For two men who've previously run across the Sahara, biked the Iditarod trail, and trekked to the South Pole, this expedition has proved to be one of our toughest. The harsh Siberian winter showed its teeth as we made our way across Lake Baikal unsupported, dragging 110-lb. sleds. We faced raging winds and snowstorms that pelted our tent and made it almost impossible to sleep. The humidity was so severe that by the middle of the journey, our sleeping bags, along with all our clothes and gear, were soaking wet. The temps dove down to -40 degrees, and the wind chill drained the life out of the batteries in our electronics. It was a constant battle to find enough sun to get the slightest bits of solar charge for communication. It was also difficult to maintain our 1:00 a.m. Web updates with the students back in North America who are following our journey, but connecting with the kids was always worth it because they inspired us to push harder.
Ultimately, after walking/running, zigzagging, climbing, and dragging our sleds over mounds of ice, we managed to reach the north end of the lake in 13 days and 16 hours--eclipsing the old mark by a week. We're exhausted from the effort and are now headed home, starting with a 36-hour train ride. We can't wait to return to our families, friends, and all the students waiting to hear more tales of the crossing.
--Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab
In March 2010, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab will embark on the i2P Siberian Express for Water Expedition. They will run 65 to 70 kilometers per day across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal,which is 636 kilometers long--carrying all the food and gear for theentire trip. They'd like to finish in 10 to 12 days, which would be aworld record, according to Vallely. Why go through such trouble? Toraise awareness and funding for clean drinking water projects aroundthe world and inspire students through the i2P experiential learning program. This is the ninth in a series of their dispatches forOutside Online.