No, is the short answer. Our trusty teams are somewhere up the Ob and rather without a paddle, since the extreme conditions on the approach to the Arctic Circle and the mighty finish line continue to play a starring role in the 2014 Ice Run.
As so often happens on a proper adventure, locals tend to express fear and wonder at what the teams are attempting. However the good-natured "you wouldn't catch me doing that!"s have mutated into a slightly less jolly "your attempt to do this will fail and you should not travel until the temperature rises", from folks who ought to know; mechanics, police, people who live in and travel between the villages along the zimnik (the 'ice road' on the frozen river Ob, which the teams must navigate to reach Salekhard).
As of Thursday night, our most forwardly group of three teams, Boris and Natasha, Oznog Racing and Ice Ice Baby, are stationed at Beryozovo, some 350kms from the finish, and the zimnik has since been closed to traffic by the police. They do so dislike scraping frozen corpses off the river, and according to them, the weather out there invites just that kind of calamity. There is a good chance that this will affect all teams tomorrow.
So they are busy refuelling and making the most of local supplies. Thanks for this shot, Sam Schellenburg, who said of his afternoon's riding, "The most beautiful trip. But bloody fucking cold. I mean mother fucking cold. Sooooooooo cold. But we made it and we will celebrate accordingly"
Chris Plough of Oznog Racing reiterated the point, and I feel it's worth re-stating, "That was the motherfucking coldest we have ever been. But we made it and holing up here til the zimnik reopens".
All of these chaps have been riding happily in temperatures in the -20s and -30s since last Monday. These are not trifling comments. And they are certainly not trifling conditions.
In Igrim, 85kms back, our lady-Runners Wild Wolf Bikers and Angry Bird and Grumpy Owl are hoping to sneak out on to the river tomorrow morning and make it to the next village before anyone tells them not to.
Meanwhile back in Nyagan, where our Ozzie team Up to Snow Good and their Indian sidekick Motorcycle Diaries have been trying increasingly outlandish techniques to nurse their bikes into action, it is a similar story. Even if they can get the girls started (more on this shortly), they may have nowhere to go. The Russians know a bit about surviving in these temperatures and in this instance it may be that discretion is the better part of valour.
So our teams must sit tight and wait for the mercury to rise. Or, melt again, in fact, since mercury freezes at -38, and they have been attempting to operate their bikes in -42 these last couple of days. We have all learned a lot about what happens to man and machinery in almost cryogenic conditions; here's an example or two.
- ordinary start sequence involves opening the air choke. Dalbs wrote in this evening to say that his Ural mechanic told him if the air was as cold as this, that was counter-productive.
- fuel actually freezing inside the engine. Ah! You think petrol only freezes at -50-something? Oh no. Depends on the weight of the fuel, and if any condensation has snuck into the tank or fuel lines. What, like condensation from going from -40 to working engine temperature, several times a day? Yes, like that.
With two radiators aimed at each of the sickly Nyagan fleet, literally thawing them out, their bikes started in the warm garage on the first kick.
Given the near absence of radiators and indeed warm garages further up the zimnik, this rather heroic mechanic, himself the proud owner of a much newer and shinier Ural, has given the boys an actual flame thrower with which to warm their steeds. Here it is. Karan already has frostnip on his nose. I'm sincerely hoping this does not become a source of further face-trauma
So what now? Well happily for our 7 remaining brave teams, the cold snap should end tomorrow night, and they should be able to proceed in the same hap-hazard and infuriating fashion as before in the relative comfort and safety of -25 or so.
Meanwhile the residents and media of Salekhard are holding their breath at what is being seen locally as an incredibly audacious and somewhat heroic adventure. A warm welcome awaits them. But much more cold before then, sorry ladies and gents.
Ice Run Chief
Live from the finish line, Yamalkan, nr Salekhard