On 18 March 2018, Ash Routen and Phil Sturgeon completed their 634km (393 miles) journey across frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. Here’s the story of their expedition

Back in January, we got in touch with Ash Routen to find out more about his planned trip. In an exclusive interview with The Great Outdoors, Ash said:

The goal of the expedition is to complete a safe, happy and fast foot crossing of Lake Baikal from Listvyanka in the south to Severobaikalsk in the north. Lake Baikal is located in Siberia, a few hundred kilometres from the Mongolian border. By volume, it’s the largest lake in the world and also the deepest.

Ash and Phil completed their journey on March 18, making Ash the youngest Briton to have completed the journey on foot. Some statistics:

Distance covered: 634km / 393 miles
Duration: 19 days
Temperature range: 0˚C to -35˚C
Sledge weight: 70-80kg at start of expedition
Max depth of lake: 1.6km or 1 mile
Thickness of lake ice: 0.4-1.5m
Calories consumed: 5,000 per day
Changes of underwear: two

Ash Routen’s photo diary

After only a few hours we got a glimpse of the pressure exerted upon the ice of Baikal. In this case the ice is a striking green.

Whilst it took us a while to get into our rhythm in the first week, we saw relatively little snow cover on the ice.

The endless horizon and ethereal light meant we were treated to some spectacular camps.

The quality of the light became more exquisite when catching the many ice formations that scatter the surface of Baikal.

A little shy of the halfway point we were lucky enough to strike camp in a small ice cave on the shores of Olkhon Island. What a haven it was.

The ice near Olkhon Island was marbled with these wonderful shapes. Beautiful.

A few minutes after taking this photo these huge blocks of ice collapsed, the ground shook and meters of open water appeared. I ran away as fast as I could, leaving my gear behind. My legs were shaking for minutes afterwards.

Camping on a headland we made a small fire from driftwood. It was so dry it practically self-combusted.

The second half of the lake was lined with these huge mountains, up to about 2,600m in height. Many have unclimbed routes, and some may have never been climbed at all.

Soaking up views of the coastal mountains. I don’t think I’ll ever beat that day in the outdoors.

Phil and I walked separately for 95% of the trip. His natural pace is much faster than mine, and he was often 1-3 hours ahead.

A remote weather station hut became home for a night. The following morning Phil was barred from leaving as a bear circled camp, only to be scared off via gunfire from a local ranger.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Someone you can rely upon in this sort of environment is a must.

After 19 days and 634 km we arrived in Severobaikalsk, our finish point. From here we took a two-day train ride across Siberia to the city of Irkutsk.

Tired weather-beaten faces. Nothing a few beers didn’t sort out.

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