Wigan man in world record lake crossing at -35c

A Wigan man has helped to set a new speed record for crossing the world's largest freshwater lake.

Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 9:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 11:55 am
Michael Stevenson (centre) was part of a three-man team to set a new record for crossing the world's largest freshwater lake. Pictured with team mates Scott Gilmour and Rob Trigwell. Photo by Scott Gilmour

Builder Michael Stevenson, from Orrell, was part of a three-man British expedition team to tackle Siberia’s Lake Baikal faster than anyone else in history.

Together with Scott Gilmour and Rob Trigwell, the 39-year-old covered a distance of around 640km (397 miles) in 12 days, 21 hours and 13 minutes, finishing on Wednesday March 14 at 2.08am local time.

It should be pointed out that Baikal - the world’s biggest fresh water lake - is frozen sold at this time of year and the mission was carried out on skis - not by boat!

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Michael Stevenson. Photo by Scott Gilmour

The trio beat the previous record of 13 days and 16 hours, set by Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab in 2010, by around 18 hours.

To do so, the three adventurers had to put in a final continuous push of 135km over 42 hours, during which time they slept for just two hours, in their bivvy bags.

Their attempt started on March 1 at 4.55am local time.

“Relief is my number one emotion,” said Michael, who in his spare time is a operational member of Bolton Mountain Rescue team.

Michael Stevenson. Photo by Scott Gilmour

The father-of-four added: “The terrain really saps you.

“It’s so draining. I want to thank my two team mates, they’re great guys.

“I can’t wait to get home to see my kids.

“What’s next though? Maybe it will be the South Pole!”

The record-breaking attempt took place in the highest snowfall in the region since 1969, with temperatures regularly down to -35°C, and often strong winds.

Though the team had spells of good weather too.

During the expedition, the team had to navigate around areas of “rubble ice”, as they pulled sledges containing all their equipment and food, covering 50km a day on average.

They survived most of the trip with just one working stove, meaning every night one of them would stay up late melting water for the others, while their team-mates slept.

They averaged four hours’ sleep per night over the 12 days

“It’s an amazing effort by a team of relative beginners in the world of polar travel,” said Philip Hayday-Brown, a polar adventurer, guide and co-owner of Ultra Endurance Series, who was in charge of operational support for the attempt.

“Two of the three have very little experience of this kind of expedition, making this record all the more meaningful and impressive.

“They’ve proven that with some basic knowledge of how to survive and perform in regions of extreme cold, anything is possible.”

The team benefitted from expert training in Sweden on a Polar Endurance training package from Weatherised.com, prior to this trip.