Lake Baikal

Kayak journey around Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal. On Cape Shartlay
Lake Baikal. On Cape Shartlay
Lake Baikal. On Cape Shartlay

I first made a long journey in a kayak on Lake Baikal in the summer of 1998. I covered the route alone from the Island of Olkhon to the town of Irkutsk itself, some 300 kilometres, in 10 days. If you have had the chance to be with Baikal face to face, to skim unhurriedly under its sheer cliffs, to see the fabulous Baikal sunsets, and delight in the fragrance of the wild taiga, then the desire to return here again and again will become irresistible. Once Baikal has bewitched you, it doesn't let go. That's what happened to me.

After that first memorable trip, sometimes alone, but mainly with friends, I make the now traditional journey by kayak over Baikal. In seven years I have covered some 3000 kilometres around Baikal's shores, laying up quite considerable experience.

The idea of making a journey right round Baikal, that had been maturing ever since our first kayak trips, was expressed and approved in the spring of 2005. Towards the end of that year we began preparations for the journey, including: purchase of kayaks, routing and timing plan, preparation of space images of the whole coastline of Baikal, obtaining permission to pass through the Barguzinskiy and Baikalo–Lenskiy Nature Reserves and so on.

It didn't take long to decide on the direction around the lake — anticlockwise: firstly, because the main current takes an anticlockwise direction around the lake, and secondly, in this way the most unpleasant part — the south–eastern shore, settled and scarred by «economic» activity — we would pass at the beginning and would not be left to the end.

Then we had to choose the date on which to start our journey. The three expeditions known to us around Baikal in kayaks began on the 1st or 2nd of June. To my mind this is unjustifiably early. At Baikal it's cold in June even in the Maloye Morye. On the other hand, at the end of August the weather, as a rule, is quite suitable — warm, though rather windy. For this reason, preferring warmth to cold, we chose the latest possible date that would allow us to return home before September. So, with all this in mind, the 24th of June was chosen for departure.

We determined the length of the journey along the coast from space images. It was 1950 kilometres, including 110 km up and down Irkutsk reservoir (the path in the reservoir was measured as straight, as the reservoir itself did not interest us). At an average speed of 30 km a day, that did during all our previous trips, it would take us exactly 65 days to cover the route. We were be back in Irkutsk on 27th of August.

Two collapsible kayaks — «Neva–3» (3–person, frame construction) and «Ladoga–2» (2–person, frame–inflatable) were purchased specially for this trip. For navigation we had a compass, maps of the coast (1 cm = 2 km) and space images of the entire Baikal coastline (1 cm = 1 km scale). For communications with the land we planned to use an ordinary mobile telephone.

On May 17, more than a month before our departure, the local media announced that a pair of French kayakers, Sandrine Lange and Julien Jeauffroy had set off on a journey around Baikal. The date of their departure amazed me — at this time two–third's of Baikal is covered in ice.

In strict accordance with our plan, on 24th June 2006, we left the Irkutsk hydro–electric dam, worked our way up the Irkutsk reservoir to the source of the Angara, circumnavigated Baikal in an anti–clockwise direction, and on August 28th returned to Irkutsk down the Angara. The entire journey took 66 days. At different times 9 people took part in it, two made the whole journey.

I will be adding stories about the Baikal we saw during our journey to this site. In the meanwhile, one can acquaint oneself with a photo record of our trip.