Former Rugby student and friends cross world’s largest lake in record time

Rob Trigwell (Photo: Scott Gilmour)
Rob Trigwell (Photo: Scott Gilmour)

A former sixth former at Lawrence Sheriff has, as part of a three-man expedition, set a new speed record for an unsupported crossing of the world’s largest freshwater lake.

Rob Trigwell, from Newnham near Daventry, Scott Gilmour, 36, and Michael Stevenson, 39, walked 640km on Lake Baikal - the largest freshwater lake by volume - in southern Siberia, Russia in 12 days, 21 hours and 13 minutes, beating the previous record by 18 hours.

Scott Gilmour, Michael Stevenson and Rob Trigwell. (Photo: Scott Gilmour)

Scott Gilmour, Michael Stevenson and Rob Trigwell. (Photo: Scott Gilmour)

In the final days of their attempt, the trio pushed themselves to the limit and covered 135km in 36 hours during which they slept for just two hours in their bivvy bags.

“The last 20km, for me, were probably the hardest,” said 30-year-old Rob.

“We just never stopped. I look terrible right now because on the last day we did 135km in 36 hours. We didn’t even sleep in the tent that night.

“Even if you go for a park run you can always, when you’re near the finish, find that extra bit of fuel. We all thought that was going to happen but it was the exact opposite.”

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

He added: “We got to the end and realised we could’ve pushed it a lot more but it’s easy to say that with hindsight.

“A lot of these types of records are held by Norwegians or Canadians so it’s quite rare a British team takes a record.”

The adventurers faced temperatures ranging from -30C to -10C and strong winds as they marched and skied across ice and snow, maintaining an average pace of four kilometres an hour.

“It was a relief,” said humanitarian worker Rob on reaching the finish line.

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

“It was weird because we knew we had broken it by so much but the last five kilometres we dropped off, we were going so slow. Everyone’s aches came to them, all three of us were struggling.

“We hugged and stuck our ski poles in at the same time.

“It felt really nice. I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror for two weeks and I looked terrible.”

Because they chose to do an unsupported crossing, they had no outside assistance and had to carry all of their gear, rubbish and their 16 days worth of food.

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

(Photo: Scott Gilmour)

They dragged sledges weighing between 37 and 70kg each, which meant the men had to consume between 5,000 and 6,000 calories a day to fuel their efforts.

“Throughout the course of the trip you use up fuel and food so sledges do get a bit lighter but we didn’t leave any trash.

“Some of the sledges were getting emptier but we had a fourth one which we took in turns to pull and that would gradually get bigger and bigger.

“It’s crazy how much trash an average person makes.”

The group prepared for their excursion with expert training in Sweden on a polar endurance trip, but Rob reckons the mental side of things is more important than the physical.

“We have done a few trips in the Arctic together, where we all met and we’ve done it for two years in a row now,” he said.

“Scott and I did quite a long trip, around 400km, last year in the mountains in Arctic Sweden.”

“It’s more about mental preparation rather than physical,” added Rob.

“It’s a mind game and a lot of it is about fighting boredom.

“Even though you’re with people, you’re kind of by yourself.

“For a time you’re with your own thoughts but then the headphones would go in for two or three hours.

“I listened to podcasts to stimulate the brain.”

Rob’s voyage home consisted of a 36-hour train before his flight back to the UK, and he treated the first part of his journey like a recovery centre.

“We had to get this 36-hour train back and I used it like a hospital bed. I only got out to go to the bathroom or to go to the hot water tap to make the Russian equivalent of a pot noodle.

“Apart from that I just slept and listened to podcasts.

“I had my feet elevated and treated it like a hospital.”