March 05, 2009: 36th short message (11:57 a.m. MEZ)
Trapped between mountains
It is really stressful. On the one hand we are trying hard to find and modify a 12v fan engine, one the other hand the weather conditions appr. 30km outside of the mine are such extreme, that we are not able to continue. A convoy consisting out of 2 D10 bulldozer, one chain-driven vehicle in front and 7 trucks, which is on its way to the mine of Ewekinot, is trapped in snow masses since several days. Nobody knows where they are. They assume them to be appr. 32km away from Valonisti in valley in front of the dreaded pass. There is no radio contact with the trapped people and no dozers are starting due to safety reasons. It is simply not possible. Even a scout car which intented to start today came back. Sh**.
March 06, 2009: 37th short message (05:05 a.m. MEZ)
Engine fan is working. We built one by our own out of several Jeep and non-Jeep parts as well as Russian wrapping technique. It is spinning in the wrong direction but that doesn't matter. Main point is a non overheating vehicle and that we can continue our journey with F2. We will see if it provides the same performance with full load and trailer.
Furthermore, more or less catastrophic circumstances. Snowfall and winds are hardly weakening. We are not able to leave. Got stuck. A second convoy from the direction of Pevek also got stuck somewhere between 50 to 150km away from here. That means there are 12 trucks, 3 crawlers and 1 chain-driven scout vehicle with 30 people in total have to wait for improvement in the weather somewhere in the wilderness.
In terms of the situation, we currently have double risk. Insufficient fuel and too extreme track. We currently have 600l prepared fuel mixture. Normally that would perfectly be enough for the 300km to Egvekinot. But as we assume to be trapped in snow again, that could become scarce. Therefore we decided to wait for one of the convoys. If the one from Pevek is arriving first, we will refuel another 400l and start on our way. Then there would still be the risk of being trapped in the snow, but we are able to wait in warmth. If the convoy from Egvekinot is arriving first, we will start with the fuel reserve we have right now. As crossing of the pass must be possible, that reserve should be sufficient. Either way, we have to leave here. It is really blatant. The men told us, that last year was hardly any snow in whole Tschukotka. This year there are really huge amounts of snow masses - even for experienced ones.
March 07, 2009: 38th short message (10:32 a.m. MEZ)
We started and try to reach Egvekinot.
We already wanted to decamp yesterday, but after a scouting at the first mountain with a chain-driven vehicle we realized that there was no chance. Today morning at 10 a.m., we noticed the first D10 bulldozer arriving at the mine. We were told, that 2 out of 3 bulldozer left the convoy appr. 35km away in front of Valonisti, due to insufficient fuel for another night. We started immediately in order to use the brand-new cleaned track. Now after 10 hours of driving we are appr. 45km away from the mine. The snow masses are unbelievable stirred. The trucks broke more than 1.5m deep into the snow surface. Extraordinary hard work for us to come through.
Team in good health, vehicles ok, fuel reserve low - only 350l left. We turn down the engines at every stop, heating with the Webasto Air-Tops as they only need a maximum of 0.5l per hour. Outside temperature appr. -30°. Food reserve for appr. 6 days. We have to escape here. It is really a fight against time and a decreasing fuel reserve.
GPS Cords: N 66 39`22" / E 178 19`16"
March 08, 2009: 39th short message (07:14 a.m. MEZ)
We thank all Russian friends who we were able to meet in the mine and who helped us wherever possible. Starting with the possibility to sleep in the rooms of the workers, further the donation of the last available 300l fuel in the mine (it was from the vehicle of the director!), further the ladies who stitched our tattered clothes and so on and so on...
Nevertheless it was time to continue. We had to leave this white mountain area as fast as possible, which kept us in a gilded cage in this gorgeous region in the snow.
It was a struggle against time and decreasing fuel reserve until we reached the roadcamp 20 hours after our start from Valonisti. Due to the fact that we received the warning from the German Weather Service, that a strong-wind-area (hurricane) will hit us (Sunday 12 p.m.), we had a time frame of 24 hours to escape there. That means continuous winching, driving, and shoveling from yesterday 12 p.m. until today morning at 8 a.m. Fast driving in order to reach the destination before the storm meant a higher fuel consumption, slower driving meant led to a decreasing time limit. Basically we had the rule: We have to escape, the show must go on.
And we succeeded. We reached the camp (app. 100km in front of Egvekinot) with the beginning of the increasing wind intensity. We should not have arrived any 2-3 hours later as there is such a storm right now again, that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. If we would not have managed it, all tracks of the convoy would have been gone and we would have been trapped to wait another week in the mountains.
We decided to wait here until the storm is over and to prepare the vehicles and trailers for the upcoming last 1000km on Russian ground. We were kindly offered two small rooms with bed in the camp and given the possibility to use the big garage of the cleaning dozers.
On our way towards Egvekinot, we also crossed the 180th degree of longitude! Now we are in the West and GPW-wise everything is the other way round.
GPS cords: N 67 01`21" / W 178 56`00"
March 11, 2009: 40th short message (09:25 p.m. MEZ)
After an unsuccessful try to reach Egvekinot starting from the roadcamp yesterday (we had to cancel due to the heavy snow storm), we managed it tonight. We just arrived.
GPS cords: N 66 21`10" / W 179 07`00"