Gone with the wind!
Wednesday April 7, 2010 - 63.17487° N, 168.40532° E
Day 28th, Thursday morning April 8th 2010
Proud to say that we are finally in Kamchatka territory , in the North East Koriaky region, about 40-50 kms from Slautnoye, our first Kamchatkan village
Location: N 63° 17.487'; E 168° 40.532'
Since my last post on our 20th day,we were able to make it out of our trenches and made progress leap-frogging / zig-zagging from one white patch of snow,froxen river, lake to the next between large barren sections...
It reminded me a bit how Karl Bushby and I were leap-frogging from one good ice flow to the next during our 2006 Bering Strait crossing...
Nyurgun and I were ecstatic to finally be able to make better progress when the unthinkable happened on the morning of our 22d day while taking our tents down. As I was detaching my tent from my anchoring sled, I heard on my side, Nyurgun screamed "Dima!",turned around watch in horror one fully build tent flies out of his hands into the wind. Shocked, confused, and defocused within a split of the same second, lost grip of my own tent, and here she was gone in the oblivion as well!
Next thing you know, I am desperately running and nyurgun skiing after these two giant big orange balls, similar to tumbleweeds, bouncing off the ground and rapidly disappearing in the horizon thanks to a gusty 30+ miles/hr wind...
It truly felt like a scene out of a Fellini movie, a Dali painting or a Flaming Lips concert with its countless bouncing giant colorful balls...
Nyurgun asked me then if I had a reserve tent to which I frustrately responded... "you know you were sleeping in it!"
Yes, indeed, giving each other a bit of extra space to sleep, eat, and dry our clothes comfortably at night, we took the liberty to use both tents (including the reserve one) on a daily basis, knowingly that we were taking a risk, but surely not able to fathom that we could lose entirely BOTH tents in less than a second!
So, we went back to our base camp, took our sleds and gear and proceeded 8 kms in the direction of the wind through a difficult section partly barren of snow, hoping that hopefully a little hill, ditch or bushes could have stopped these two escapees in orange suits, checking everything in sight with and without Nyurgun's Binoculars... But, of course nothing was to be found!
We called our nearest contact Andrei in Slautnoye who informed us that by now they were already probably in the sea, 200 kms southwest away... Unless of course they have been shot down as potential UFOs by the Chinese airforce... Robust North Face Mountain series 23 models, I must say! Great kites!
Since then, we have continued to make progress towards Slautnoye, managing to sleep in our sleds on the first night after the "catastrophe", which uncomfortably psychologically felt too much like laying my own coffin and if you want to know, I am definitely not ready for that!
We built a fantastic snow cave on our 2d night tentless in a gulley that surprisingly still had a great amount of snow. This 5 hours project is actually something that Nyurgun has wznted to do for a long time and I am "glad" that Nexus expedition finally gave him that opportunity.
We looked in vain for an old cabin/balok we were told about on our 3rd night and ended up burrying ourselves in ditches, where I sleptvery comfortably thanks to my thick down emergency suit given to me by my French sponsor Valandré...
On our fourth night, we decided to build a makeshift tent out of the surviving two 2d tent layers and the few small extra poles we had... It stands alright but I really don't think it will stand the first purga we encountered down our path...
In a way, I must say that I actually feel lucky that we have not encountered any storm or even wind over our last 5 tentless nights!
Consequently, we have been already calling ahead our contacts in slautnoye , kamenskoye and petropavloski -kamchatski to see if we could already source a new or used tent for when we arrive in Slautnoye... No results so far..
On the evening of our 23rd night, we successfully went over our last mountain pass in the Penzhinsky Khrebet / mountain range which marks the border between Chukotka and Kamchatka.
Since then, we were only able to move our sleds very slowly through a valley partially baren of snow and quite bushy!
On the evening of our 24th day, we finally came across an old wezdehod trail, leaving crevasses deep enough to gather a slightly sufficient amount of snow for us to pull our sleds through.
Was this the holy grail?
We called our friend andrei in slautnoye to know if this old trail could lead us to slautnoye 40kms away, to which he responded: "You know my friend, All the roads lead to slautnoye!"
He then offered to have a man come find us the next day with a snowmobile and trailer to release us from some of our gear, knowing the precarious situation with the snow level in the region.
We of course accepted and since then have been waiting TWO DAYS for the cavalry to arrive! We gave our exact gps location, names of surrounding rivers and hills according to the local detailed russian map, set a fire on the nearest hill, and even through a few flares... Apparently, the snowmobile driver contacted by phone on each night back at home in slautnoye could not find us on either day which I don't fully comprehend why yet...
Nyurgun suggested then that we departed today with just a backpack, 2 days worth of food and return to get our sleds, cargo, fuel and food with a snowmobile once we reached slautnoye. The idea of taking a short break from my cargo sounds exciting but I do not want to take the risk to not being able to return for one reason or another and be left marooned in slautnoye without our gear. So, I have decided this morning that we should "bite the bullet" and proceed with all our gear through this region deprived of snow, without having to rely on any external support if we can, no matter how long it is going to take...
"Aide toi et le ciel t'aidera!"