Irish adventurers trek 640km along Siberian frozen lake

Lake Baikal trek one of a series of ice cap challenges

Video: Irish adventurers trek 640km along Siberian frozen lake

Clare O’Leary and Mike O’Shea completed their trek along the length of the frozen Lake Baikal in southeastern Siberia late last week and are preparing to return home via Mongolia.

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 05:00

Irish adventurers Clare O’Leary and Mike O’Shea have pledged to traverse all of the world’s major ice caps following their successful trek along the length of the frozen Lake Baikal in southeastern Siberia.

The pair from Cork and Kerry respectively completed the trek of the 25 million-year-old lake, known as the “Galapagos of Russia”, late last week and are preparing to return home via Mongolia.

Baikal, which extends over 3.15 million hectares to a depth of 1,700m, is the world’s oldest and deepest lake and it holds 20 per cent of the planet’s fresh running water.

Unesco describes it as “the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem” and of “exceptional value to evolutionary science” due to its biodiversity. It supports 1,340 animal species and 570 plant species.

Dr O’Leary, a gastroenterology consultant and the first Irish woman to climb Mount Everest, completed the 640km trek with fellow mountaineer O’Shea in 26 days.

They walked, ice-skated and skied in temperatures as low as -30 degrees, pulling 70kg sledges. Only a handful of people have transited the lake during its frozen season before.

The pair reported higher levels of snowfall than anticipated, with 60cm falling in one 48-hour period. They also experienced winds of up to 100km/h.

Some of the strongest winds were on St Patrick’s Day, when they covered just 5km, but made up for it with some vodka refreshment offered by a Russian in his hut on the ice.


Harrowing escape
O’Leary and O’Shea decided to undertake the trek as one of a series of ice-cap challenges, known as The Ice Project – the first being a crossing of the north Patagonian ice cap last year.

Earlier last year, they had a harrowing escape from rapidly disintegrating ice en route to the North Pole, which forced them to retreat. It had been O’Leary’s third attempt to make the North Pole.

She has climbed the world’s seven summits and trekked to the South Pole in 2008 – four years after Kerry mountaineer Mike Barry became the first Irishman to complete the journey attempted by Ernest Shackleton a century before.

O’Leary and O’Shea had intended to make another attempt on the North Pole this season, but deferred the trip due to last year’s record minimum sea ice in the area and a shorter North Pole ski season.

They are due to return to Ireland later this week.

theiceproject.org