Overall Information on Spring 2010 section
Wednesday November 5, 2008 -
After a 14 months hiatus, partly caused by a bad fracture in January 2009 in my vertebral column which required a L1 fusion with 4 screws and a subsequent year of imposed recovery, I am definitely back!
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!
I departed from Seattle to Nome, Alaska via Anchorage on Monday Feb 22d 2010 via Alaska airlines.
In Nome, Alaska, he stayed a few hours, just enough to see old friends and then catch the weekly chartered flight operated by Bering Air, between Nome and Anadyr, Chukotka, Russia.
Now 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) the outpost village of Vayegi, deeply buried in the Southeastern corner of Chukotka, way out there, amongst meandering frozen rivers and open tundra....and where I was last forced to stop my expedition on Dec 6th 2008 because of my old broken & worn out sled!
We are 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.
We are also looking potentially at travelling the 700 kms on skidoos snowmachines....
We also had a short TV interview with our journalist friends from Chukotka TV.
Now... on to Gear, gear and more gear!
Just to give you a little idea of what it entails, here 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!
Once in Vayegi, we will start where the expedition last stopped on Dec 06 2008, 15 miles North East of Vayegi and trek for the next 660 miles towards the "road of bones" in Omsukchan!
Documents: I have received the proper documentation (1 year multiple entry Russian visa, Chukotkan Propusk and Rasporyazhenie, Kamchatka permit, proper documentation to carry in Chukotka an Irridium 9500 Satellite phone, a GPS and an emergency beacon), which will allow us to travel by foot through 3 distinct regions:
- Chukotskiy Avtonomnyy Okrug
- Magadanskaya (Russian overview of Magadan Oblast)
According to the current Russian Federation regulations, I am only able to travel 90 days out of every 180 days period.
I foresee that this next section of approximatively 660 miles / 1060 km should take us around 44 days of trekking / backcountry skiing and 9 additional days to address administrative matters, re-supply and rest.
We are counting on a speed of 25 kms/ 15 miles per day, trekking and back country skiing.
We are taking into consideration the Siberian winter climatic challenges which we will be facing as well as the great distances of road-less wilderness between villages where we will not be able to re-supply on food or fuel (crucial to make water) for as many as 20 days.
For route planning, we are using ONC (Operational Navigation Chart) maps 1:1,000,000,
TPC (Tactical Pilot Chart) maps 1:500,000, Russian “Zimnik” winter road map, Russian map 1:2,000,000, and internet sources such as Goggle Earth .
The route is primarily based upon the meandering river beds and the location of zimnik winter roads. The vegetation is now too thick to allow a more direct route.
Vayegi – Kamenskoye
We are planning to start at the exact location located 15 miles North East of Vayegi where I last forced to stop in November 2009 when my broken worn out sled stopped cooperating .
We will cover the Vayegi-Kamenskoye route while trekking and back-country skiing.
We are planning to travel straight South West through the meandering Mayn river bed and then proceed West on to the Aglikich river until he reaches the village of Slautnoye
We are not expecting to see any human traffic between Vayegi and Slautnoye, which is an approximate distance of 150 miles.
Between Slautnoye and Omsukchan, we will proceed Southwest on zimnik winter roads. Zimnik winter roads are mostly maintained by Vezdehod vehicles.
During storms, we might not see any vezdehod for a few days and therefore should not count on any of them to forge a trail in the snow.
We are planning to maximize the use of the few towns and villages along the route. These villages are going to be crucial to ensure our re-supply in food and fuel, and therefore reduce the amount of weight he will have to pull/carry on our sleds.
Our supplies are stored in Magadan with the help of Kulu Safaris. We plan to have some shipped and securely stored in 2 additional way points: close to Kamenskoye and Evensk. These supplies are composed of dehydrated food, fuel, lithium batteries, first aid medicine and additional clothing. The towns/villages may also give us the chance to rest, repair equipment, communicate by land line phones and potentially send emails.
We are expecting to be facing air temperatures down as low as –50C / -50F . These temperatures can even drop further with added wind chill factor.
Kamenskoye – Evensk – Omsukchan
We are planning to cover this route trekking and back-country skiing on zimnik roads.
Upon reaching Omsukchan, Nyurgun Efremov will fly back to Anadyr and I plan to return to Seattle in the United States, where I will spend at least 90 days, according to the Russian regulations. Thereafter,I am planning to return in Fall 2010 in Omsukchan to continue Westbound by bike towards Yakutsk and Western Russia.