Lake Baikal is huge. By volume it is the largest freshwater lake in the world. It follows an ancient rift valley and has a long, narrow shape that extends for more than 630km. In winter it completely freezes over and there is a small window of opportunity to successfully traverse it without getting wet.
Average winter minimums are -20C but the temperature can drop much further. Strong katabic winds come down from the north and the northern part of the lake is usually covered in snow. We’ll have to be prepared to exchange ice-skates for skis, while pulling all our expedition gear and food in heavy sleds.
Just after recovering from a broken ankle while dogsledding in Mongolia last winter, we started our training sessions already in summer. We’re pulling sleds full of sand through the dunes and using in-line skates in the streets, while waiting for the ice-skating rings to re-open.
On a daily basis we are joyously discussing and researching what to bring. Which tent? Inflatable or non-inflatable matrasses? Which ice-skates, skis, sleds, harnesses and burners? We’re putting thermos flasks to the test and went to Austria to try out our ice screws. Though our combined knowledge and experience extends far, every single topic could by itself turn into a PhD. By the end of this planning stage we’ll be doctor Valkenier and doctor Murre. But what about visa restrictions? How about the search and rescue options on the lake? There is always one more thing to research.