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ADV RidesSolo Ice Ride Across the World’s Deepest Lake

Solo Ice Ride Across the World’s Deepest Lake

 Lithuanian ADV Rider crosses the frozen depths of Lake Baikal on his XT660Z.

Published on 06.07.2017
Adventure Rider Karolis Mieliauskas mounted studded tires, homemade handlebar muffs and heated grips on his Yamaha XT660Z Tenere, before embarking on a journey across Siberia's frozen Lake Baikal.

On a clear winter day, the vast ice landscape of Lake Baikal fading into the horizon is a feast for the eyes. In some places jagged ice jets up resembling sharp blades, in others the smooth, translucent ice sheets take on the deep blue of the sky above or the blackness of the depths below. Cracks spider for miles across the surface, shifting and crackling through the piercing silence around. Lithuanian adventure rider Karolis Mieliauskas, who recently spent seven days riding solo on frozen Lake Baikal, said the view and the isolation were some of the best parts of his adventure.

“Every step, every meter was so stunning,” he said. “But I didn’t go there for the views. It was just part of the adventure.”

Adventure Rider Karolis Mieliauskas Rides his Yamaha XT660Z across Lake Baikal


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Karolis’ 475-mile (764-km) ice journey required him to endure frigid temperatures as he picked through cracks in the ice to avoid a dive into Lake Baikal’s 5,387 foot (1,642 meter) depths. Baikal stretches close to 400 miles (643 km) across Siberia and it is the deepest lake in the world, holding more water than all the Great Lakes combined.

Lake Baikal freezes only during a few months of the year. Karolis chose March for his ride because the worst winter storms have usually passed by then, yet it’s still cold enough to maintain up to 6 feet (2 meters) of ice. “But there are many ice cracks with open water, sometimes every 500 meters.” says Karolis. He chose to not bring camping equipment so he had to make sure he reached the shore before sunset to stay at a hunter hut or guesthouse where he could spend each night.

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Karolis outfitted his Yamaha XT660Z Tenere with studded Mitas tires for the journey.

Mieliauskas had an impressive riding resume before he took to the ice. He once did a 1,243-mile (2,000 km) circle of the Baltics, and in the summer of 2016 rode from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to Vladivostok, Russia – a distance of 6,800 miles (11,000 km) – in 15 days. The list goes on covering miles in Spain, the Sahara Desert, Romania and more.

But none of that really prepared him for venturing miles from shore solo on the ice of the world’s deepest lake. Mieliauskas experienced temperatures around -22° F (-30° C) and winter storms that cut visibility making the going difficult. He expected to be riding on smooth ice, but on his first day out he hit snow so deep he didn’t want to stop because he was afraid of not being able to get going again. At one point he was riding near the headwaters of the Angara River, the only outlet on Lake Baikal. He knew where he was, and understood that the big river meant thin ice and and the risk of hidden open water.

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Winter storms and deep snow made Karolis’ progress difficult at times. Ice cracks were also hard to spot in the heavy snow. “Snow sometimes reached my knees, it was not possible to ride straight or higher than first or second gear”.

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere

Cracks in the ice were a big danger. Some were about 10 feet (3 meters) wide, and filled with open water. Some were covered with snow, making them difficult to spot. He had to cross them all somehow, and would sometimes follow a crack for 12.5 miles (20 km) to find a spot narrow enough to jump over. He used his boot heel to asses the strength of the ice. “My heel was a tool. It resulted in riding with wet legs for days.”

Karolis got good at using a chunk of ice or snow as a ramp to jump over openings in the ice, but the landings weren’t always smooth. “On the other side of the crack, broken pieces of ice were waiting hidden in snow,” he said. “So, imagine, I’m driving 60-70 kmh (about 40 mph) and suddenly hit piece of ice the size of five bricks, which is covered by snow.”

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
“I had several crashes everyday. Ice cracks, jumping and avoiding big broken pieces of ice hidden in the snow were the biggest challenges.” says Karolis.

Constantly changing ice conditions, poor visibility and the need to get over cracks and jagged ice fields all added up to a least a couple crashes per day. Just being out there required mental discipline. He couldn’t let himself fixate on the danger. “I had several crashes everyday. It required a lot of physical energy, but once you have two heavy crashes in a first hour of riding in a morning, it uses a lot of mental resources,” he said. “Besides all this, the ice is cracking constantly. I could feel and hear it all the time.”

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Sunny days were a welcomed gift from the weather gods. “Hot tea and some wool clothes are a must!” -Karolis Mieliauskas
Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
One of Karolis’ rare encounters on the ice curiously turned out to be with compatriots from Lithuania that happened to be hiking through the snow storm he was pushing through on Lake Baikal.

Karolis didn’t encounter any motorcyclist during the ride. Although he appreciated the isolation that Lake Baikal offers, it was precisely that which made his few encounters on the frozen lake all the more special. One memorable experience for Karolis happened during a snow storm. Visibility was extremely low and he couldn’t see where to go. “Suddenly I noticed two silhouettes in the distance. Approaching them I saw they were on foot, with backpacks, moving slowly and looking at me. I stopped, started talking to them and imagine that, they were Lithuanians too! It is a small world.”

Mieliauskas speaks Russian, and said the people he met during his adventure was one of the highlights of his trip. “All the people I met on both the shore and on the ice were absolutely fantastic, warm and helpful,” he said.

His advice to anyone who might try a solo ice ride? “Just do it! Leave your big ‘if’ at home and go. If I can do it, you can do it too!”

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere

Solo Ride across Lake Baikal on Adventure Motorcycle

Karolis Mieliauskas Lake Baikal Motorcycle Adventure on Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Big ice boulder fields, blankets of jagged ice pieces and other unique ice formations, make a journey on Lake Baikal an amazing adventure.

Read also: Dangerous Sidecar Race Across the World’s Deepest Lake

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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One thought on “Solo Ice Ride Across the World’s Deepest Lake

  1. Epic. Adventure. Congradulations on surviving this one.

    I see your friends on this ice did not have only backpacks, but sleds, also! They pulled those sleds using skis, which amazes me almost as much as your run with the cycle.

    You crazy Lithuanians! So Bad Ass!