5 Feb 2018
Academic to walk across world’s largest frozen lake
To most people, the idea of walking across the world’s largest frozen lake in temperatures as low as -40°c sounds like something out of a nightmare.
But not to Loughborough University’s Dr Ash Routen, who says he’s “very much looking forward to getting out on the ice”.
The Research Associate in Physical Activity and Public Health and his friend Phil Sturgeon will fly to Siberia, Russia, on 24 February to complete their self-set challenge of walking across Lake Baikal.
The duo are set to hit the ice on 27 February and they are hoping to complete their gruelling trek in around 20 days.
The first British team crossed the 550km long lake in 2007, but it still remains a significant challenge for cold environment adventurers.
Walking for eight to 10 hours per day in the depths of Siberian winter, Dr Routen will experience temperatures down to -40°c and below with wind chill.
He and Phil will have to consume nearly 6,000 calories per day to maintain the necessary strength to pull two sledges each, which will contain up to 100kg of supplies to complete the journey unsupported.
The pair will walk across large areas of uncovered ice and will have to negotiate sections of open water, as well as ice rubble up to 10m in height formed by colliding sheets of ice.
Dr Routen, who has been on two previous polar expeditions to Arctic Norway and has cycled the length of France, says this will be the most “significant and exciting adventure” he has taken on to date – though he confesses finding time for training has been hard.
He said: “The realities of a busy job, a long-distance relationship and trip logistics have left physical training - and the motivation for it - further down the list.
“With around a month to go, I’ll try and get some good time in on the turbo trainer. That might seem a bit blasé to some, but my experience of this sort of travel is that 80 per cent of it is in your head.
“As long as you have a good base level of fitness, the ability to be on your feet for eight to 10 hours per day, deal with the cold and put one foot in front of the other; you will be ok.”
He continued: “It's taken hundreds of hours of research, hundreds of emails, many phone calls and trips around the country to get this off the ground.
“I have a love of wild remote places, particularly arctic environments and mountains. It's going to be great to switch off and know that I don't have anything to worry about other than shelter, warmth, food and water!”
Departing from the southern shores of Lake Baikal at Listvyanka, Dr Routen and Phil will traverse the Western coast of the lake, before negotiating Olkhon Island and finishing in Severobaikalsk at the top of the lake. From there, it’s a two-day train journey back to the city of Irkutsk and their departure point.