Veterans Aid

The Long Haul

Two renowned explorers are planning to walk and ski 725k across frozen Lake Baikal in Eastern Russia – to set a new record and in support of UK ex-service charity Veterans Aid.

Extreme support for veterans charity

Rosie Stancer and Mike Laird are doing a ‘double solo’ – setting out from opposite ends of the world’s largest, oldest and deepest fresh water lake, crossing paths at the halfway point.

No strangers to extreme challenges, they are doing it in the spirit of adventure – but will be taking with them a Veterans Aid banner that will be raised to publicise the work of the charity they both admire.

They also hope that The Long Haul will inspire others to support the charity through their JUST GIVING site.

Departure

© BFBS – Interview with Rosie and Mike at Veterans Aid. 25th February 2019

Preparations

CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said:

“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 Eastern Russia.

These two extraordinary people have set themselves an awesome challenge – and were committed to it before fundraising was even mentioned; knowing that it will fund some of our work, as well as putting us on the map in such a spectacular way,  is just the icing on the cake!”

Long Haul Map
The Long Haul Map

The Long Haul begins when the pair leave the UK on February 26th, arriving at Irkutsk the following day. Rosie then heads to Kultuk, from where she sets off on the ice on March 1st.

Mike faces a 36 hour train journey north, arriving at Severobaikalsk on March 3rd.  He takes further transport to Nizhneangarsk where he overnights before setting out from there on the morning of March 4th. Heading out from opposite directions, they aim to meet on the ice on March 9th.

Travelling solo, by foot and on skis, pulling sledges – without resupply – they hope to complete the crossing in 25-30 days.

Mike said:

“This route takes in the most southerly, westerly, easterly and northern points of Lake Baikal. While the lake has been skied, these four points have never been touched by one expedition.”

Rosie adds:

“The length of the lake is 636k but taking in all four points brings our anticipated mileage up to 725k.”

Her crossing will be a ‘World First’ as a solo woman.

It came about when Mike asked Rosie to join him as part of a team that that he was hoping to assemble.

Mike said:

“In true Rosie style she said that she loved the concept  – but that to do it as a team was possibly not challenging enough for her. So, she hatched the idea of doing a ‘Double Solo’. The rest has been an evolution of joint input and thought.

It’s important because it will be a World First brought back to Great Britain.

Also, it will see both a man and a woman taking on roughly the same challenge but in isolation from each other.

We shall be doing some psychological studies along the way to see how we both cope and what our feelings were along the way.”

Rosie added:

“This promises to be a remarkable journey not just physically, but psychologically and spiritually too.

It’s important to both Mike and I that, whatever challenge we undertake, we must forge a legacy of good from it – in this case both Veterans Aid, which holds a special significance for both of us, and the research, which I have always held a passion for and conducted on all expeditions.

We know not what we might learn until we’re out there, and sharing the experience on our return will be part of the expedition legacy.

I anticipate some extremely testing times but the responsibility of fulfilling the challenge to help Veterans Aid will propel us on.”

Mike, whose involvement with VA is more recent, is not a veteran but has worked as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan and has immense respect for Britain’s Armed Forces.

He said:

“I have long had incredible admiration and respect for what our servicemen and women do to protect our country and its interests.

Having seen first-hand how they operate in the most challenging conditions and situations makes me proud to be undertaking this challenge and to be associated with Veterans Aid.”

Conditions will be extreme – the pair expect temperatures of -20°C, plus strong winds and occasional white outs, but on February 6th Mike checked the weather at his departure point: It was -51°C – and sinking!

If all goes well, the pair will arrive back in the UK on 27th March.

About Rosie

(Click on image to open Rosie’s biography)

Rosie Stancer
Rosie Stancer

About Mike

(Click on image to open Mike’s biography)

Mike Laird
Mike Laird

About Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is:

See you on the ice…

“See you on the ice” will take on a whole new meaning for explorers Rosie Stancer and Mike Laird when they meet at the half-way point of The Long Haul – their 725km walk across frozen Lake Baikal.

The ‘double solo’ duo will have battled extreme cold, wind, ice, possibly the odd bear, ice fracturing and stretches of ice boulders where rivers enter the lake.

And when they meet?

“We will share a cup of tea, take some photos and exchange information about the routes we have covered so the other knows what to expect.

If we meet late afternoon, we will set up tents next to each other for a night” – says Mike.

“Tea? More like sharing a quick vodka beneath the Veterans Aid  banner!” – adds Rosie.

Expedition timeline

Preparations and technical data

The biggest physical obstacles will be open leads of water as the pair are not taking immersion suits and while Rosie’s pulk was fashioned by Acapulka in Norway along the lines of a viking boat to float, Mike’s pulk is not buoyant. 

Means of navigating across or around will require some resolve and pluck. There will be some stretches of ice boulders where rivers enter the lake. The bigger the river- the bigger the ice boulders and the pair have to either go around or over. Both present challenges which Mike and Rosie will only become aware of if/when they face them.

“We have the kit and the know-how. Fingers crossed!” – says Mike.

“Ah  . . . some rather old kit, small sledges and, the ultimate ‘mission critical’ piece of kit, big attitude.” – says Rosie.

The expedition itself will be about long distance walking and skiing in extremely cold temperatures, pulling a sled.

Mike has trained by doing several 30km walks and undertaking a 24 hour non-stop walk from the east coast to the west coast of Scotland.

“My training is also involving a chiropractor who is correcting a few bodily niggles and getting me to stretch way more than I usually do!” – says Mike.

Back in the opposite end of the UK, deep in Somerset, Rosie has been pulling tyres, yomping the hills with a weighted rucksack, getting periodic beastings from her trainer Lee Watts, an ex-para who served in Afghanistan, and fiddling around with some hefty weights to power her up, hone some survival skills and throw on some weight herself  – “To enable me to pull my own weight – in every respect!”

Rosie and Mike will be able to communicate with each other and with their expedition coordinator and advisor using satellite phones. A protocol has been drawn up and agreed.

They have prepared for emergencies by carrying Garmin Inreach as well as flares. Both will navigate using compass, sun, wind and good old fashioned maps. GPS will be used for logging purposes.

“We drew up a list of the most significant risks (e.g. breaking a limb, total immersion in water, loss of critical equipment) and feel able to deal with most eventualities.

We have also formulated an extraction plan either by helicopter or hovercraft (depending on our position and situation) which would be managed by our Russian colleague, Eugene.” says Mike.

“All and any risks taken, if unavoidable, will be calculated, no cavalier antics. We will both abide by the Shackleton rule of ‘survival first’.”– says Rosie.

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