Atacama Desert Run update: Three start points and two kick offs

Posted: Jan 24, 2011 04:24 am EST

(By Correne Coetzer) Ray Zahab, who is now attempting the Atacama Desert without his running mate Kevin Vallely, shot over news to ExplorersWeb about the start of his expedition.

The past few days in Chile, he and his support team discussed 3 possible start points. They chose one, scouted it for about 15 km and decided on another more accurate starting point from where Ray then started off today.

Preparations in Arica

In a video on the expedition website taken in Arica the day before the first start, Ray says he has mixed feelings about the run because of his running mate who had to withdraw from this run; Kevin has been his teammate for the past years and he will miss him, and on the other hand he doesnt want to disappoint the schools following him and the support team who has put a lot of work into this expedition.

He also said that he will possibly run 50 per day for the first few days.

Three different start points

Zahab reported to ExplorersWeb about the past few days in Chile where he and his support team have been trying to decide the best starting point for their expedition. We have had 3 starts mapped, but really liked the idea of starting up in the mountains and coming down into the desert! So amazing to see the mountains and share that with our students following along!

Locally, many Chilean people felt that the start of the Atacama is in fact on the Peruvian border, north of Arica. Cris Sieveking (Chilean running guru) tried to convince all of us that we should start on the Peruvian border and we were debating starting today from those 3 different positions.

Starting twice

They headed out to the Andes Mountains to start. Ray explained, The idea being we would descend into the Atacama Desert. After 15 km or so of soakers, greenery, and amazing mountains it really felt like I was on Canada's beautiful Baffin. Of course a banging headache from the altitude rounded out the fun!

Ray chose the Andes as a start point, but when they started they realized that descending into the Atacama they would reach the desert at a latitude lower than Arica.

He added, I was actually second guessing this start point! So we decided to do this as "real" as possible and start again on the Peruvian border north of Arica, where it is stinking hot, and sandy.

Thats the deal! Ray stated to ExplorersWeb. So I start on the border with Peru north of Arica on [January 23].

Latest Progress

Ray started this morning, local Chilean time.
Here go his stats:

Date (local): Jan 23 05:07 pm
Distance: 49.81 km (30.95 mi)
Trip duration: 0 days, 9 hr, 13 min
Position: 18.736828N, 070.221218W

Taking inspiration from the legendary ultra-running athletes called Chasquis, modern-day adventurer Ray Zahab will test himself on the trails of these highly trained athletes as he traverses the length of Chiles Atacama Desert. He will be carrying a 12kg (25lb) backpack with all his gear/clothing/stove/tent to survive, and food and water (8-10 liters) for one day. Water/food drops will be available when a community or water source is not in the route. He will have a GPS, topo map and compass and hopefully find the water.

The plan is to run between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the approx.1,250 km (1,000 km as the crow flies). His start point at the Northern tip of the Atacama Desert is at Lago Chungara.

Following the recently completed impossible2Possible Youth Expedition to the Amazon in October 2010, Ray Zahab will be visiting a contrasting area of the Earth. The Atacama Desert will provide a great point of contrast on the topic of biodiversity which he will share with thousands of school children. Ray will carry a Solara tracking device from start to finish, and will be updating a live website www.atacamaextreme.com and communicating with classrooms via video conferencing software, a Macbook and BGAN.

Ray Zahab was born in Ottawa, Canada on February 11, 1969. He grew up on a hobbyhorse farm in Carp, Ontario with his brother John, and his parents. Fast forward 39 years to today, and I now live with my incredible wife and soul mate Kathy and our daughter Mia Sahara in Chelsea, Quebec, says Ray. He is very passionate about the organizations he work with, and when not running he divides his time sitting on the board of directors.

Rays ultra-marathons:
- 2004 Yukon Arctic Ultra, 160 km
- 2004 Jungle Marathon, Amazon, 250 km
- 2004 Trans 333, Niger, 333 km
- 2004 & 2005, Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 250 km
- 2005 Sahara Race, Egypt, 250 km
- 2006 Gobi March, China, 250 km
- 2006 Libyan Challenge, 190 km
- 2007 Running the Sahara, 7500 km, 111 days, with Charlie Engle (USA) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)
- 2007 three extreme coastal trails of Canada, back to back, 100, 210, 75 km
- 2008 Canada, in each province and territory, 80 km per day x 13 days
In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Canadians Richard Weber, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab set the fastest time for a team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole (1130 km) in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

March 14, 2010 Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab completed their speed record expedition across Lake Baikal in a time of 13 days and 16 hours; running/walking the 640 km (as the crow flies) in an average distance of 50 km a day with special screw in spikes shoes. They started from the small village of Kultuk on the southern side of the lake and finished at northern tip at a community called Nizhneangarsk


#Trek



Ray Zahab: [We] really liked the idea of starting up in the [Andes] mountains and coming down into the [Atacama] desert. In the image, screenshot from video with Ray and the Atacama Desert map with the possible start points.
courtesy Ray Zahab, SOURCE