Ladies and Gentlemen this is the deepest lake in the world, 25 million years in the making, Lake Baikal. If our Ural plunges through the ice here it will fall a mile before it hits the bottom. At which point we’ll probably not get it back.
Perfect for an adventure then. Right?
Training will carry us along the North-western coast, across Olkhon Island where the support unit will drop back to fulfil a less conspicuous role.
Then, like baby birds being jettisoned from the nest by an over-zealous mother, we’re free. Hopefully having picked up enough knowledge to meander our way up to Severobaikalsk and the welcoming hot springs at the far North of the lake.
We don’t have a set a route, we are just given GPS co-ordinates of fuel drops and some particularly hazardous bits to avoid (best not to get the two mixed up).
From Severobaikalsk the adventure becomes like the Ice Run of old, travelling along the zimnics (frozen rivers), forest trails and snowy covered dirt tracks of the Irkutsk Oblast.
Lake Baikal in March is a positively balmy -20c which is a bit friendlier to the bikes than the -40c of Salekhard in February. While this means bits of the bike are less likely to fall off, there are still a whole bunch of unknown factors which might chomp our botty like a case of posterior frostbite.
The bikes – They’re old and don’t respond terribly well to the cold. We’ve improved the ignition and batteries and given them all studded tyres, but they were not designed for the Ice Run; that’s sort of the point. They weren’t reliable in factory condition, and age has not wearied them in this regard.
The cold – At minus 20 a 25 mph wind will take the air temperature down to minus 35. At this temperature even Arctic foxes can freeze to death.
The terrain – Parts of the ice will be sculpted by the wind and smooth as a baby’s buttock, other bits will be cracked like a builders bum. The route up the lake will not be a straight line, this much is safe to assume.