(ThePoles.com) During April, May and June Dimitri Kieffer has complete another leg of his expedition, Circumnavigating the globe through human power, connecting a multitude of different societies, civilizations and landscapes. He travelled through the autonomous region of Chukotka in Russia, facing challenges like frozen ice, melting snow, polar bears, flowing rivers and a tent fire.
Tougher visa rules
Chukotka is Russias most North-eastern state and meets the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Getting permission to travel in this state was not easy. Dimitri found out about tougher visa rules in Russia according to The Moscow News "Foreigners who obtain a multiple entry visa that is active for a year will be able to stay for no more than 90 consecutive days, and no more than a total of 180 days out of a year".
What this means for me, is that in the future, each time I will enter Russia, the clock will start ticking upon my arrival. I will have 90 days to cover as much ground as I can via human power before I will have to leave and stay out of Russia for the next 90 days.
A special permit
He also needed a special permit, a rasdoryazheniye, to enter Chukotka. To receive my rasdoryazheniye, I need to have a Chukotkan local resident "invite / sponsor" me and vouch to look after me for the entire duration of my stay. This sponsor also needs to be registered with a special division of the government and they are only a handful of persons (mostly "tourist" agents) in the autonomous region of Chukotka who have this type of special registration.
Once I would have reached an agreement with this company, I will transfer all of the documents that were previously submitted and approved by the local administration to complete my rasdoryazheniye. This whole administrative process might still take a minimum of 45 days to transfer previously submitted documents from one company to another...
Eleven months ago
Eventually he got all his documentation and at the beginning of April he flew from his home in Seattle to Anchorage, Nome and Anadyr (Russia). At Anadyr he had to wait for a flight to Egvekinot for nearly two weeks and decided to hitch a much cheaper ride with a cargo vezdehod (a military, armoured tank).
Dimitri arrived at Egvekinot, the point where he stopped eleven months before, to continue his expedition. When he left in 2007 he left some luggage in this town. I want to thank the local administration of Egvekinot for having been kind enough to store my sled over the last 11 months, while I was waiting to be able to return, says Dimitri.
Egvekinot used to be an important port, supplying the Iultin mine about 180 kilometers straight north. Egvekinot used to have more than 5500 habitants which went down dramatically to 2000 after the mine was closed in 1993.
The expedition started in Egvekinot on 10 April 2008 with a planned route through Anadyr to Vayegi. Dimitri would travel across frozen seawater and frozen rivers, on vezdehod roads and when the snow melts over tundra and in rivers.
On route to Anadyr he had a narrow escape in his tent. I was using my MSR stove and did not realize that more liquid was leaking out of the pump, even though I had closed one of the two valves. When I lighted a match to prep the stove, I realized then that I had way too much fuel to burn... A large flame gushed out and caught the tent on fire.
I immediately threw the stove out of the tent which allowed me to save approximatively 70% of my tent, and 95% of the rain fly.
I felt quite shocked, knowing that I could have burned myself and my entire tent in this remote location. I felt quite ashamed as well for not having demonstrated any more precaution while using a highly combustible fuel inside a tent, knowing the risks involved.
Definitely a wake-up call!
Yes, I know, some of you might argue that no one should ever use a stove inside a polyester tent but that is not a very practical option in an artic environment. I just need to demonstrate much more carefulness in the future and know when to stop on the trail.
As this experience reminded me, progressing in the remote tundra is quite different from some of my past experiences in adventure races for example. You can't afford to go beyond exhaustion, lay down a few hours, then get up and go. Setting up camp definitely takes a certain amount of effort and attention requiring a substantial amount of energy that cannot be overlooked."
He received a new tent in Anadyr.
Dimitri came into contact with polar bears while moving along a river. I came in contact with two of them yesterday [21 May]. In both cases, I came upon them about a football field away around a river bend.
The first one, we stared at each away, he ran away after I shot a flare but then he/she settles in a bit further after the next bend in the river. I had to wait for him to move. The 2d flare did not deter him at all. He finally decided to move up the river at his nonchalant pace, sniffing, scratching the ground along the way and I followed him carefully keeping my distance but visual contact. After about 1/2 mile, he finally got off the river, climbed into a tree to have one last good look at me and disappeared in the bushes.
The second one looked at me. I made one step forward, he got scared and ran away...
I can't proceed at night (there is still light then but it's dimmer) because I need all the light I can get to look for bears and proceed carefully. I want to avoid surprising them.
Spring and tundra
Sring arrived, the snow started to melt and huge fat mosquitos came to life.
His home team reports on 27 May, Dimitri is presently having a very difficult time out there, though he seems to be enjoying it thoroughly. The snow is mostly gone and he's trying to climb a small mountain today, not easy with a sled and no ice to slide it on. The bears are awake, the blueberry's are in bloom, and Dimitri is really hoping it's a nice snow topped hill on the opposite side of that hill!
I am having a few problems with my feet that I am trying to treat (one blister and an inflated throbing toe), Dimitri reports, dry suits are not made to be trekking with for miles and it's hard to fit the suit with a pair of warm socks inside my ski boots, making it hard on the feet.
It's starting to rain again, turning the snow into slush... Not easy going but I am making progress up the Lamuskaya valley [near Vayegi].
Riding the waters
Dimitris home team reports about him travelling in the rivers, using human power, Apparently he has been riding his sled in the water like a 'cowboy' by his own words. His feet are always in the freezing water, which is not so comfortable, but necessary to keep the sled from flipping. He does have a dry, or as he now calls it a 'damp' suit on, but that does not do much for the cold. He is proceeding cautiously and very excited to reach a dry and hopefully warm place to sleep in once in the village of Vayegi.
The river banks were not so safe and his home team reports about him travelling on a river bank with a raging spring river beside him trying to travel on the ice shelf along its banks - seriously dangerous terrain.
He was sucked under an ice flow at one point, and then had his sled entangled with a traveling full tree, and then, as if that wasn't enough he got his sled lodged under an ice shelf along a river and in the process of getting it out his only bear spray exploded all over everything he has with him.
He was not sure what his next move would be but reassured me that he had set up camp and was safe for the time being.
The next day He has tried to progress but found it very, very difficult. He was only able to travel 1.8 miles through the course of the day. He has had some kind of allergic reaction to the bear spray and has small cuts covering all his body which was effected, making travel and hauling of his gear that much more unpleasant and difficult.
Dimitri called for help at the village of Vayedi. He was told to move further along the river for a pick up. His home team reports, He was picked up late Friday evening [6 June] by the mayor the village, Victor at the intersection of the Mayn and Algan rivers. He could not have continued any further toward Vayegi since the Mayn river was running against him and he could not have pulled his sled upstream. He made very good mileage the last two days covering about 18 miles each day with the help of the now calmer Algan river.
I do not believe I have ever heard his voice as overjoyed as he was when the boat arrived to pick him up. Three weeks alone and being seriously challenged by nature made the encountering of friendly people and the idea of returning to 'civilization' a very welcome one indeed! He was thrilled with the meal of lard, garlic, onion and vodka which the men brought along to greet him with.
While waiting in Vayegi for transport to Anadyr he has found out that the river freezes over in late November, and then the region continues to get very, very cold, -40 deg. which will make for some very cold travelling conditions. He did not see his goal of trekking of out of the region of Chukotka on this trip, but he covered a great distance.
Dimitri Kieffer was born in France and moved to the USA when he was 17. He runs ultra-marathons and participate in adventure races. Since 2005, Dimitri has continued to evolve, transferring from adventure racing to full blown expeditions, like this Circumnavigation around the Globe.
Stages already completed in Dimitris Nexus Expeditions around the Globe using human power:
First Section: Knik Lake (near Anchorage, Alaska) - Nome (Alaska)
Feb April 2005, 37 days, 1100 miles 1770 kilometers
Completed by foot (trekking & snowshoeing) the Iditarod Trail Invitational race
Second Section: Nome (Alaska) Wales (Alaska)
Feb 2006, 9 days, 115 miles 185 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing)
(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)
Third Section: Nome (Alaska) Uelen (Russia) Bering Strait Crossing
March 17-31 2006, 14 days, 5 days where swimming was required
200 miles 322 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing) + Swimming
(with Goliath Expedition- Karl Bushby)
Fourth section: Uelen to Egvekinot (Chukotka, Russia)
April 12- May 16 2007, 34 days, 425 miles 684 kilometers
Completed by foot (Back Country Skiing and only trekking after Vastoshisno)
Uelen- Anguema(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)
Anguema- Uelen (solo)
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