to Vitte an identical pair to my ESS protective goggles with a nose guard, which he was envious of and would love to have for his long and harduous snowmobile rides in the exposed tundra!

After 5 kms, Valeria and I came actross 8 fishermen/women, white russians and koriaks, enjoying some sunday recreational ice fishing,
catching some 40-50 cms long shuka.
They invited me to stop over, sit around the fire and enjoy a cup of tea, which of course, I could not turn down!

In addition to the tea, I was also kindly given some lard, reindeer meat and smoked salmon. Truly a nice treat to receive on the road in fine company!
At the time, I was playing with the 3 dogs present and feeding them my reindeer bones and fish skins, not able to predict the future...

After about 40 minutes of eating, filming and watching the fishermen/women operate in front of their individual ice hole, I departed with koriak Valeria.

1 km further, making sure that he was leaving me on the right trail, Valeria returned to the fishing camp, after having enjoyed with me a few larabars and a few sips of nuun.

While saying goodbye, and sharing frostbiten stories after having seen his own dramatic scars, I asked him if the three dogs that were accompanying us were his, to which he responded "niet!" and departed...

So, here I was, left with 3 dogs: 2 beautiful huskies, and a smaller mutt, thinking that they will turn around and go home soon enough!

3.5 days and 63kms further, they are still with me, enjoying the ride, sleeping by my tent, and devouring my very meager left overs.
I suspect that they have also enjoyed sone road kills, watching one munching on white feather and wayching them chasing mostly invain any of the numerous birds thar we encounter. I am not feeding them except a few larabars which the devour because I surely did not plan in my food rations to feed THREE dogs in this section!
However, I will feed them some of my "extra" food if it becomes critical for them and/or my safety!

I must say that I have very much enjoyed their playful company, watching how they relate to each other, and truly enjoying being on the trail.

The leader, which reminds me of the dog Jack (see "The call of the wild" by Jack London), gets very excited
every time I start again, jumping in joy, barking and quickly running ahead!

Maybe because I am pulling the sled and he gets to play!

I have no idea how far they will travel with me and what would be their destiny upon entering the next village but for the time being once again I am surely enjoying their company and somewhat feel safer with them by my side.

Not sure though what would happen if wolves or a bear come to visit...

"We" have been travelling a minimum of 20 kms a day on a beautiful hard packed combined wezdehod /ural trail where we have seen no one.
I was told that the urals/trucks have mostly finished their seasonal transport work between kamenskoye and slautnoye and only one wezdehod travels this road every 10 days or so.

Saw on the side of the trail an intriguing antique dilapidated wezdehod and a few discarded oil barrels as well as sadly the usual cans and bottles from time to time where the drivers stopped for a snack!
I picked up some of the litter along the way but cannot afford to overload my sled any further!

When time allows, when I come across vodka bottles and small industrial/machinery/wooden pieces that fell off travelling vehicles, I take the time to stop and stand them up straight in the snow as statues... Thinking that it might keep the drivers more alert on their monotonous rides, and strangely adding excitement to my day...

Having said that, I wish I could cover more miles every day, but I am still pulling a fairly heavy sled (although I left extra fuel and food to be transported to Kamenskoye on the wezdehod), and I am still on antibiotics for my frostbiten fingers, which I suspect makes me additionally tired.

For the first 55 kms, we (the 3 dogs and I) travelled on beautiful flat frozen tundra, lakes and smaller river beds and now are travelling on top of the magestic Penzhina river where we slept last night on top of a cracking though safe section.

The weather has been great over the last three days: sunny, windless and hot (up to +2c), leading me to use Neos overall boots on top of my montrail sustina shoes to wade through mushy, wet sections.

I have not had to use my skis once since leaving Slautnoye, 63 kms away, thanks to a hard packed wezdehod trail!

I predict that I am about 2-3 days away from the small village of Oklan (50 inhabitants) and 4-6 days away the larger town of Kamenskoye.

Between here and there, I have been told that I am going to have to use my dry suit and swim with my sled across the Oklan river, an already opened river (because of its geothermal springs) with supposedly strong currents!

Hope "my" dogs are good swimmers!

For now, so long!
Слаутное - Enjoying a slice of life in Northern Kamchatka!
Thursday April 15, 2010 - 63.10201° N, 167.58416° E
34th Day, Tuesday April 15th 2010
Location: N 63° 10.201'; E 167° 58.416'
Slautnoye, Kamchatkan Oblast, Russian Federation

2010 Total: 306kms

Before I forget, I want to send my deepest regards to all of my American procrastinating friends, frantically filing up their taxes on this fatidic April 15th, you got til midnight!
I have been there and I feel your pain!
From where I stand though, I must say that this luckily really feels thousand and thousand miles away....

In my last post on April 8th, (our 27th day), I mentioned that we were taking off with all our gear to cover the 40-50 remaining kilometers that separated us from Slautnoye, our first village in Kamchatka...
Well, so we did!

We left in the afternoon of Thursday April 8th and were only able to cover 7kms on that first day.

Pulling our sleds through a hilly section once again deprived of much snow!

We spent a final night in our makeshift tent and woke up to the sound of a growing and menacing wind, making it very difficult to make our water and cook our meals in a partly exposed ½ tent.. 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...

Not quite as dramatic as the painting "Le Radeau de la Méduse" by Théodore Géricault but you get the picture!
Needless to say, we were both eager to get going and try to get to Slautnoye as quickly as we could, as the wind strength was continuing to grow!

Luckily our path was starting to be covered with more and more hard packed snow which tremendously facilitated our skiing and trekking!

After having covered 15 kms in a few hours, we finally came across Vitte's snowmobile prints, who came a few days earlier to look for us and our gear...
I finally found out upon meeting him in Slautnoye, that he was not able to find us because of the different set of Russian maps he was using, which has strangely different coordinates from the one we had...

This still puzzles me but as I have experienced before in Russia (and elsewhere...), they are some matters that are better left unexplained...

In any event, his snowmobile prints leading back to the "stable" in Slautnoye were going to be a great help, allowing us to move even faster...
As we were getting closer to Slautnoye, we thankfully started to come across more and more snow, despite still a few exposed barren sections.

Not travelling at the same speed, and believing at the time that the remaining 25 kms were going to be somewhat of a "straightforward" section following snowmobile prints, I recommended Nyurgun to go ahead so that at least one of us would not have to spend another night tentless...

So, now alone, pushing on, 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 that was recommended to me back in Seattle by my friend Gary McGuire, my ex PT who has been looking after my abused body for years..

Both of these modifications worked, allowing me to reduce the pressure on my back and therefore allowing me to proceed further happily in the wind and now falling snow while enjoying the tunes of Ratatat and a great medley of dub reggae for the next set of 10 hours, stopping once long enough to munch on yet another great dehydrated meal by Mountain House rehydrated with the help of one of my faithful thermos bottles!

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...

At around 4am, ~5kms from what I was believing to be the location of Slautnoye, (according to my old mid 1980’s American aerial map) in now a very forceful storm hitting me right in the face, I finally lost regrettably completely track of the snowmobile trail...

At that point, I pulled out my Garmin eTrex Legend GPS for the 100th time, (which do not always cooperate very well in x<-20C’s temperatures, when the screen display starts to disappear), aimed at “my” Slautnoye location, lined it with my compass and start aiming as straight as the wind would allow me to, referring to my handy compass from time to time… 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, I made the mistake to remove ½ way off my face my furry protective hood in -35c stormy weather conditions to increase my vision, feeling the wind burning my skin on my right temple and on my nose. A large amount of mucus (resulting from eating dehydrated meals for a month which contains a lot of dehydrated milk) turning into thick ice was also starting to form underneath my nose. Finally, my fingers were also starting to burn as a result of minuscule holes formed in my 1st layer thermal wool Ibex gloves and 2d layer Polartec gloves resulting from a few weeks of wear and tear. I was wearing a 3d layer thick down mittens but that was apparently not enough to prevent the penetrating cold to come after my fingers! No time to stop and replace any of this clothing, by fear of potentially losing some of them in the forceful wind on what I “believe” was an exposed hill top… All I could do, was to open a pack of iron Grabber hand warmers and stuff them down my gloves the best way I could, knowing though that there was not much they could do to warm up the exposed tips of my fingers which were starting to harden…
I just needed to grind my teeth and push on!

6am: The morning light was starting to come out in the middle of this storm, helping me to somewhat increase my vision.

Progressing slowly but “surely”… I came across a few frozen river arms where my sled pushed by the wind, started to slide ahead of me very quickly, yanking me from behind by the ropes of my attached harness, while I was trying to avoid as many falls as I could on this hurtful exposed blue ice.

7am: I finally came across snowmobile tracks across a riverbed, allowing me to start my search for Slautnoye which according to my GPS was still located 1.5 kms away…

7:30am: I came across a first dumpsite, then a second one and finally a third one, which really started to comfort me, leading me to believe that I was getting very close to a town!

But not quite!

After 1 more hour of further research in all directions I finally came across at the bottom of a hill, the view of the old faithful coal smelter chimney spurting out its black smoke, at a vertical angle thanks to the purga which was continuing to blow fierce fully.
Home, sweet home!I was finally physically close to slautnoye!

I found out a few hours later that the village of Slautnoye, which was constituted in 1932 as a center for the reindeer breeding farms/brigades in the region had been moved in the 1950’s a few kilometers away from its old location, after it had been completely flooded and destroyed by the Slautnoye river.

My old American aerial map of course still points to the old location, near the dumpsites which led to my confusion in the middle of the storm!

Saturday April 10th at 9am, feeling as if I was going through an odd steeple chase race, I managed to pull my sled through several final snow banks and heroically entered town afyter having marched 43kms in the last 22.5 hours!

I proceeded straight to the coal smelter where I was sure to be able to find someone 24/7.
I presented to the first soul I met the handwritten note that Gennady Penichin had given me in Vayegi a month earlier, explaining that Nyurgun and I had a place for us to stay in the home of his friend Andrei Kazanko, with whom we had been in touch by satellite phone ever since we lost our tents to the wind a week earlier…

Offered a cup of tea, I started to remove my clothes and attached layers of frost and ice in the middle of the coal smelter office…

Tired and annoyed with the chunk of ice hanging off my chin, not willing to wait for it to melt, I stupidly decided to yank it, tearing a good chunk of my beard hair with it.

It actually felt like I was skinning part of my freshly newly frostbitten chin!

Not the smartest thing to do, I must say! But then again, I had just been pulling my sled for 22.5 hours with 10 of them in a forceful purga, not necessarily having “it” all together, obviously!

At that time, I also realized that my left hand middle finger was suffering from a new case of frost bite as well, as I have predicted could happen during the night when I noticed the minuscule holes in the glove…

This is the finger that I called “Darky” in 2006, as some of you may recall, during my crossing of the Bering Srait, when I first frost bit it upon departing from Nome, Alaska, leading at the time to its shortening and darkening level 3 frostbite…
And yes, here he was, BACK in full force!

At that point, I was introduced to infamous Vitte, the snowmobile rider, who after a warm greeting proceeded to take me and my sled to the house of Andrei Kazanko…

10am: Here, I was seating in the kitchen of Andrei, surrounded by friendly gawkers, greeted with a beautiful bowl of hearty borsch, lard, homemade bread, a bowl of Okrochka, garlic cloves, pickled tomatoes, Easter eggs and eve some left over Easter cakes that I was glad to get my hands on!

In addition, I was able to sip on a nice cup of tea and of course some of Andrei “whiskey’ as he likes to call it!
The “whiskey” is nothing else than his homemade samagon, slightly amber colored, which some of you would call homemade “bathtub vodka”!
This is when, I was very surprised to find out that Nyurgun had not yet arrived, originally thinking that he would have arrived a few hours ahead of me!

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 an athletic contortionist feat, I must say!

Since our arrival five days ago, Nyurgun and I have been able to enjoy thanks to the incredible generous hospitality of Andrei and his Koryak “daughter” Ania, copious amount of homemade meals, borsch, okrochka, great reindeer stews mixed with buckwheat, smoked fish and lard, homemade blueberry jams and the best ikra I have ever tasted! The tastiest and freshest salmon eggs mixed with a drop of oil and minced garlic!
A delight that I was offered to take in a jar safely secured in my sled and brings home in Seattle to enjoy with my girlfriend and closest friends!

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

We also spent some time taking care of our “wounds”.
Besides taking antibiotics and using an healing antibiotic cream (that thankfully I brought over since they are not available locally in the depleted local infirmary/pharmacy), I have also been using bear Fat/Oil to heal my frost bites as it has been recommended by the locals.

We were hoping to lighten our load between here and Kamenskoye, entrusting some of our heaviest back up gear and extra stove fuel/white gas in the hands of a wezdehod driver but this has regrettably failed. The wezdehod came into town last night, called us on the phone, got his scheduled cargo, turned around and zoomed back towards Kamenskoye quickly, wanting to avoid the heaviest part of the storm, and forgetting in the process to come and pick up our own cargo…

Well…. if we cannot find another option (i-e: another wezdehod) I guess, I will be to continue to bare my cross along the way!
This should help to remind me once again the crucial benefits to pack lightly in the future sections of the expedition!

Slautnoye 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…
In Soviet times, Slautnoye population grew up to 800 inhabitants but as in many other parts of Far Eastern Russia, the numbers have tremendously dropped since the dismantlement of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s… Lesser financial support from Moscow meant less jobs and therefore leading to an exodus back to the mainland/ materik.

The village now has 350 inhabitants and still subsists as the center for the surrounding reindeer brigades. Inhabitants enjoy a great amount of reindeer meat, fishes, ikra (succulent salmon eggs!), potatoes and vegetables that they grow in greenhouses very quickly during the intense 24 hrs few but powerful summer days…

3 registered and 2 speakeasy stores carry additional products with astronomical prices because a large amount of these products are brought in from Western Russia, Vladivostok or Magadan by plane to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski where they are then transferred to Kamenskoye on another cargo plane to finally finish their last 200 kms journey by qas guzzling wezdehods… Not a cheap solution here!

48 years old Andrei has tragically lost his wife of more than 20 years due to a cancer in early February. It feels like the whole village takes turn to come and visit him and help him with his sorrow in his spacious 3 bedroom apartment where he is welcoming us. At all hours of the day and night, when he is not working as an electrician at the coal/electric town center, one can see in his kitchen, enjoying copious amount of food, tea and various types of samagons, a wide spectrum of intriguing characters who seem to also very much enjoy the temporary presence of a Yakut and Franco-Yankee… the inquisitive older Koryak shamanka lady, the koryak younger men and girls, the materik “mainland” older Russians, the Ukrainians, etc…
It amuses me to see them so intrigued, inundating us with countless questions and loving to check any of the sport, electronic, medical or food items we brought along.

Thirsty for new music and pictures (no radio in town and only 2 TV channels) they also love to see and/or copy anything we can share…

Over the last five days we also had the pleasure to spend a large amount of time at the local older school where we were able to slowly but surely access the internet after a month withdrawal, visit the local school historical museum, enjoy a few good meals with the children and especially were able to make a fun presentation in front of the 40 enthused students , mostly Koryak children and a few Materik white Russian children amongst them.

The weather report (for the Kamenskoye/Slautnoye region) predicts that the last strong phase of this cyclone will be tomorrow, Friday 16th, with winds up to 15meters / second and -40c temperatures.
It should be finished by Saturday morning, allowing us to leave, although pending on whether or not we will have a tent by then!

Well, after having pulled our sleds through the Chukotkan and Kamchatkan tundra for a month, I am definitely glad to have the opportunity to be here for a few days and share a slice of Slautnoye inhabitants’ life and maybe, just maybe, being able to contribute a bit to help my new friend Andrei to ease his mourning pain with a welcomed foreign yakut-franco-yankee invasion!

Dimka in Slautnoye…
2010 Nexus Expedition Pictures
Thursday April 15, 2010 -
Here is the comprehensive list of some of the pictures I have already been able to post.

If you have browsed through them already, go back and look at them again!
Because, I will continue to post additional pictures progressively as well as hopefully replace existing ones with higher resolution ones while in Slautnoye and hopefully in subsequent villages as fast as the internet gods allow me to in this somewhat remote part of the world...

Additional story-related pictures have also been added to multiple last month field posts.

Take the time to peruse through them if you wish.

Video footage from the field will be posted once it has been been post-edited by my supportive friends at 1iOpen Productions
The first few landscape shots....
Wednesday April 14, 2010 - 57.0000° N, 160.0000° E
Purely Magic!
Chukotkan & Kamchatkan landscape we were able to cross
over the last month!
The first few shots of Brigade #6!
Tuesday April 13, 2010 -
Photos of the convoy getting ready to leave Brigade #6 in Southwest Chukotka!
Photos of Brigade #6, Southwest Chukotka.
Photos from the start of 2010 Nexus Expedition.
Kamchatka! Kamchatka! Kamchatka!
Monday April 12, 2010 - 63.1012° N, 167.5848° E
After a final epic section in the middle of a forceful Purga, Nyurgun and I finally arrived Saturday April 10th in Slautnoye, Kamchatka!

I will send a full report on this latest section in the next few hours and will post pictures as soon as the internet gods allow!

For the time being, if you are a Russian reader, check this if you want to learn a little bit about what life entails in Слаутное - Slautnoye , one of the most remote village in Kamchatka...

English and other foreign readers, feel free to use Promt or any other automated translation tool to get the translation in your native language.
Gone with the wind!
Wednesday April 7, 2010 - 63.17487° N, 168.40532° E
Day 28th, Thursday morning April 8th 2010
Proud to say that we are finally in Kamchatka territory , in the North East Koriaky region, about 40-50 kms from Slautnoye, our first Kamchatkan village
Location: N 63° 17.487'; E 168° 40.532'

Total: 256kms

Since my last post on our 20th day,we were able to make it out of our trenches and made progress leap-frogging / zig-zagging from one white patch of snow,froxen river, lake to the next between large barren sections...

It reminded me a bit how Karl Bushby and I were leap-frogging from one good ice flow to the next during our 2006 Bering Strait crossing...

Nyurgun and I were ecstatic to finally be able to make better progress when the unthinkable happened on the morning of our 22d day while taking our tents down. As I was detaching my tent from my anchoring sled, I heard on my side, Nyurgun screamed "Dima!",turned around watch in horror one fully build tent flies out of his hands into the wind. Shocked, confused, and defocused within a split of the same second, lost grip of my own tent, and here she was gone in the oblivion as well!

Next thing you know, I am desperately running and nyurgun skiing after these two giant big orange balls, similar to tumbleweeds, bouncing off the ground and rapidly disappearing in the horizon thanks to a gusty 30+ miles/hr wind...

It truly felt like a scene out of a Fellini movie, a Dali painting or a Flaming Lips concert with its countless bouncing giant colorful balls...

Nyurgun asked me then if I had a reserve tent to which I frustrately responded... "you know you were sleeping in it!"
Yes, indeed, giving each other a bit of extra space to sleep, eat, and dry our clothes comfortably at night, we took the liberty to use both tents (including the reserve one) on a daily basis, knowingly that we were taking a risk, but surely not able to fathom that we could lose entirely BOTH tents in less than a second!

So, we went back to our base camp, took our sleds and gear and proceeded 8 kms in the direction of the wind through a difficult section partly barren of snow, hoping that hopefully a little hill, ditch or bushes could have stopped these two escapees in orange suits, checking everything in sight with and without Nyurgun's Binoculars... But, of course nothing was to be found!

We called our nearest contact Andrei in Slautnoye who informed us that by now they were already probably in the sea, 200 kms southwest away... Unless of course they have been shot down as potential UFOs by the Chinese airforce... Robust North Face Mountain series 23 models, I must say! Great kites!

Since then, we have continued to make progress towards Slautnoye, managing to sleep in our sleds on the first night after the "catastrophe", which uncomfortably psychologically felt too much like laying my own coffin and if you want to know, I am definitely not ready for that!

We built a fantastic snow cave on our 2d night tentless in a gulley that surprisingly still had a great amount of snow. This 5 hours project is actually something that Nyurgun has wznted to do for a long time and I am "glad" that Nexus expedition finally gave him that opportunity.

We looked in vain for an old cabin/balok we were told about on our 3rd night and ended up burrying ourselves in ditches, where I sleptvery comfortably thanks to my thick down emergency suit given to me by my French sponsor Valandré...

On our fourth night, we decided to build a makeshift tent out of the surviving two 2d tent layers and the few small extra poles we had... It stands alright but I really don't think it will stand the first purga we encountered down our path...
In a way, I must say that I actually feel lucky that we have not encountered any storm or even wind over our last 5 tentless nights!

Consequently, we have been already calling ahead our contacts in slautnoye , kamenskoye and petropavloski -kamchatski to see if we could already source a new or used tent for when we arrive in Slautnoye... No results so far..

On the evening of our 23rd night, we successfully went over our last mountain pass in the Penzhinsky Khrebet / mountain range which marks the border between Chukotka and Kamchatka.

Since then, we were only able to move our sleds very slowly through a valley partially baren of snow and quite bushy!

On the evening of our 24th day, we finally came across an old wezdehod trail, leaving crevasses deep enough to gather a slightly sufficient amount of snow for us to pull our sleds through.

Was this the holy grail?
We called our friend andrei in slautnoye to know if this old trail could lead us to slautnoye 40kms away, to which he responded: "You know my friend, All the roads lead to slautnoye!"

He then offered to have a man come find us the next day with a snowmobile and trailer to release us from some of our gear, knowing the precarious situation with the snow level in the region.
We of course accepted and since then have been waiting TWO DAYS for the cavalry to arrive! We gave our exact gps location, names of surrounding rivers and hills according to the local detailed russian map, set a fire on the nearest hill, and even through a few flares... Apparently, the snowmobile driver contacted by phone on each night back at home in slautnoye could not find us on either day which I don't fully comprehend why yet...

Nyurgun suggested then that we departed today with just a backpack, 2 days worth of food and return to get our sleds, cargo, fuel and food with a snowmobile once we reached slautnoye. The idea of taking a short break from my cargo sounds exciting but I do not want to take the risk to not being able to return for one reason or another and be left marooned in slautnoye without our gear. So, I have decided this morning that we should "bite the bullet" and proceed with all our gear through this region deprived of snow, without having to rely on any external support if we can, no matter how long it is going to take...

"Aide toi et le ciel t'aidera!"

Making sloooooow progress in the trenches towards Kamchatka!
Thursday April 1, 2010 - 63.17033° N, 169.18266° E
20th Day, Thursday April 1st 2010
In a small river bed, still in Chukotka, close to the border with Kamchatka.

Location: N 63° 17.033'; E 169° 18.266'

Total: 208kms, 70 kms since Brigade #6

First of all, I want to wish you all a great Poisson d'Avril!
God only knows how much I usually love to celebrate April's fools day by playing tricks on some of my closer friends, but this time, I am going to have to contend myself with "stenciling" this report from the bottom of my sleeping bag in -25c weather, waiting for this latest storm/purga to pass before being able to make any "real" progress.

I say "real", because it is all relative...We are going through a ~50-70 kms section where we can only progress very sloooowly, partly because paradoxically, there is not much snow on this entire plateau, 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 river beds, where more snow has been amassed , as the result of consequent storms...

So here we are, progressing with thankfully our detailed russian maps, through a labyrinth of meandering rivers, which adds a subsequent amount of mileage to cover.... But at least we are moving FORWARD a foot at a time!

We are 68 kms away in a straight line, from the village of Slautnoye which is probably going to mean for us something closer to 90+ kms, while progressing through our river beds and a mountain pass where hopefully we will find more snow!

This is a satellite photo of the region we were traversing on April 1st 2010, North East of Slautnoye. Not much snow as one can see!

At this stage, we have no way of guestimate how many days this section is going to take, because we are neither being able to predict the weather, nor the quantity / quality of snow that lays in front of us between now and slautnoye...

The landscape, aka river beds, has changed.
At first, we were progressing on the nice and wide Mayn river where we were able to move "faster" while sliding on top of its beautiful thick blue ice. Although after my experience in the Bering Strait, I must say that I always find it a bit unnerving to sleep on top of crackling thick ice! We had no other alternative place to sleep on since the river beds were inaccessable, either too bushy or too high to climb and pitch our tents...

The smaller river bed where we are progressing through now is much narrower, tortuous, with serious walls to climb and pull our sleds through every 400 meters or so.

I often feel like I am a "Poilu", a French combattant back in 1917 somewhere near Verdun, finding refuge from the elements (and thankfully not bomb shells!) while living and moving through deep trenches ... Not able to see the light much!

Purga time! And after the Purga has passed!

But before going back to the bottom of my sleeping bag, I want to share a few more notes on my last day at brigade #6 and what happened on day 16th and 17th as we departed accompanied by brothers Sergey and Sasha from the brigade!

Back at the brigade, during my last day, while watching and taking in every bit of information I could on what the life in the brigade entails, I noticed the following:

- Sergey and Sasha come from a traditional brigade family of 7 brothers and 1 sister, almost all working and living in brigades in southern chukotka.

- Reindeers... Interesting playful characters to say the least... Reminded me a little of the playfulness I have observed in goats...

- I was intrigued to watch and film the brigade herders and their dogs "walked" their partially obedient reindeers for hours and hours in circles on the nearby hills...and I am still trying to understand the complete reason why...

- I was also amused to notice how the reindeers at the same time curious by nature, want to approach you but then get quickly scared, moving immediately back as soon as you get too close in their "comfort zone", happy to keep a safe distance from humans... Which I do understand after all since humans eventually want to use them to either pull heavy loads and sleds and/or make a few meals out of them!

-Which brings me to the topic of food... I must say that I was amazed at the quantity of reindeer meat, brothers Sergey and Sasha eat on a daily basis... copious and copious amount of reindeer 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...
My first experience at reindeer sashimi!

Sasha and Sergey also told me how they thought that chicken meat was rather tasteless but love to eat bears, ducks, geese, fishes and mushrooms which they have access to in ample quantity during summer months.

I quite enjoyed as well the flat fried bread that they prepare on site in the brigade and will surely miss it on the trail!

In exchange, I was trying to introduce them to my delicious dehydrated mountain house meals but they could not have any since all of them contain dehydrated cow milk to which S & S told me they were allergic to, except to of course rich reindeer milk which they drink in the summer months.

They enjoyed some of my nutritious larabars and of course really savored the Seattle made turkey jerkey that I brought as well as some of the "southern comfort"...

The night before we departed the brigade, Sergey approached us and asked us, if he and his brother could escort us for a day or two and help us with our cargo! We were delighted and responded a sounding YES!

So this is how we departed Brigade #6 on Sunday March 28th, Nyurgun and I happily able to ski and walk sled-less for 1.5 days, which my injured feet were grateful to, while being accompanied side by side by Sergey, Sasha, and 5 reindeers pulling 5 sleds! An impressive convoy in the tundra, I must say.

This of course was our short lucky break which allowed us to travel swiftly together 44kms in 1.5 days!
We covered together a frozen valley, a mountain pass, the beginning of our long monotonous plateau and a few frozen river crossings where I surprisingly found out how inadequately reindeers move on ice, having their hooves comically sliding all over the ice.

We camped together one night "à la chukchi" in the middle of an old reindeer brigade corral, outside, where we built a fire, foregoing our loyful stoves and white gas, eating more chunks of frozen reindeers, fried bread while sipping tea...
We spent a bit of time discussing the bear prints we could see nearby, all rather concerned...
As we all observed, an angry and potentially hungry bear already out of hibernation in March might not have been the friendliest encounter we could have... Sergey kept his ever present rifle nearby!

The time around the fire spent with friends was great but after a few hours in -30c, one misses the comfort of his -40F sleeping bag, unless you happened to be wearing multiple layers of reindeer fur such as Sasha & Sergey, proudly displaying their beautiful attire for us in the subsequent morning.

Having said that, I was not completely surprised to see arctic man sergey slipped into my tent around 3-4am looking for a little bit of extra heat, mostly having problems with his cold hands...

On the 2d and last day of travel together, the weather turned awry and as we were travelling through a previously burned plateau, Sergey became very concerned for his reindeers, not being able to find food
as they traditionally grab and munch on while moving. Not willing to see anyone of them starved themselves and potentially drop dead, he told us it was time for him and his brother to leave us with our cargo and return quickly to their safe and nutritious grounds, near the brigade.
We shared a few larabars, one last cup of tea and one last toast of Southern Comfort, took a few pictures together and parted our ways...

I am not sure if I would ever have the pleasure to spend time with Sergey and Sasha again, but at least I will have beautiful memories of the time well spent together and with other members of brigade #6!

I recall telling Sasha that I thought his tent/settlement in the brigade was a 5 stars hotel, to which he responded:
"Well, of course it is! Especially since there is nothing else a hundred kilometers around!"

Well, here it is... now saying "paka" from the trenches where I surely miss the comfort and joyful company of my hosts from 5 stars brigade #6!

In the middle of 2500 reindeers!
Wednesday March 24, 2010 - 63.22140° N; 170.09783° E
Day 15th, Saturday March 27th 2010
Brigade #6, Southwestern corner of Chukotka

Location: N 63° 22.140'; E 170° 09.783'

Total: 138kms, 122 kms since Vayegi

If some of you still wonder why I do what I do is to be able to earn days like today where I am able to connect with such fascinating, intriguing and inviting characters!

Nyurgun and I currently are staying in company of Brigade #6, 100+ kilometers from the nearest village, composed of 2500 reindeers, a few guarding dogs, 7 Chuvanyest men, 2 Chuvanka women and 2 cute little boys, Mishka and Anton, bundled in reindeer fur!

After an epic time on the trail, going over a few steep and challenging mountain passes with a heavy sled, waiting through three heavy snow storms with temperatures varying from -30c to an alarming melting peak at +2c right before one of the storm, as well as dealing with some damaged feet and a broken ski binding that needed a few repairs, I was ecstatic to find Brigade #6 on Thursday evening March 25th, one day ahead of Nyurgun with whom I had been separated as the result of a snow storm.
The last few hours while looking for the brigade felt like I was back in my days of "adventure racing" looking for a hidden checkpoint, since the brigade had moved 8+ kilometers away from the approximate location we were told it would be at, while collecting valuable information in Vayegi.

Looking for better "pastures", Brigade #6 had indeed moved into a little hidden valley, off the main Nutavaklivaam river, where they can corral their reindeers.
Although, I must say, its a whole different matter though from the AR world when you spend an afternoon looking for a brigade while pulling a heavy sled with bruised feet, where every kilometer matters!

So, here I am, after having crossed Chukotka diagonally, finally able to enjoy some valuable time with reindeer shepherds, eating more reindeer than you can fathom, sleeping in a Kukul reindeer bag, under a beautifully constructed large tent made of reindeer hides (which would put any of my friends camps to shame at Burning Man...) heated by a nice warm stove, and floored with pine tree branches and more warm reindeer fur.

The tent, tipee like, was lighten up at night by one single lamp oil and where one could hear from time to time the grizzling sound of a shortwave radio trying to catch news on Radio Russia...
This definitely felt like I had been travelling a bit in time, like let's say back in the 1950's...

Not a bad place to hang out though one extra day by any means to get my bruised feet some tine to repair partially and especially after the days spent on the trail in the storm, where I was praying that the purga/storm was not going to tear apart my sturdy 4 seasons tent ...

Being waken up in the morning by the hammering sound of deer hooves digging deep in the snow around the camp, looking for any type of vegetation they can eat is also a new experience that I quite enjoy. From time to time, I can also hear the little dogs, guarding the camp, barking and growling when the reindeers get way too close to the tents...

Talking of dogs, I have not heard or seen any of the big dogs..aka, the wolves!
But we know that they are around by the sight of their prints and scats, waiting to prey and feast on a delicious reindeer, and hopefully not an expeditionist or two...

The posse here and especially the two brothers Sergey and Sasha Kurkutski in their 50's with whom we have been staying have been so welcoming, feeding us non-stop, giving me some additional bandage for my feet and Sergey even offered to take some of our cargo with their reindeer sled to the top of the first mountain pass when we leave tomorrow morning!

And as a matter of fact, I am familiar with this sled since a few days ago, while moving across a flat windy and stormy section, I saw in front of me, coming out of the sun in the opposite direction, what appeared to be a Chukchi santa, pulled by two reindeers each sporting only one antler, sitting on a sturdy sled with his dog. He was, I might add the only human we saw between Vayegi and the brigade.
At the time, him and I, stopped, exchanged a handshake and few words, and I gave him two little bottle of Southern Comfort american whiskey for the road.

Sergey was on a 4 days round trip by reindeer sled to Vayegi to go resupply and visit his wife, employee of the main grocery store in Vayegi. His first visit in 2 years and only for 5 days... One can say, not getting much vacation time these days!

At the time, I also had enough time to notice some bad frost bites on his exposed left cheek.

Well, now that I meeting him again as a host in his beautiful comfortable abode, I am able to give him a windstopper face mask to remedy potential future facial frost bites and I also took the opportunity to go through all of my gear to see what else I could give him and to the rest of the brigade, helping them out and lightening my heavy load!

While staying in the brigade, I also had the pleasure to meet two late 20's matirik (mainland) white russians visiting the brigade on fast japanese snowmobiles bought in Alaska and shipped over to Anadyr:

Genia, the young coordinator for multiple brigades, based in Vayegi. This allowed me to witness an interesting discussion in the first night between him and the chuvanyets requesting to either get a snowmobile or a wezdehod, which would facilitate their transport and the necessary relocation of their brigade every few weeks, to new grazing "pastures" instead of just relying on reindeer sleds..
Genia:"We got no money for that"

Posse:"Ahhh! We so miss the good old Soviet times when more cash was allocated to the Chukchi reindeer brigade!"

Genia's sidekick was Timothei, a smoke jumper pilot based in Anadyr, on a vacation and trying to shoot any white fat tundra rabbits he could aim at...

On a separate note, I got myself here a new hat!
My host Sergey insisted on giving me one of his "donkey" chukchi hat made of ram, dog fur, and I believe mink and decorated with intricate beadwork..

Of course, in exchange, I passed on my traditional Alaskan Inupiyak hat from Brevig Mission, made out of spotted seal, which Sergey was eyeing on...
One more connection made and one more hat passed across the Bering Strait!

I also believe that part of the strong connection we were able to make quickly, can be attributed as in previous sections of Nexus expedition, to the fact that I arrived in this brigade by foot, which according to them, was unheard of until now..

Now, finally on to some laundry, gear repair and one more afternoon and night in the brigade and then pushing on for the next 100+ kms towards Slautnoye and the Western panhandle of Kamchatka!

From the brigade #6, paka!
6th Day; 57 kms in 4 days moving, Purga!
Saturday March 13, 2010 - 64.09997° N, 171.02567° E
Current location:
N 63° 53.317'
E 170° 39.165'
Writing this report from a little balok, (Russian cabin), waiting for the storm to die down before going out for the next 150kms...

Day 1: April 13th 2010, yes the 13th!
16.4 kms

In Vayegi, we were able to meet Alexei, an interesting and eccentric bushman or should I say "tundraman" who was kind enough to take us to our starting point, where I last stopped on Dec 7th 10:
N 64° 15.888'
E 171° 12.687'

It took him 1 hour to transport us, our 2 sleds and a light load (minimum gear + 3 days worth of food and fuel) on his powerful yamaha snowmobile and trailer, down the frozen Mayn river to our start.

I was sitting behind Alexei on the snowmobile and Nyurgun got to be "lucky" enough to sit on the exposed trailer because of his lighter weight...Need to bundle up for this -30F ride! Especially , when watching Alexei wears a very thick wool body suit made for diving bell divers, a parka and boots made of reindeer skins and finally a green windshield parka. This accumulation of clothes made him look like the Michelin Man!

We decided to do this section with "minimal" weight, because we knew we will be passing via Vayegi after 16kms, taking enough supplies though in case if we were caught in a storm or something serious went wrong!

So, Alexei dropped us off at the spot and here we went!
We could not hope for a better weather for this prologue...
A clear sunny day allowing us to see this magestic Mayn river in its full splendor!
A -30c temperature allowing a hard packed snowmobile trail which we were following now backwards towards Vayegi.
Along the way, we saw a few flocks of Kurapatkas (winter doves) and came across a few few fishing holes set up with nets under the ice which one could see because of the retaining branches set up on top of the ice.

5kms from the village, one of my two Berwin binding broke in the heel, as I have been forwarned by the manufacturer that this could happen. Traveling light, with no spare binding on this section, I finished the last 5kms by foot on thankfully this hard packed trail.

To keep within the same pace, Nyurgun decided to do the same.
As we were aproaching Vayegi, 2.5 kms from the village, in one last curve, we saw in the horizon the typical russianlong stream of smoke spurging out of the coal smelt. Damoi! "Home" was near!

We arrived through the minuscule airfield along the river, took a few evening shots in front of the Vayegi sign which I was finally able to reach by foot! And went on to march through town after 7 hours on the trail and slept in on Vayegi apartment.
N 64° 09.997'
E 171° 02.567'

The purga is dying down soooo we are going to hit the trail... I will catch up on day 2-6 as soon as I can..

It's all good here except for the storm, 3 bad ass blisters for me caused by fairly new back country ski boots, as well as a new back that needs a certain amount of stretching each night.
And for Nyurgun, a hip acting up a bit.
It's all part of our bodies adaptation back to life on the trail and pulling heavy loads! At least, I hope!
We are now on our way to a "brigade" herd, of 2500 reindeers kept by 20 men, way out in the middle of nowhere, in the South West mountainous corner of Chukotka, 100 kms from Vayegi, 60 kms from here and the last outpost towards Kamchatka!!!

Be safe out there, friends, be safe!
Taking off tomorrow morning to our starting point
Thursday March 11, 2010 - 64.7500° N, 177.4833° E
A quick update from Vayegi where I was gladly able to get access to the net in the local school.

So, to confirm what I stated in the last post, we are in deed going to start tomorrow morning, about 9 miles North East of Vayegi and we are both thrilled about this, almost as much as mushing dogs at the start of the iditarod race!

I also want to add that despite the very slooooooow internet speed we got here, I was able to post 3 pictures on yesterday's post.

I also want to point out to an interview that was recently posted on in the trekking section on Nexus expedition and that you might enjoy!Thank you Correne for the piece!

Now we need to run to the local баня ("banya": traditional Russian bath house) before it closes!
In Vayegi, it's only open 2 nights a week for men and this is most likely the last time we get to be able to bath for quite some time, probably not until we reach Kamchatka!

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!

I know I will, ecstatic to be back on the trail!
Back in Vayegi, at last!
Thursday March 11, 2010 - 64.16.659° N; 171.14107° E
We were finally able to get transport out of Anadyr!
Thanks to my old friend, Baitushka Leonid (Father Leonid), моя судьба! (My destiny!) who once again came to my assistance!

Baitushka Leonid was in deed the man who helped Karl Bushby and I, when we were kept in the village of Lavrentiya for 25 days in April 2006, waiting for our first trial after having crossed the Bering Strait and being questioned by the local authorities.At the time, he was able to provide to us a free abode for our entire "city arrest" time in Lavrentiya!

Well, this time, he helped me with not only informing us of an unscheduled "sanreis" (emergency) flight aboard an Antonov 24 due to leave asap for Markova, but also truly invested some time and effort in order to move our cargo to the airport in the church minivan and secure our 2 seats and the shipping of our 270 kgs of gear, (including food & gear).

So after having paid for our seats, cargo and gave some french wine and pastries to the right people... We were able to quickly embark on to our planes yesterday morning Thursday March 11th @ 11h, after having waited for 16 days in Anadyr!

It was time to relax and enjoy the spectacle below of the white frozen tundra and meandering Anadyr river which I overcame in Spring 2008!

In the end, being able to travel by plane was by far the fastest, cheapest and safest way to travel and I am so glad we were able to grab those seats!

Thank you again Baitushka Leonid!

So long to all my Anadyr friends and thank you all once again for your kind and generous hospitality!

Once we landed in Markova, we were then greeted by all of my "airport friends" with whom I became quite close when I was waiting for 20 days for a flight out of here to Magadan back in December 2009, when I had to temporarly stop the expedition!

Igor, the traffic controller with whom it was refreshing to be able to communicate in english! Volodya , the chief of the airport security who gave me some of the best икра (salmon eggs) I have ever tasted and whom back then wanted to offer me a job as an airport security guard while I was waiting for those 20 days. I don't think it would have been a very stressfull job when one considers that NO planes (except for one military one) was able to land or take off during these 20 days! And finally, Rafek, Bashkir expat, the man in charge of refueling airplanes who fed me give me a home to stay for the first 10 days of my stay, the last time I was here!

Luckily, they were able to arrange for us transportation on the same day!!! to Vayegi aboard 7 tons Ural trucks, bringing food supplies to Vayegi.

So, while waiting for the trucks, we spent together in the airport 5 hours of catching up, while drinking coffee and a bit of coffee/beer and enjoying some tasty homemade сало (classic Russian lard, good to face the cold!), exchanging stories and gifts. Trading coffee for booze!
Yes this time, I have replaced the gifts I am passing on: switching little bottles of starbucks coffee liquor for the american whisky "Southern Comfort", which I think my friends in Chukotka need a lot of!

The 2 Urals arrived at 17h, picked us up and our 270kgs of gear in exchange for a reasonable monetary value. We went on to proceed on this Zimnik / winter road, where the trip lasted 5.15 hrs for 80 kms, watching these urals in the hands of experienced drivers,( for whom I have a lot of respect!) progressed through deep crevasses / tracks made in the snow by wezdehods / tanks.

Watching these drivers operate was like watching focused funambulists on a tight rope! The smallest mistake, inattention, could have lead us out of the deep tracks and this would have meant potential hours of pulling/digging/extracting!

Nyurgun and I were squeezed into one passenger seat, enjoying the view and catching up on what a chukotkan zimnik truck driver life entails!

We finally arrived at 22:15 in Vayegi, caught up with Mrs Bogariev, the wife of the mayor and my friend Viktor Bogariev who has helped me quite a bit in the past! She gave us access to a spare apartment in an older soviet type building where we were glad to spend the night with our gear/sleds which we had to haul to a 2d floor...Good practice once again!

Now, we have spent the day in Vayegi working on finalizing gear, catching up with locals and securing transportation via one snowmobile to take us tomorrow downstream, 9 frozen river miles to our exact starting point N64° 15.888; E171° 12.501 where I last stopped on dec 6th 2008!

PS: I have previously stated that my last position was N64° 16.659; E171° 14.107 but in fact this was where I spent my last night on Dec 6th, however, on Dec 7th, as I recalled and recently found out on my GPS, I was able to proceed a few final miles towards Vayegi to N64° 16.659; E171° 14.107 before calling it off with after my harness broke!
Soooo, less miles to trek means great news for our "prologue" tomorrow!

(Три региона: Чукотский Автономный Округ, Камчатский Край и Магаданская область)

После перерыва в 14 месяцев, вызванного серьезной травмой позвоночника в январе 2009 года и последующего года восстановления, Дмитрий Киеффер возвращается на Чукотку, чтобы продолжить экспедицию, которую он вынужден был прервать в 2008 г.
Запланированный путь должен занять чуть меньше трех месяцев и охватить 1060 км (660 миль) от Ваеги до Омсукчана.
На этот раз, для увеличения собственной безопасности во время прохождения нового отрезка, он решил не идти в одиночку. И, поэтому, с нетерпением ждет момента, когда к его экспедиции присоединится 34- летний опытный путешественник Нюргун Ефремов.

Нюргун - уроженец г. Якутска, работает юрисконсультом в управлении «Почта России» по Чукотскому Автономному Округу в г. Анадыре и в свободное от работы время, на протяжении нескольких последних лет, активно путешествует по России автостопом, на байдарках и велосипедах.

Нюргун говорит на русском и на якутском языке и знает только несколько слов по-английски. Даже при всем том, что время от времени это может привести к затруднениям в их коммуникации, Дмитрий приветствует этот факт, который, по его мнению, заставит его сделать серьезные успехи в русском языке.

На фото: «Ibex men» Дмитрий и Нюргун наслаждаются холодным днем (-37C, -35F) в центре Анадыря…

В понедельник 22 февраля 2010 г. Дмитрий Киеффер вылетел из Сиэтла в Ном через Анкоридж самолетом авиакомпании Аляски.
На Аляске, в Номе он пробыл несколько часов, чтобы повидаться со старыми друзьями и затем пересесть на самолет авиакомпании Bering Air совершающий еженедельные рейсы между Номом и Анадырем (Чукотский Автономный Округ).

Ном - Анадырь Авиакомпания Bering Air

В Анадыре Дмитрий и Нюргун планируют найти транспорт, с помощью которого им удастся пересечь 700 км по замерзших рекам и открытой тундре для достижения отправной точки маршрута экспедиции на окраине Ваеги (64.1° Север и 171.02° Восток), в которой 6 декабря 2008 из-за сломанных и изношенных саней, Дмитрий Киеффер был вынужден прервать свою экспедицию.

Путешественники рассматривают всевозможные виды транспорта (самолет, грузовой автомобиль «Урал», Вездеход), чтобы уместить и доставить их двоих с двумя санями и 227 кг. груза до Ваеги.
А теперь немного о «багаже» … Чтобы дать представление, как это выглядит, здесь старый снимок с демонстрацией всего снаряжения, сделанный Дмитрием Киеффером во время экспедиции с Карлом Бушем при пересечении Берингова пролива в 2006 году.

Снаряжение, которое Дмитрий и Нюргун берут для преодоления будущего отрезка пути несколько аналогично с этим, что на фотографии, за исключением некоторых механизмов, таких как новые сани Acapulka Scandic Tour 210 sleds и новые лыжи с двойной системой крепежа, позволяющие им использовать либо 3 крепления к ботинкам для беговых лыж, либо крепления Berwyn,которые были предоставлены им snowsled . Двойная система была разработана в Сиэтле с помощью команд 2d Ascent и Pro Ski Sports. Крепление Berwyn позволит им использовать в холодную погоду ботинки Baffin Doug Stop.

Теперь перейдем к теме, которая часто привлекает большое внимание ...
Средства защиты от возможного нападения медведя, лося, волка:
Дмитрий и Нюргун не раз говорили об этом, и оба решили по нескольким причинам (вес, стоимость, вероятные сбои при холодной температуре) не приобретать огнестрельное оружие.
Волки, как правило, представляют большую опасность, когда путешественник с собаками, что не относится к их случаю.
Участники экспедиции надеются, что медведи все еще будут в спячке, и если, в конце концов, выйдут, путешественники не ожидают, что они будут слишком голодными и агрессивными, по-прежнему живя за счет накопленных жиров.
Чукотские лоси - крупнейшие в мире ... Дмитрий и Нюргун постараются уделить пристальное внимание, чтобы не пересечься с ними в пути.

В любом случае, у ребят с собой будут хлопушки, которые Дмитрий испытал в прошлом, два массивных и эффективных мачете, чтобы как-то позволить сократить путь через кустарники, когда это будет необходимо, и которые им, возможно, придется использовать в других целях ...
И, в конце концов, на случай когда погода будет теплее, у них есть «медвежий спрей» из красного стручкового перца, о котором Дмитрий может свидетельствовать из предыдущего опыта, является очень мощным.

В Ваеги Дмитрий Киеффер и Нюргун Ефремов стартуют с того места, где 6 декабря 2008 г. остановилась последняя экспедиция, в 24 км. к северо-востоку от Ваеги и планируют пройти следующие 1060 км / 660 миль по «дороге костей» до Омсукчана.

Дмитрий Киеффер получил все надлежащие документы, которые позволят ему пройти через 3 региона (годовая многократная виза в Россию, пропуск и распоряжение на Чукотку, разрешение на посещение иностранными гражданами территории Камчатского края, документы на ношение на Чукотке спутникового телефона Irridium 9500 Satellite phone, навигационную систему GPS и аварийного радиомаяка).

Чукотский Автономный Округ

Камчатский край

Магаданская область

В соответствии с действующими правилами визового режима РФ, у Дмитрия Киеффера есть возможность путешествовать только 90 из каждых 180 дней.
Он предполагает, что этот отрезок пути в 660 миль / 1060 км должен занять у них около 44 дней (треккинг / беговые лыжи) и 9 дополнительных дней для решения административных вопросов, пополнения запасов и отдыха.

Они рассчитывают на скорость 25 км / 15 миль в день.
Также они учитывают сибирские зимние климатические условия и трудности, с которыми им придется столкнуться, длинные расстояния бездорожной, пустынной местности между деревнями, где не будет возможности пополнения запасов продовольствия или топлива.

Для планирования маршрута Дмитрий и Нюргун используют ONC (оперативная навигационная карта) карту 1:1,000,000,TPC (тактическая пилотажная карта) карту 1:500,000, дорожную карту зимних российских дорог «Зимник", карту России 1:2,000,000 и интернет-источники, такие как карта земли Goggle Earth.

Этап 1:
Ваеги – Каменское
Как уже было отмечено, участники экспедиции планируют начать первый этап пути в том самом месте (в 24 км. к северо-востоку от Ваеги), где Дмитрий Киеффер вынужден был остановиться в 2008 по причине изношенности саней.

Дмитрий и Нюргун планируют идти прямо на юго-запад через русло реки Майн, а затем к реке Агликич, пока она не достигнет поселка Слаутное.

Между поселком Слаутное и Омсукчаном, они планируют идти по зимним дорогам, так называемым, «зимникам», которые в основном поддерживаются вездеходами.
Однако, путешественники не слишком рассчитывают на эти следы, так как во время штормов, возможна вероятность отсутствия дорог.

Они планируют максимально использовать несколько городов и деревень, расположенных вдоль маршрута. Эти деревни будут иметь решающее значение для обеспечения и пополнения их запасов продовольствия и топлива, шансов на отдых и ремонт снаряжения.
Их запасы снаряжения и еды также хранятся в Магадане (с помощью Kulu Safaris). Дмитрий и Нюргун также планируют взять некоторые отгруженные и надежно хранимые вещи в двух дополнительных пунктах рядом с Каменским и Эвенском. Эти поставки состоят из обезвоженных продуктов питания, топлива, литиевых батареек, лекарств и дополнительной одежды.

Этап 2:
Каменское - Эвенск – Омсукчан
Этот этап экспедиции Дмитрий и Нюргун планируют пройти пешком и на беговых лыжах по «зимникам».
При достижении конечной запланированной точки Омсукчан, Нюргун Ефремов вылетит обратно в Анадырь, а Дмитрий Киеффер планирует вернуться в Сиэтл (США), где он проведет, по крайней мере, 90 дней (в соответствии с действующими правилами визового режима РФ виза действует 90 из каждых 180 дней). В Омсукчан он планирует вернуться осенью 2010 года и продолжить экспедицию в западном направлении России на велосипеде.
March 2010 Nexus expedition - Chukotka TV interview
Sunday March 7, 2010 - 64.7500° N, 177.4833° E
Here is a copy of the short interview Nyurgun and I did for Chukotka TV on March 2d 2010.

We are now planning to leave for Vayegi tomorrow on Tuesday March 9th on ONE Skidoo Expedition snowmobile with 3 passengers and 250 kgs of cargo in a trailer (sleds, gear, food and white gas).
The 3 passengers are Nyurgun, myself and a Chukchi rider needed to be able to return the snowmobile to Anadyr!
Of course, I must admit that I am a bit wary to travel 700kms on ONE snowmobile with 3 passengers and so much cargo but as my friend Viktor Bogariev told me on the phone yesterday: Никто не будет! No one else would do it! And therefore grab whatever option you got to get your butts over here!

At least, it is reassuring to know that in case of mechanical failure, we will have with us plenty of food, white gas and gear to pull it through!

So why did we not leave one or two days earlier?
Well.... because of the snow storm and the women...

Yes, in deed, right now, there is still a Purga/snow storm rolling through Anadyr which we need to wait for it to pass through to start our journey in the safest way.

We also need to wait for the completion of this 3 days holiday weekend, when on Monday March 8th, the Russians celebrate Женский день, the International Women Day!
Why does this matter, because there is a lot of celebration/drinking happening during these 3 days and therefore no man is willing to leave Anadyr to get on the road through the open tundra, no matter what...

So to all the women out there, have a great day!
Nexus Expedition sponsors 2012
Saturday March 6, 2010 - 64.7500° N, 177.4833° E
Over six winters and one summer, I have very much appreciated and learned to rely on fine products while covering 7000 kilometers from Anchorage Alaska to Yakutsk, Russia: cycling, trekking, skiing and swimming across Alaska, the Bering Strait and Far Eastern Russia.

I plan to continue to select and maximize the use of these products on this expedition over the years to come and I encourage you to go ahead and try as well these products and services!

Cycling sponsors:
Egan & Associates
Ibex Outdoor Clothing
Ortlieb USA
Westcomb Outerwear
Light & Motion
Universal Distro (Eyewear)
Rolling Jack Ass (centerstand)
Free Range Cycles (Seattle)
Stark (Yakutsk)

Nutrition & Hydration sponsors:
NUUN Active Hydration

Logistics Sponsors
1iOpen Productions (Video editing)
Avia Partner - Авиа-Партнер (Cargo air transport)
Dominique Blachon (French Translation)
Dr Alessandro Vincenti (Dentist)
Chochur Moran - Чочур Муран (Logistics in Yakutsk)
Jude Ultra (Logo Design)

Gear sponsors:
Human Edge Tech
Satellite Phone Store
Evernew Titanium Cookware
Gregory Mountain Products
Davis Sign Company
Rite in the Rain - All weather writing paper
Second Ascent
Waypoint Outdoor
ACR Electronics
Batteries Plus +

Previous sponsors (2005-2011):
Atlas snowshoes
Baffin - Impact Boots
Treksta footwear
Teko Socks
ESS Goggles
Trailstove - Woodburning stove
Backpacker's Pantry
Kulu Safaris (Magadan region)
Power Film solar
Pro Ski Service Seattle
Mountain House
Bering Air
Chukotka Discovery
Julbo eyewear
Morovision Night Vision
Seattle Running Company
Frontier Airlines
The North Face
Acapulka Sleds
McMurdo Emergency Location Beacons
Beaver Sports, Fairbanks AK
Apocalypse Design, Fairbanks AK
Eastside Physical Therapy
Radio Shack (Lithium batteries)
Lynden International Logistics
Анадырь: On the verge of departing for Vayegi!
Friday March 5, 2010 - 64.7500° N, 177.4833° E
Yes! After a 14 months hiatus, partly caused by a bad fracture in January 2009 in my vertebral column which required a Posterior Spinal Instrumental Fusion surgery in the L1 vertebrae with 4 screws and 2 rods as well as a subsequent year of imposed recovery, I am definitely baaaaack! Past the "Ice curtain" in Anadyr, Chukotka and on the verge to secure transport across 700 kms of frozen rivers and open tundra to reach my starting point on the outskirts of Vayegi (N 64° 16.659; E 171° 14.107) where I was last forced to stop my expedition on Dec 6th 2008 because of my old broken & worn out sled!

This time, to increase my personal safety while travelling through this remote section deprived of any traffic / aka "zimnik" winter roads (at least for the first 250kms between Vayegi and Slautnoye in Kamchatka) , I have decided NOT to travel alone.

Therefore I am looking forward to embark on this next section which should last a little bit less than 3 months and cover approximatively 1060 kms (660 miles) from Vayegi to Omsukchan, with a 34 years old experienced Yakut путешествиник ("traveller") named Nyurgun Efremov (Нюргун Ефремов).

Nyurgun is a native of Yakutsk and a lawyer for the post office in Anadyr and in his "spare time" over the last few years as taken on during summer months a few kayaking and biking expeditions single-handely or with a partner. One of his most admirable accomplishments was the completion of the section Yakutsk-Anadyr over a few months switching back and forth between his mountain bike and his inflatable kayak which he carried both all the way!

When we first talked about travelling together, Nyurgun tried to convince me that we should travel on "ski bikes" rather than skiing while pulling sleds. It took a while for me to be able to convince this avid biker that in the open tundra, weeks away from any type of trail, I was not prepared to push one of these bikes in the deep snow while pulling a large amount of gear/food/fuel. Needless to say that upon landing in Anadyr, one of the first thing Nyurgun wanted to show me in his apartment was his beautiful ski bike! ;-)

Nyurgun speaks Russian and Yakut and only a few words of English.
Even though this might lead to potential frustration from time to time in our communication, I am actually welcoming this fact which is going to force me to make some serious progress in Russian! I can only hope!

Until now, Nyurgun has not had the "pleasure" to embark on long winter expeditions and is looking forward to honing his winter sled-pulling and skiing skills!

I am excited to have him on the team and to learn from him some of his trapping and fishing skills, when they become needed!

Here you can see the "Ibex Men" Dimitri & Nyurgun enjoying a cool (-37C, -35F) afternoon breeze in downtown Anadyr...

Thank you David from Eagan & Associates , as in previous years, we are definitely going to make use of these great, comfortable and warm products on the trail!

And of course the same thanks go to all of our other numerous and generous sponsors!

To return to my starting point near Vayegi, Chukotka, I left my home in Seattle on Feb 22d and flew on Alaska Airlines with my 440lbs of gear to Anchorage where after having spent a few hours in the terminal, I caught on a flight to Kotzebue which eventually took me on to Nome, where I had the pleasure to fly with some of the supporting crew for the famous Iron Dog snowmobile race.

In Nome, I had a few hours to spare allowing me to pick up my 2 new Acapulka Scandic Tour 210 sleds which freshly arrived straight from Norway, and add 30 more lbs of white gas as cargo (which will be the main fuel allowing us to melt snow into water and therefore cook our dehydrated meals.

In "no place like Nome", Alaska, I also had the oportunity to briefly catch up with old friends that I have known over the years such as Josie from the tourism bureau and caught a meal with Roger Thompson, an intriguing friend, character, trapper, builder, "global warming endangered village potential mover", miner, eskimo artifacts trader, with whom my father Henri Kieffer had the pleasure to stay when he came to surprisingly meet me (from France!) on a snowmobile back in 2005 while I was finishing the 1100 miles iditarod by foot!

Then, it was time to catch my 4th plane, aboard the "somewhat weekly" Bering Air flight chartered by the Canadian gold mining company Kinross which was on his way to collect some of its employees in Anadyr, returning from the gold mine in Kupol and taking them back to Canada.

Besides the pilot and co-pilot, I had the pleasure to "travel in style", being the only passenger on this flight with my 470 lbs of gear while staring at the window at the partly frozen Bering Strait below with all its open gaps / "rivers" and reminiscing of my crossing in 2006 with Karl Bushby...

In deed, it always feel great to be able to fly over territories such as the iditarod course Anchorage-Nome and the Bering Strait which I have already completed by foot!!!

We crossed the international dateline / also previously known as the infamous "ice curtain" and landed in Anadyr where I first spent a fraction of time in the company of the border guards, proudly able to display my new Chukotkan propusk/entry permit as well as my new 1 year multiple entry Russian visa.
Got the green light fairly quickly, which is always a reassuring matter in this part of the world!

However, my multiple entry visa only allows me to stay a maximum of 90 days at a time, which means that I will have to complete this section within 90 days, time spent waiting in Anadyr included.... This and the approaching warmer spring season (which will melt rapidly snow as well as frozen rivers, bays and lakes...) explains why I want to be able to return to Vayegi as soon as I can to resume my trek.

After having completed my meeting with the border guards, I had the pleasure to spend the next 4 hours with the Russian Federation Customs department, which as ever, took great care at analyzing entirely my camping & electronic gear, sleds, food and fuel that I brought across the border.

Consequentely, in accordance with Russian laws, I had to pay an import tax of about 500$ for the 94 kgs of dehydrated meals and white gas I was bringing in.
Trust me, it quickly adds up when one is charged a fee of 4 euros per kilogram for all perishable/ non permanent goods brought in the Russian federation!
However in Chuktoka, white gas and dehydrated completed meals such as Mountain House and complete nutritious bars which do not freeze in -40C such as Larabar are non-existent and therefore needed to be brought in for this winter section.

Once these administrative matters were resolved, I was able to finally catch up face to face with Nyurgun with whom I only had communicated over email and phone since I first met him in Anadyr in Spring 2008.

Nyurgun and I went on to stuff all of the gear in a Russian "mini van" and departed for Anadyr, crossing the bay on the ice road which I was contempted to see completely frozen at this time of the year!

In Anadyr, we went straight to his kommunalka /shared apartment located on the 3rd floor of a traditional Soviet Arktika Model building where we carried on all of the gear upstairs and stuffed it up in his apartment! A good day at the gym!

Over the last week, since I arrived, we have spent our time registrating me as a temporary resident of Anadyr, (as it is required in any major Russian cities for any extended stay of 3 days or more), finalizing our gear, and searching for the right type of transport which is going to take us from the capital of Chukotka, Anadyr to the outpost village of Vayegi, deeply buried in the Southeastern corner of Chukotka, way out there, amongst meandering frozen rivers and open tundra....

We were planning to originally travelled with a "military surplus" Wezdehod which belongs to a reindeer "brigade"/farm located near Vayegi and which was planning to return home after having completed its delivery of cargo meat in Anadyr. However, this wezdehod needs to be repaired at this stage and will not return to Vayegi for another 2 weeks!!!

We check for the next "regular" flight and found out that it is not til March 15th, which is also still 10 days away! And that is only if it does not get delayed by days/weeks for multiple reasons as I have experienced in the past..

So, we are looking for an alternate solution without having to spend thousand and thousands of dollars to contract our own wezdehod or our own all terrain massive vehicle such as a Trico.

We are indeed currently trying to see how the two of us (with our 2 sleds and about 500 lbs of gear) can be transported/ squeezed in with regular cargo for a reasonable sum to Vayegi in either a Cargo Ural Truck, Trico or Wezdehod.

Think of it as a complex way of partial hitchhiking for a 3 days trip in the middle of the peaceful tundra!

We are also trying to evaluate if by chance for us (malchance for others) we could "benefit" from a sanris/ambulance large helicopter that could take us as extra cargo for part of the way...

We are also looking potentially at travelling the 700 kms on skidoos snowmachines....

Finally, we even thought for a minute of travelling by dog sled, which is obviously not a reasonable option with 500 lbs of gear and 700 kms to cross.... but it would have been fun!

On this note... thanks to Nyurgun and his connections, I had the pleasure to enjoy a bit of mushing in the bay of Anadyr earlier this week....

I hope to be able to post a few pictures on this and Anadyr, if time allows, before I leave...

We also had a short TV interview with our journalist friends from Chukotka TV where I was even asked what I thought of the current rapprochement between French president Sarkozy and Russian president Medvedev...
Luckily... this part did not make the final cut!

Now... on to Gear, gear and more gear!
I could write chapters on this alone....

Just to give you a little idea of what it entails, in the photos above is an older picture of the gear Karl Bushby and I took during our Bering Crossing back in 2006.

The gear we are taking for this section is somewhat similar with of course a few notable exceptions such as new Acapulka Scandic Tour 210 sleds and new skis with dual binding systems allowing us to either use 3 pins back country ski bindings or Berwyn bindings which was provided to me by snowsled. The dual system was set up in Seattle with the help of the crew at 2d Ascent and Pro Ski Sports.
The Berwyn bindings will allow us to use our Baffin Doug Stop boots on colder days!

Now on to a topic that always bring a lot of attention...
Fire power to protect ourselves from potential bear, moose and wolves attacks:

Nyurgun and I have talked a lot about this and we have both decided for multiple reasons (weight, cost, potential malfunction in colder temperatures) to not purchase any fire arms, even though Nyurgun is now allowed to acquire some, after having passed specific Russian examinations testifying that he is neither psychologically insane nor alcoholic....
Not a bad thing to find out, in any case, before we start trekking together for multiple months in the middle of the tundra!

Wolves tend to be mostly a problem when one travels with dogs which is not going to be our case.
Bears will hopefully still be hibernating and when they will finally come out, we don't expect them to be too hungry and aggressive, still living off their hibernated accumulated fat.
Chukotkan Moose, the biggest in the world... well, with those, we will just have to pay a close attention to not cross their paths!

In any case, we will have with us, Russian flares which I have experienced in the past to be only 50% of the time deterrent with the bears.

We also have two massive and efficient machetes to allow us to cut our way through the bushes when needed and which we might have to use for other means...
Finally, for when the weather warms up a bit, we will also have bear spray made of cayenne pepper which I can testify from a previous annoying experience is very potent!

Ok, that's all for now, folks!
Paka, Paka!
Jan 2009 vertebral column fracture
Friday March 5, 2010 - 47.6097° N, 122.3331° W
Before the Surgery, you can clearly see the L1 vertebrae fractured through (inside the red circle).

After the Posterior Spinal Instrumental Fusion surgery, you can see distinctly the 4 screws and 2 rods which are now reducing the stess exerced by the fracture and miraculously allowing me to fully function!

This is where I fell from while cleaning the moss of my roof!
Dumb enough to work without a safety harness...
Well, really, nothing to be proud of!

The last picture taken in March 2009 shows me wearing my turtle shell for a period of 3 months and as you can see on the way to full rehabilitation...
Nyurgun Efremov
Thursday March 4, 2010 -
Nyurgun Efremov is a Yakut who was born in 1975 in the city of Yakutsk, Russia.

In 2005, after five years of university, he graduated from the Law school of the Yakutsk State University.

He lives in Anadyr (Chukotka) and works as a lawyer for the post office.

Among his interests are traveling, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, wushu, hitchhiking, and studying psychology and humanistic philosophy.

From 1998 to 1999, he hitchhiked alone the following route:
Yakutsk - Irkutsk - Tulun - Moscow - St. Petersburg - Landenpohya (Karelia) - Moscow - Salganda (Gorny Altai ) - Tulun - Bratsk - Baikal-Amur Railroad - Yakutsk .

In 2001 he participated in the search expedition of his father Clement Efremov - an avid outdoorsman and a ultra-runner/trekker, who disappeared in 2000.
In 1999 Clement Efremov had conceived the Yakutsk - Magadan- Uelen-Anchorage expedition, subdivided into three stages.
In 1999, Clement ran the first segment from Yakutsk to Magadan.
In 2000, Clement ran from Magadan to Omsukchan (Galimov) and proceeded towards Evensk, when he disappeared.
The search expedition lasted 2 months in the eastern territories of Omsukchan in Magadan and failed to find him.

In 2005 he made a 14 days solo kayaking trip: Matta - Sinyaya - Lena (covering more than 600 km.)

2006 he completed his third level of mountaineering qualification in the Valley Aktru of the Altai mountains.

February-March 2006, Nyurgun made a solo hiking and - hitchhiking passage route from the Altai mountains to the city of Yakutsk, during which he:
- trekked from Altai (Kokorya) to Tyva (Kyzyl-Khaya ) following wolfs tracks through mountains, cliffs, gorges and mountain passes (covering more than 130 kms).
- ice skated across the lake Baikal from the weather station of Uzury (Olkhon ) to the village of Turka (covering 55 kms in 9.5 hours).

In 2006 Nyurgun went on to the first stage of his planned biking and kayaking expedition from Yakutsk to the Bering Strait, via: Yakutsk - Khandyga - Ojmyakon (which defines the beginning of the territory of Magadan)- Susuman - Orotukan - Omsukchan - Buksunda - Labaznaya - Krestik - the mouth of the river Avlondya on the river Kegali - (which defines the beginning of rhe territory of Kamchatka) - river Shaybovi - River Penzhino and Ayanka.
He trekked approximatively 2500 kms, biked more than 1500 kms, and kayaked approximatively 1000 kms.

In 2007 Nyurgun started kayaking and biking from the village of Slautnoye (in Kamchatka) to the village of Vayegi in Chukotka, (covering 220 kms).
On the fifth day of his expedition (30 kms after Slautnoye) he had to leave his bicycle in the Stlanikovaya valley, being faced with menacing tundra fires.
On the 15 th day of his expedition and after 5 days of kayaking on the river Anadyr-Kuyul, (after having crossed approximatively 30 kms ) his inflatable raft flipped over and sunk.
He proceeded on trekking through the Malyi Maina Mountains where he constructed a new raft, on which he was able to reach Vayegi.

In 2008 Nyurgun duplicated his 2006 route by motor boat through the territory of Magadan, the border territory of Chukotka and Kamchatka (covering more than 1500 kms).

In 2009 Nyurgun Efremov made two biking and kayaking expeditions starting in Anadyr:

-1st expedition along the seashore and went on to the lighthouse on the spit "Russkaya Koshka".
However, for technical reasons, Nyurgun had to return prematurely to Anadyr. (after having covered approximatively 220 kms.)

- 2d expedition from Anadyr to Egvekinot through the following route: Anadyr - Zolotogorie - which is a gold mine on the river Volnyi - the abandoned mine of Holodnyi- followed the river Tnekveem to Uelkal, and finally followed the coast line until he reached Egvekinot.
Testing self-posting capabilities
Wednesday March 3, 2010 - 64.7500° N, 177.4833° E
This is just a test to define whether I can self-post on the website while on the road. Currently still in anadyr and currently finalizing gear for myself and my Yakut expedition partner Nyurgun Efremov. Transportation to the remote outpost of Vayegi , (our starting point) 700 kms of tundra and rivers away also represents a challenge that we are currently trying to solve.
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