January 12, 2010: 86th short message (10:16 p.m. CET)
9 a.m. We took off. We are accompanied by two Skidoo drivers from Providenia, our friends Vladimir and Konstantin and a driver from Enmelem, who joined us (together with two others who sit on his sleigh – I believe they do this in order to minimize the risk of driving alone to Nulingran – our next goal). There is also our welder on his Russian motor vehicle (he wants to make sure that his welding lasts and also wants to see how far he gets).
Some information on the side: For the last decade, we were the first who reached Enmelem with wheeled vehicles, coming from Konergina.
January 13, 2010: 87th short message (02:11 a.m. CET)
1 p.m. We are fighting our way through a delta. We already managed 30 km. Again and again we have to winch, detach the trailer from the vehicles, cross small/medium/big river arms. Sometimes we break into the ice, but only for about 30 cm.
5 p.m. Managed difficult snow pass. Right now we are at the next river. Another 20 km to Nuligran.
6:45 p.m. Arrived in Nuligran. Team is in good shape.
Current Position: N 64 48‘259“ / W 175 22‘537“
January 13, 2010: 88th short message (09:51 p.m. CET)
8:30 a.m. We took off. There are 220 km of nothing ahead of us on our way to Providenia – including one of the most difficult tracks through the mountains with difficult passes, etc. Let’s hope that we can do it. A couple of days ago, a Vestichot sunk in the lake which we should reach by tomorrow. Now the ice is supposed to be strong enough. There is no other path anyway, so we have to try it.
January 14, 2010: 89th short message (03:16 a.m. CET)
1 p.m. We reached a fisher camp at N 64 48‘254“ / W 174 53‘804“ We made a fire for an hour, warmed up, drank some tea and coffee. Just started again at 2 p.m. Very difficult track – called Bermuda – ahead of us. First, we have o drive 13 km over a sea, then a difficult delta and then mountains. We are trying to arrive at a camp which is 70 kilometers away.
By the way: A wonder-, wonderful landscape with unbelievable ice-formations here – amazing!
January 14, 2010: 90th short message (05:20 a.m. CET)
4:30 p.m. Current position is N 64 46’783” / W 174 30’395”. Steering bars on F2 broke. No steering possible. The entire block that has been welded in Konergina, fell off. We are trying to fix it with belts. Team is alright.
January 14, 2010: 91st short message (07:59 a.m. CET)
6:30 p.m. Finished repair attempts. Three belts should keep together on F2 – which is manned by Wolfgang and Rudi, and thus completely northern Bavarian – what usually welds do. F1 is manned by Jefgeny, Viktor, Matthias at the moment. Great team work at -30°C and wind. Let’s see how far we can go with this. The next welding equipment is 140 km away. But, at least nature is nice to us. Right now, there is no snowfall. A couple of clouds, which gave the impression of an upcoming blizzard, have disappeared as well. Best weather – Thank God!
January 14, 2010:
8 p.m. Right now we are in the Bermuda area. Pre mysticism / stories that are written by the expedition.
Durng the crossing of the lake, there has been a crackling intense tension. Everybody was nervous and wanted to know if the ice was going to last – and especially since we had to drive in the middle of the lake, instead of on the side, due to too thin ice. The ice on the sides was not thick enough because of currents by feeder rivers. Furthermore, the ice wasn’t 1 meter thick as we all hoped, but only 30-40 cm and littered with big cracks. Suddenly there was no more steering support on F1. We thought that a line broke again. But it was the v-belt that was torn to pieces. I have no idea why. As quickly as possible we tried to assemble a new v-belt and belt pulley. This – on ice and in icy wind – was not easy and a big challenge. You need five people for this: one holds on to the hood so that it won’t fall down, one hold on to the insulating mat for the engine and the flashlight, one has the tools and spare parts, two remove the remains, hold the clamp and apply the belt.
Leap in time:
It is around 7 p.m. when we drive into the dreaded “Bermuda” area.
It is called like that due to difficult navigation and unexplainable events that have happened here in the past.
We continue slowly towards a narrow pass. We navigate only by computer and GPS; carefully we move along the hillsides - which we can’t see anyway because of the darkness - via coordinates and lines on a map that describe us the nature. Even our strong headlights allow us no more than an impression of the landscape few meters ahead of us. Driving around and finding our way by ligh is not possible because of the weather and trailers. The rising valley continues to get narrower until it is only 50-60 m wide. Then there is a wall of snow in front of us. To our left and to our right steep rock faces. There is only one chance: Going left and trying to use a hillside to get around the wall of snow. Regarding that F2 is handicapped because of its steering, we drive ahead in F1. The hillside gets steeper. The rock faces seem threatening. Wind shakes the vehicle. Then a whistling, a scraping from the engine compartment. Immediately I shut off the engine. We are in the midst of the inclination. We leave the car, open the hood: the v-belt is no longer on the belt pulley. It is damaged. Viktor starts to scream at the bad spirits in Russian, argues with them. He starts a shaman’s dance to fight them and get them away from the cars. At the same time, Jefgeny and I are trying to apply the v-belt. Actually eight hands would be needed for that, but F2 is far behind us.
Viktor shouts, screams, fights with gestures and noise against the invisible of the night.
The engine is working again – we go back in the vehicle and continue our journey. We make it, manage to get out of this undefined, threatening situation and to the top of the hill. F2 is following. Then, a couple hundred meters later: a scarp that has deep snow areas at its bottom. With lots of awareness and maneuvering, we get up to ten meters to the upper edge. At the steepest position, the v-belt falls off once again. Viktor is screaming again, fights. Jefgeny is sitting in the car and uses the brake. The hillside is so steep that there is no other possibility to secure F1. I curse, quarrel and apply the v-belt – which is now only 1 cm wide – again with lots of anger in my stomach. I am thinking: “It’s enough now” while maneuvering F1 against wind, spirits, snow and steepness onto the plateau. Done. F2 follows without problems.
10 p.m. Just finished difficult pass and are at position N 64 44‘469“ / W 274 23‘357“.
Team is doing well.
We are in the middle of “Bermuda” and fight.
January 15, 2010: 92nd short message (00:00 a.m. CET)
8 a.m. Are driving again.
9 a.m. Reached broad delta. There is a huge deep snow area in front of us with the dimensions of at probably 1 by 2 kilometers. We will try to drive around it. When we left the fisher camp at around 2 p.m yesterday, our two Skidoo drivers stayed behind. They wanted to try and catch up to us today during daylight.
Currently the three belts on F2 maintain the steering and the v-belt on F1 lasts. In case that there is anybody who wonders why we don’t change the v-belt: Altogether we have six spare belts. One is already in use; we want/have to make maximum use of all material.
10 a.m. We drove successfully around the snow area and also crossed a river. Are staying on course.
January 15, 2010: 93rd short message (03:35 a.m. CET)
1:30 p.m. We arrived at a fisher base 70 km away from Providenia. Current position is N 64 39’047” / W 174 02’183”.
Are driving at most with 2000 rotations per minute in all gear reductions, to ensure that the 1 cm v-belt will remain functioning as long as possible. We want to do the real repair no earlier than Providenia – if possible. There will be another 2-3 days of good weather – we have to make it.
January 16, 2010: 94th short message (00:15 a.m. CET)
Are currently at N 64 35‘866“ / W 173 37‘777“.
The team is alright but very tired. We are fighting to move forward step after step. Technical problems hinder our progressing significantly. At the moment we are 32 km away from Providenia.
We have to get over a difficult pass.
Without Spikes, no chance to get to get this far.
Without Webasto it would be even harder, because F1 currently doesn’t have any other heater.
Withour the sleeping bags from Mammut it wouldn’t be bearable.
Without the team’s mental strength, no chance.
We will report again.
January 16, 2010: 95th short message (08:37 a.m. CET)
We are located somewhere between steep hills on a river. Meters of snow. No end of technical challenges. No time to relax. Hardly any sleep. It cannot get any harder. 600 meters in 24 hours: In the cold, we spent 5 hours rasping and remodeling the servo pump bearing of F1.
Mental strength of the team is at its highest level. Right now – after six hours of recovering the two trailers and a vehicle – we are trying to drive onto the ridge. There is no possibility to accomplish the canyon, which is covered in 4-5 meters of snow, before the pass. We tried everything today. Ridge is virtually our way around it. But it is very difficult to get to the top – very steep. We try our best. In my mind it cannot get any harder.
I will report let you know about what happened to the team since leaving the fisher camp, about what we had to go through and about any details, some other time. Right now there is no possibility to write more due to the circumstances that affect us/me.