Heads up: Yanni Piveropoulos to cross Salar de Uyuni

Posted: Jul 27, 2010 04:28 pm EDT

Greek adventurer Yanni Piveropoulos is in the final stage of preparing for his solo, unassisted, unsupported trek across Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat and is located in Bolivia at an altitude of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft).

Yanni will do a West East crossing from Llica to Colchani, which he estimates will take 5 to 6 days. My starting point is a tiny village at the west edge of the desert called Llica. My ultimate destination is the town of Uyuni. However, I believe that the safest exit out of the Salar is 20km north of Uyuni, at a village called Colchani. From there I will take the road to Uyuni.

According to Yanni fewer than 10 people have ever crossed the Salar on foot. [Ed note, this probably refers to recorded crossings by non-local people].

Yanni also says this will be the second [recorded] solo and unsupported crossing of the Salar and the first ever solo and unsupported desert crossing by a Greek.

Dry season

Yanni has picked August/September (the dry season) specifically to avoid the overflow of Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia into Salar de Uyun, which means there will be a few centimeter of water on top of the salt crust during the wet season.

Average precipitation is then just a fraction of that during the wet season (December to March). However, temperatures are also much lower with an average surface temperature in July/August of minus 10°C (14°F). So I expect night-time temperatures to drop to minus 20°C (-4°F).

No water

There are no sources of water in the Salar de Uyuni so Yanni will have to carry all his water with him. He is assuming he will need 8 liters per day.

I will need to find containers that will not burst when the water freezes in them. The weight of the water (and the rest of the stuff) means that I will not be able to carry everything on my back, so I am going to need some other means of transportation. He said on his website he will probably pull a cart.

Temperatures could go under freezing point. If the water is frozen solid throughout the day the only way out I can think of is by having a bottle on my person, under the jacket so that it doesn't freeze. I will use that for cooking and take a frozen bottle of water in my sleeping bag for the morning.

Tent pegs

The salt on the Salar is so hard it will be impossible to use normal tent pegs, says Yanni. Securing the tent will be very important due to the high winds that blow across the Salar.

The solution I am going for is to use very strong tent pegs and a hammer to drive them into the salt each night. What might happen of course is that once driven in the pegs will be very difficult to pull out. It is of course impossible to determine if this is the case unless I go there and try.

The other thing that is impossible to determine beforehand is whether the salt will break and crumble when the peg is hammered in.

Wind and sun reflection

Yanni expects several other issues to be a challenge.

He expects almost constant, strong, freezing wind as the area is extremely exposed and at a very high altitude. With high winds and very low humidity windburn will definitely also be a problem.

He added that it is hard to overestimate the amount of sunlight reflected by a bright wide surface at nearly 4km altitude. In Greenland I had sunburn in the inside of my nostrils, the roof of my mouth and the underside of my eyes, the latter because my sunglasses did not have "guards".

Salar de Uyuni at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi) is the world's largest salt flat and is located in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni (and the smaller Salar de Coipasa) are what is left from a series of prehistoric lakes, the last of which dried out about 13,000 years ago.

The salt desert is basically a pool of brine 2 to 20 meters (7 to 66 ft) deep covered by a hard salt crust with a thickness varying between tens of centimeters to a few meters.

In the wet season Lake Titicaca overflows and discharges into Salar the Uyuni (via other intermediate lakes), which means there are a few cm of water on top of the salt crust.

Yanni Piveropoulos resides in the UK and has been on several expeditions from the Arctic to the Amazon. He says on his website he likes using Adventure as a means of challenging himself and developing physically and mentally.

In this blog, Yanni talks about his training and upcoming challenges and recounts stories and observations from his past adventures. He also relates his attempts to find his true place in the World through nature awareness, bush craft skills, and respectful observation of native peoples.

However, I also view each workout as an adventure in itself and try to make it as challenging as I can - even if there is no expedition in the horizon, he added.

Yanni notified ExplorersWebs NewsDesk about his expedition.


Yanni Piveropoulos on Greenland (click to enlarge)
courtesy Yanni Piveropoulos, SOURCE
And in the Amazon (click to enlarge)
courtesy Yanni Piveropoulos, SOURCE
The photo on the right shows different tent pegs (from left to right): A normal low quality tent peg; A high-quality low-weight Hilleberg peg made from aluminium; A snow tent peg; A hard ground tent peg - basically a massive nail. (click to enlarge)
courtesy Yanni Piveropoulos, SOURCE