Lake Baikal challenge puts VA on the map

April 24, 2019

Two renowned explorers who walked and skied hundreds of kilometres to break records and support an ex-service charity returned home in triumph after flying the flag for Veterans Aid in the icy heart of Eastern Russia.

Mike Laird’s sledge with VA flag on the frozen surface of Lake Baikal.

No strangers to extreme challenges they did it primarily in the spirit of adventure – but also to publicise the work of the charity they both admire and raise funds for its life saving work.

Rosie Stancer and Mike Laird’s The Long Haul expedition took them across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest, deepest and oldest freshwater lake.

Travelling independently, from opposite directions, their ‘double solo’ had factored in a meeting at the half way point. Due to treacherous conditions – temperatures below 30 degrees, poor visibility, ice ridges and breaking ice – this didn’t happen, but tracking devices later revealed that they had been only metres apart.

Rosie, an experienced polar explorer, desert adventurer and cousin of HM The Queen, set off from Baikal’s southernmost point, taking in the most westerly, northerly and finally easterly points of the vast lake. Her record-breaking journey was completed in 21 days.

Mike, a seasoned expeditioner from Edinburgh, set off from the northern end of the lake to travel south, in the opposite direction to Rosie. Both hauled their own equipment and Rosie completed her crossing without resupply.

CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said:

“No-one has ever gone to such extreme lengths to support our charity and we are awed by what they have achieved.

Rosie has been a long-time supporter of VA and we were thrilled when she told us about this latest venture and introduced us to Mike.

VA has a national and international footprint, but we never expected to see it advertised in the frozen landscape of Siberia – or as part of a record-breaking expedition.

These two extraordinary people set themselves an awesome challenge. The money they have raised – and are still raising – through Just Giving will help us to save lives, as well as putting us on the map in such a spectacular way and we are hugely grateful to them.”

Rosie and Mike man-hauled and travelled on skis or with spiked boots across the ice, encountering fierce and unpredictable Siberian winds, an earthquake, hugely variable ice from pressure ridges and drift, and areas of open water.

Both suffered minor cold injuries and on two occasions Mike broke through thin ice and became immersed up to his shoulders. He also had to manage without hot food or water after his stove pumps failed.

The pair return to the UK via the British Embassy in Moscow where they were welcomed by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation Sir Laurie Bristow KCMG who helped them, once again, put Veterans Aid on the map.

From left: Mike Laird, Rosie Stancer and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation Sir Laurie Bristow KCMG display the Veterans Aid banner in Moscow after The Long Haul.

Rosie and Mike undertook psychological research throughout their respective journeys, which will provide valuable information for future expeditioners. They returned home tired, exhilarated and keen to reflect upon and analyse their respective achievements.

Rosie, who had suffered from frostbite on a previous expedition, said. “ I’m glad to have kept my remaining toes, and even happier to have escaped Brexit for a month!” Mike added, “I’m delighted that we’ve both done this – bagged a record for Great Britain and made it safely back!”

The Long Haul JUST GIVING page is still active. By supporting Rose and Mike – who both self-funded their incredible expedition – you can make their achievement even more meaningful. 

Last year Veterans Aid saw 812 ex-servicemen and women, helped 94 veterans into employment or onto training courses and appropriately homed 154.

£100 can help the charity save a vulnerable veteran from a night on the street;

£35 will cover the cost of getting a team member out to help a veterans in crisis, get them to a safe location and sort out their most immediate needs;

£35 will pay for a night’s clean, safe accommodation;

£20 will pay for emergency medical and hygiene needs and

£10 will buy a much need hot meal and drink.

The background to Rosie and Mike’s expedition can be read HERE.