Interview by Josh Wilson, photos by Maikey Lopera.
SRAS: You have earned an MA in Russian Language and Literature and are now pursuing additional graduate studies in the subject. Your experience inside Russia has included internships and volunteering in Irkutsk, study abroad and work experience in Vladivostok, mountaineering in Kamchatka, and now frozen-lake-bicycle-trekking on Baikal… What first got you interested in Russia and Russian?
Chris Pike: I initially became interested in Russia through my exposure to Russian literature and classical music in high school. However, it wasn’t until many years later that I thought of travelling to Russia. Thanks to the economic boom in the information technology industry in Seattle in the late 1990′s I had been able to work my way into a decent position in software testing. For the first time in my life I was making decent money and realized that this was my opportunity to fulfill my dream of living in a foreign country and studying a foreign language. I thought long and hard about where to go and all arrows seemed to point towards Russia. I arrived in Vladivostok knowing very little about Russian culture and only a few words of the language. By the time I returned home two years later my interest in the language and the culture had grown immensely. [Read more →]
August 14th, 2010 · Uncategorized
“The beginning of the trip was much harder than we had anticipated. We struggled for 3 days just to reach the lake.”
On the morning of February 25 we hauled all of our bikes and panniers down 5 flights of a narrow staircase out into the courtyard of the Baikaler Hostel in Irkutsk, Russia to begin what we hoped would be the first ever human-powered winter circumnavigation of Lake Baikal. Opening the door to the outside was just like entering a walk-in freezer. The cold air looked like smoke as it poured through the rusted steel frame of the entry way and crept along the seams of the walls like a hungry phantom. It is safe to speculate that questions arose in all of our heads at that moment regarding the rationality of our proposed plan. There were many unknowns: the amount snow on the lake, the condition of the ice, the reliability of our equipment, and above all – the effect of sustained cold temperatures [Read more →]
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April 5th, 2010 · Media, Uncategorized
TV news story aired in Irkutsk…
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April 4th, 2010 · Uncategorized
Day 37 — Listvyanka to Irkutsk by bus
In Listvyanka we stay in the same guest house and get up early in the morning to catch the bus that will take us to Irkutsk. Turns out that we had some confusion about the departure time of the bus and have an extra couple of hours to get organized. We need it as we look a bit haggard from the past week and short night of sleep. Among those is a plan for leaving the dogs behind. Much as we would love to bring them home, the dogs are not going beyond Listvyanka with us. Being self-sufficient, they’ll likely hop on board another expedition going north and end up back in Khushir. Nonetheless, we’re concerned about finding a place for them or at least a way to keep them from following us to the bus. We end leaving them behind the fence at the guest house as we head off. Fifteen minutes later [Read more →]
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April 2nd, 2010 · Uncategorized
Day 36 — Bolshoy Goloustnoe to Listvyanka; Completion!
We get an escort out of town from the MCHZ guy — great guy — and he explains what he knows of the conditions from there to Listvyanka.
On the whole, I think the balance of the day favored riding over pushing, but it was close. We make what proved to be a good decision to head directly towards shore, rather than continuing to angle towards Listvyanka, in search of an auto route on the ice. Sure enough, we find a track just 50 yards offshore. It is still tough going as the banks of snow catch the panniers at times and occasional piles of unconsolidated snow send the front wheel careening to the side. That said, we do actually ride into town. Similar to the previous days, we have a mix of strong wind, cloudy skies, flurries in the air, and stretches of partial clearing. However as the evening approaches and Listvyanka comes into view, we’ve ridden through the stormy weather. The setting for our finish into Listvyanka could not have been better — the sky cleared up and we rode towards the setting sun perched just above the Sayan foothills.
Holy smokes, we rode around the lake!
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April 1st, 2010 · Uncategorized
Since leaving Olkhon Island, our progress on the ice has been slow. We’re still in good shape, as Maikey always points out, but we’re concerned about making the progress we need to lest the last days turn into epic pushes. The weather is keeping the pressure on as thin clouds mass and disperse through the day. We ride with a lot of wind about, crosswinds and headwinds mostly, and occasional flurries. The crosswinds are probably the toughest to deal with as big gusts have swept the bikes out from under each of us on occaision. We set out to make the push in to Bolshoy Goloustnoe — a small village that will put us in striking distance of Listvyanka. “Wow, striking distance of Listvyanka,” we all keep repeating. We make it, riding into town in the late evening. As Chris is checking out a guest house and he and Maikey strike a deal with the proprietress for dinner with our room, a van pulls up. Turns out it is an MCHZ (the Russian National Rescue Service) guy who has been looking around town for us as he thought would be there the day before. Though they know our mission they still don’t quite get that we are committed to doing this under our own power: he asks why we didn’t just get a ride so that we were there the day before. “Our” dogs as we had taken to calling them at that point were in the courtyard sleeping off the best meal of their lives. A can of buckwheat and a half a can of beef a piece. They were in heaven.