In March 2018, Dr. Ash Routen will be leading a two-man team to Siberia in an attempt to traverse Lake Baikal unassisted and unsupported.
If you know anything about Dr. Ash Routen Ph.D., you’ll know he’s obsessed with physicality and cold-weather, aren’t we all. Routen, a Research Associate in Physical Activity and Public Health at Loughborough University in England, will be leading a team across Lake Baikal in Siberia this March.
This year, we’ve seen two other spectacular polar crossings, Second Lieutenant Scott Sears’ Antarctic Gurkha Expedition and the Ice Maiden’s historic Antarctic expedition. Both were crossings Antarctica to the South Pole. We’re looking forward to Routen’s success as well.
We caught up with Routen to talk more about the expedition’s specs.
In laymen’s terms, Routen (31) is an exercise scientist. Through his grueling expeditions to Arctic Norway and cycling the length of France, he’s had his fair share of physical exertion, learning something new with each trip. This time, he’s taking the expeditions further, traversing the world’s largest frozen lake. He will be challenging human endurance with each step.
The expedition will be undertaken unsupported and unassisted as a two-man team consisting of Routen and his partner, Phil Sturgeon (50).
Lake Baikal Traverse 2018 Expedition
While the purpose of the Lake Baikal 2018 Expedition is a challenge to see if both men can do it, Routen does not leave science behind for very long. “We are currently in discussions about doing some innovative scientific data collection around nutritional intervention and physiological responses to the cold,” he says. Routen and his partner will be withstanding temperatures in excess of -40° C (-40° F).
Lake Baikal was first Traversed by a British team in 2007, however, the task remains a challenging and mentally exhaustive undertaking. With the constant knowledge of being surrounded by frozen water on all sides comes the inevitable realization that, at some point, something can go very wrong.
Baikal is the world’s largest natural freshwater lake. It is also the oldest and deepest lake at 1-mile (1.6 km) in depth. Lake Baikal contains 22 percent of the Earth’s fresh water and a varied ecosystem that has yet to be fully cataloged or studied.
Routen and Sturgeon will have to navigate rough terrain, not knowing what lies beneath their feet. Large stretches of uncovered ice, where there is no snow to provide a barrier between crampons and the ice, will be a constant reminder of the terrain they’re gambling with.
If that’s not nerve-wracking enough, the team will be negotiating with open water, as well as with ice rubble that can reach heights of 32-feet (10 m), created by colliding ice sheets.
The expedition is set to last between 20 and 22 days, with a goal of traversing at least 17 miles (27 km) per day. The eventual motive is to trek 342 miles (550 km) during the course of the expedition. The duo is set to start their trek on 24 February.
Routen and Sturgeon will gather and depart at the southern shores of Lake Baikal located in Listvyanka. From there, they’ll cross the eastern shores of the lake and navigate Olkhon Island. If all goes well, the team will end their journey in Severobaikalsk.
Heading back to civilization will take another long, but not as arduous, adventure on a two-day train ride back to Irkutsk.
Before the relative comfort of that train ride home, the team will have to manage their daily intake and output. Both men will be consuming 6,000 calories per day and striving to conserve energy to continue the trek and pull their sleds behind them, each containing 220 pounds (100 kg).
Adventure and Dr. Ash Routen
Routen is a traveling being. It seems as if he’s just as at home in Leicester, England as he is on the ice somewhere in a remote part of the world. Most explorers and mountaineers are; there is something to be said about the soul of an adventurer. Everywhere they go, they leave a part of them behind; everywhere they leave, they take a piece of it with them. In this way, adventurers are perpetually and poetically connected to the environment and the world.
According to Routen, when asked why he enjoyed adventuring, he said:
For me, there’s two main reason’s. The first is getting out and experiencing the best of the world’s natural places. The second is the physicality. There’s something appealing in doing pure physical hard work, suffering a little. It’s very cathartic.
We asked Dr. Ash Routen why his passion for cold-environment expeditions is so powerful, his response anchored on the simplicity of the experience:
I think first and foremost it’s about spending time in remote and beautiful landscapes. But there’s an added quality for me that, the snow, ice and cold bring, particularly if you add in the low sun in the arctic circle, it’s quite an ethereal experience. It’s calming, cleansing, and relaxing in these sorts of places. There’s also simplicity to cold journeys. Yes you have a sled and your kit, but generally, there is little technicality compared to say mountaineering – at it’s most basic it’s just, getting up, getting moving and keeping warm. I enjoy that simple physicality.
While the team will be headed into the thick of the Siberian winter, they’ll be well equipped with gear from their sponsors. Among their supporters is their Expedition Patron, Geoff Somers MBE, a veteran polar explorer and polar medal recipient who says:
The area is remote and challenging, and small independent trips such as this are important to raise the aspirations of young people today, and keep alive a sense of adventure
At Base Camp Magazine we are wishing Dr. Ash Routen and Phil Sturgeon a successful traverse of Lake Baikal this March! We look forward to an update and seeing the journey progress.
Lake Baikal 2018 Expedition Sponsors
Dr. Ash Routen’s Lake Baikal 2018 Expedition is proudly supported by these fine sponsors.
About Dr. Ash Routen
Dr. Ash Routen (31) lives in Leicester, England and is an Exercise Scientist and Cold-Environment Adventurer. Dr. Ash Routen serves the scientific community as a Research Associate in Physical Activity and Public Health, for which he holds a Ph.D., at Loughborough University.
Ash has successfully completed two polar expeditions to Arctic Norway. He has cycled the length of France, and this March, he will be headed to the world’s largest lake to attempt a crossing with his partner, Phil Sturgeon.
When not hill walking, Ash Routen can be found studying physical activity and sharing inspiring photography and updates on his social media accounts. To stay updated on Dr. Ash Routen’s Lake Baikal Expedition, follow him on:
Affiliate links help support this site and its hard-working staff.