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Retreating out of Vayegi
Wednesday December 10, 2008 -
I have taken the decision to retreat out of chukotka at this stage because I realized during my first week of trekking that I was facing some challenges that I could not surmount at the present time.

1. Equipment failure

The sled that I have been using ever since I started trekking in Uelen, Chukotka in early 2007 is very much "à bout de souffle", running out of life.

The last section between Krasneno and Vayegi in Spring 2008 definitely took its toll.

In deed, my sled endured a serious amount of beatings and deep scratches while going up and down on mud bogs, log jams, ice shelves and the rocky bottoms of streams and rivers

This happened while I was trying to progress the best I could with my sled in a region where the snow had melted very quickly and where an air lift would have been quite complex and prohibitively expensive...

As a direct result my sled has now become very difficult to pull, barely able to glide anymore on the snow and instead collecting large lumps of snow on its bottom which prevents any efficient and fast progress.

On Dec 7th, on my 7th and last day of pulling on the trail, the abnormal amount of traction exerted by my sled led me to tear and break my main harness. I had a spare harness with me but easily came to the conclusion that the same would probably happen to this second harness very soon as well, taking into consideration the current situation.
This was the first matter influencing my decision to stop the expedition until I could find a better solution.

Back in June, prior to leaving my sled in Vayegi to return to my home in the US for the summer months, I had some concerns on what shape my sled was in but it was hard for me to confirm the extent of the damages without any snow left to glide on and test prior to my departure out of Vayegi.

Taking into consideration the complexity involved with having to ship a new sled to the remote village of Vayegi, I made the regrettable mistake to think that I could still get 660 miles out of my old sled "fatso" without having to either replace it or repair it extensively.

2. Health and safety related matters

During the 12/1-7/08 week of trekking/skiing and while experiencing temperatures varying from approximately -25 to -39 celsius degrees, I started feeling again the serious frostbites I endured in some of my fingers in Alaska in January 2006,(some of you might recall some graphic shots I posted at the time).

This resurgence happened despite the fact that I was trying to handle my battered fingers with great care, wearing up to 4 pair of gloves and using chemical hand warmers while trekking.

Knowing the risks involved with pursuing the next few sections in a remote region where the temperatures could drop to -50 celsius degrees over the next few months, I took this matter into consideration as well when I decided to stop my progress.

This mean that if I choose to return and progress forward, I would have to continue in Vayegi in spring weather (April-May time frame) when the temperatures rarely drop below -20c.

So....consequently, as one can easily imagine, now just 3 days after my early withdrawal, I am obviously going through an heavy self-evaluation phase and I am going to need some time to process through it.

The most immediate question that I have while still in Chukotka for the next few days is:
if I do choose to continue in Spring 2008, would I want to continue to travel alone or would I rather partner with an experienced "Putischestvinik" /"traveller"/expeditionist to potentially enhance the level of safety and the experience, as I have done in some sections in the past.

I am currently evaluating Russian candidates and if you are aware of experienced Russian or international adequate candidates, please ask them to contact me directly at:
dimitri _kieffer@hotmail.com

In any event, I will share over the next few days on this site some amusing and touching stories that I have experienced over the last few weeks in Chukotka as well as some of the more recent pictures and potentially some of the film I shot.

I definitely was once again able to meet and connect with amazing people on the later phase of this journey and I want to thank all of them for having come my way and welcomed me. I also want to take the opportunity to thank my supporting team and sponsors !

Finally, I was able to fly yesterday with an administrative helicopter carrying the mail from Vayegi to Markova and I am now waiting for flights to return home via Markova-Anadyr-Nome-Achorage-Seattle which should happen over the next few days.

Paka!
Dima
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