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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville

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Adventure Travel

Jul 18, 2017

Motorcycle Meditation: Riding Across an Ice-Covered Lake Baikal

Shaped like a crescent moon, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

In the winter months, its icy surface is a lunar landscape of the coldest kind. Looking to explore the unknown both without and within, Lithuanian motorcyclist Karolis Mieliauskas recently embarked on a frigid expedition to cross Baikal alone, with nothing but his bike to see him through.

Whereas most motorcycle enthusiasts like to take their bikes out for an afternoon lap around the countryside, Karolis Mieliauskas likes to ride his motorcycle for thousands of kilometers straight for days on end.

Recently Karolis completed an expedition extreme even by these standards. He spent seven days riding his motorcycle across Siberia’s Lake Baikal, making his way over 765 kilometers of the deepest freshwater abyss on the planet, completely alone.

At its greatest depth, the bottom of Lake Baikal is approximately 1,640 meters below the placid surface. It holds roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water supply. Well over half of the thousands of species of plants and animals that call it home are endemic to Lake Baikal’s frigid waters.

Perhaps not the most obvious candidate for a motorcycle odyssey… But for Karolis, it represented a new kind of challenge.

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Karolis Mieliauskas on Lake Baikal. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

In 2016, he rode his bike from Vilnius, Lithuania to Vladivostok, Russiaan 11,000 kilometer journey that he finished in just two weeks (12 days of riding and two full rest days). He has also ridden long distances in Morocco and elsewhere in his native Lithuania.

I like to see what’s inside of me during these long rides,” Karolis explains. “I do these trips solo. Most people like to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, stay in nice hotels. But when I go out, I think of it as a journey inside, to meet myself. It’s very similar to the morning mediations that I do.”

If he wanted to ride in winter, Karolis realized his options for long, uninterrupted routes were few. Still wanting to engage in his motorcycle meditation, though, he began researching big frozen bodies of water that would fit the bill. “There were only a few places in the world where you could trust the ice and ride that distance,” Karolis says, “and Baikal was 6,000 kilometers from my home, relatively close for here,” he says. “The size of Baikal ultimately called out to me.”

Karolis prepped his Yamaha XT660Z Tenere for an adventure, outfitting it with studded tires, heated handlebar grips, and mitts for his hands.


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Karolis Mieliauskas enjoying the solitude of Baikal’s icy world. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

On his first day at Lake Baikal, he took his bike out for a three-hour test ride and came back with serious concerns. Huge snowdrifts covered much of the lake. A snowmobile would be more appropriate, he mused.

“But I went anyway,” he says. After all, if it were easy, he wouldn’t be interested.

The first day he covered an obstacle-laden 70 kilometers, battling a buildup of snow between his legs and the engine. Visibility was limited to 200 meters. Most worrisome of all were the constant doubts he harbored about the thickness of the ice beneath his wheels.

At the end of that first day he veered towards shore and found a place to stay for the night. Karolis traveled without a tent, bedding down in towns along the shore each evening.

After three days, the amount of snow on Lake Baikal’s surface dissipated. “I was on black, blue and white ice,” he says. “The wind blew snow across the Lake exactly like sand blowing in the desert.”

The biggest challenges Karolis encountered were massive fractures in the ice. Anywhere from 10 centimeters to three meters across, these cracks were violent ruptures in Baikal’s surface, with large blades and blocks of ice poking up as much as two meters in height and revealing liquid water below. “To get over these, I had to jump my bike,” Karolis says.

Karolis Mieliauskas’ bike parked in front of one of the huge cracks he routinely had to jump his motorcycle over. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

“The journey was mentally very hard. For three days in a row I saw no one on the lake at all. Just ice and snow everywhere,” he remembers. Riding that far and long was physically difficult as welltemperatures tens of degrees below zero, long hours on the bike, and a number of big crashesbut Karolis knew that would be the case. “I enjoy the state of mind when I’m pushing myself in this way,” he says.  

The scariest thing about his trip was his inability to learn the language of Baikal’s ice. Even after seven days in the barren beauty of its whiteness, he was surprised at how different the surface of the lake could be below him than it had been just 15 kilometers prior. And the scary part about that? “It makes me want to do it again to try and understand it better,” he says, a mischievous tone in his voice.

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The endless ice of Lake Baikal. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

Feature Image by Karolis Mieliauskas. 

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Athletes & Explorers

Apr 21, 2019

Jess Roskelley, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer: How the World Reacted.

On Friday, the world was forced to come to terms with the passing of three climbing pioneers. Perhaps the biggest loss to the outdoor community in decades, respects were paid from around the world.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

On Friday, news outlets from around the world reported that three world-class mountaineers who were climbing Alberta’s Howse Peak on Tuesday, April 16th were caught up in a large avalanche, that carried them to their likely deaths. Those mountaineers were 28-year-old Austrian David Lama, 36-year-old American Jess Rosskelley, and 35-year-old Hansjörg Auer.

Loved and admired by many, people from all walks of life have paid their respect. A few of those messages that have been shared on social platforms can be found below.

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David lebte für die Berge und seine Leidenschaft für das Klettern und Bergsteigen hat uns als Familie geprägt und begleitet. Er folgte stets seinem Weg und lebte seinen Traum. Das nun Geschehene werden wir als Teil davon akzeptieren.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Wir bedanken uns für die zahlreichen positiven Worte und Gedanken von nah und fern, und bitten um Verständnis, dass es keine weitere Stellungnahme von uns geben wird. Vielmehr bitten wir David mit seiner Lebensfreude, seiner Tatkräftigkeit und mit Blick Richtung seiner geliebten Berge in Erinnerung zu behalten. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Die Familien von Hansjörg und Jess schließen wir in unsere Gedanken ein⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama⁣⠀ ____________________________________⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family. He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ We appreciate the numerous positive words and thoughts from near and far. Please understand that there will be no further comments from our side. We ask you to remember David for his zest for life, his enthusiasm and with a view towards his beloved mountains. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Our thoughts are with Hansjörg’s and Jess‘ family⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama

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I will walk by your side forever.

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We all go to the mountains because there is some innate part of being human that seeks challenge and there is endless challenge to be found in our wild places. I’ve always seen mountains as a blank canvas that lets me be an artist by choosing my unique path when amongst them. It’s freedom in its purest and most simple form. But, like many things in life, what you originally set out to do isn’t always where you end up. It’s the unexpected adventures along the way that create the true magic. There’s so much more to this passion than just the climb or the ski, there are the human connections created along this journey that have been some of the deepest and most profound friendships of my life. There is also tragedy. The mountains are both majestic and fierce. They give so much and they take so much. It is with profound sadness, frustration and even anger that this week we have lost so much passion, kindness, ingenuity and unadulterted talent with the passing of these three human beings. *** My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of David Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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It hurts to feel the crushing magnitude of losing people you not only really care about, but also that are such iconic figureheads of our community. My heart breaks and I am praying for the direct family members and loved ones involved. Jess was one of the most driven, positive, humble, goofy, and kind friends. He accomplished daunting mountains with a smile and inspiring ability to encourage you to see no limits, too. Despite the magnitude of his accomplishments, he wasn’t “above” anyone. He was a genuine, radical guy and husband to an equally inspiring, kickass woman, @alliroskelley David Lama- who in our direct community doesn’t have a story…? Soft spoken, genuine BADASS. Footsy (@magmidt 😭) It’s been some time since the three of us hung out together but I will never forget how you have always been the number one climber I have looked up to’s career…the childhood prodigy turned all-rounded mountain climbing technician. He was the guy that could probably come back from a long expedition and still fire 5.14’s like he never left the gym. Hansjorg; an Austrian legend, I didn’t know you as personally so well but man, your accomplishments were so damn legendary. It’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around this except for the fact that the mountains are at once beautiful and merciless. These guys knew what they were doing in the mountains. They were straight legends. That’s what is terrifying to me. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your resume is: extremely unlucky circumstances can still happen. 💔.

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🖤💫🙏🏻 no words.

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No sabemos ni como empezar este texto, son momentos tan duros que no nos salen ni las palabras. La pérdida de Hansjorg Auer, David Lama y Jess Roskelly es tan grande que nos hemos quedado vacíos. Son tantos los amigos perdidos en la montaña qué se nos encoge el corazón. Muchos ánimos a las familias y amigos. Conocíamos a Hans desde hace mucho tiempo. Le queríamos y admirabamos mucho, era una gran persona , muy entrañable y fuente de inspiración para muchos de nosotros, con el cual tuvimos la suerte de haber compartido mucho tiempo y aventuras. ¡Siempre estarás con nosotros! Tus latín brothers Eneko & iker. We do not know how to start this text, they are such hard moments that we do not even get the words. The loss of Hansjorg Auer, David Lama and Jess Roskelly is so hard that we are left empty. There are so many lost friends in the mountains that our hearts shrink. Many encouragement to families and friends. We had known Hans for a long time. We loved and admired him very much, he was a great person, very fond and a source of inspiration for many of us, with whom we were fortunate to have shared a lot of time and adventures. ¡You will always be with us! Your latin brothers. Eneko & iker

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Read Next: Hansjörg Auer: No Turning Back

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