The Ice Run 2013 launches north into Siberia
This morning we witnessed faffing of almost biblical proportions as the teams prepared to embark on the 2013 Ice Run. With plenty of hazards ahead and 2000kms of trundling north over icey tarmac and then frozen river, both shared with monstrous trucks and quite a lot of wolves, they were well within their rights to dot all their i's and cross all their t's before the off.
The parking lot at the Hotel Povorot before the launch was a flurry of local journalists and film crews, paperwork, insurance policies, satelllite trackers and last minute camping gear purchases.
Pre Launch advisor and 2012 Ice Run veteran Olly Rowland prowled the forecourt and dished out final snippets of advice and bad language.
Meanwhile I got whisked to the local government offices to address the town council, and raised a smile by apologising for the imminent shortage of all spark plugs, carburettor floats and shovels right across town.
The Mayor was in good spirits after a convincing win in the regional Ice Hockey finals on Saturday, and presented me with a team t-shirt, before joining in with the launch festivities later in the day.
Once all vehicles were fully pimped I interrogated some teams to find out about their mental readiness just before launch. The over-riding comments were along the lines of being "excited and nervous at the same time", which is about Andy Murray standard in terms of profundity but you know where they are coming from.
Concerns raised include unforgiving lorry drivers, huge swathes of road with no petrol stations, Russian police, the possibility of camping in -40, not being able to read Cyrillic or speak Russian, skidding into your convoy partners on the ice, and getting buried by a snow-drift in your tent. All really quite valid concerns, but it wouldn't be much of an adventure otherwise, and they seem like a game old bunch. Take a look at the gallery below, you'll see.
Finally, the Urals and their sidecars took to the road, and convoyed most regally towards the Ural Factory, the spiritual home of the bikes and pride of Irbit. The bikes have also been pimped with sponsor logos of the adventure overall the teams and we doff our hats to Buff for the tremendous Cyclone windproof Buffs they supplied for the teams and to F2 Motorcycles in the UK for the exceptionally enlightening tutorials on the art of Ural maintenance.
Olly frogmarched the Urals into a neat line (if such a thing is possible, and indeed it seemed to be very difficult) in front of the Ural Factory. Our attempts to corral the teams to stay put for the media activities and final addresses fell on deaf ears as the lure of one last trolley dash proved too much.
Most of the field buggered off to buy more supplies, until they were called to heel by my whistle (a gift from the Mongol Derby crew, designed to mock my ability to use phones and other 'normal' methods of communication).
Finally, after a rousing address from the Mayor of Irbit, some applause, some tears, some manly hugging and a bit more faffage, we gathered for one final photo with all of the crew and teams.
The 2013 Ice Runners are a champion bunch and look set to take the Ice Run by the scruff of the neck. With another toot on the whistle and a mighty roar of the teams' own unofficial motto, "no deaths and no pregnancies", they were gone. Well, after a few push starts, pulls out of snow banks, driving over the Mayor's foot, etc etc. They went eventually, anyway.
If the faffage that ensued at the first petrol stop in town is to be par for the Ice Run, I am set for rather a long sojourn in the Arctic. I am expecting things to speed up a bit however...
More as we get it.
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