i2P Team Members Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely are at it again! Last year they successfully ran the length of Lake Baikal in Russia in 13 days, this year they are heading to Chile to attempt to run the length of the Atacama Desert north to south in a little over 2 weeks. Running a total distance over 1200 km (745 miles)- carrying each days total supplies, they will rely on one daily water/food drop or communities along the way to refuel.
Following the recently completed impossible2Possible Youth Expedition to the Amazon, the duo will be visiting a contrasting area of the Earth-and sharing what they learn about biodiversity of the region!
In October 2010, 4 Youth Ambassadors joined the impossible2Possible Team and trekked through dense Amazon Jungle, learning from Indigenous peoples about the biodiversity of the FLONA region. The 4 Youth Ambassadors shared their daily experiences and what they were learning with thousands of students in classrooms everywhere Visit here to re-experience, and to read the Educational Modules. The Youth Ambassadors utilized video conferencing and a live website to effectively bring their expedition into the classroom. A comprehensive Experiential Learning Program including Educational Modules and interactive features were created for anyone wanting to participate. As with all i2P Expedition Experiential Learning programs there was no charge for schools or Youth Ambassadors to participate.
The Atacama Desert will provide a great point of contrast on the topic of biodiversity !
Very hilly terrain completely exposed with absolutely no shade and a variation of surfaces including sharp crystals, very much like broken glass, awaits the two Canadian ultra marathon runners across the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Kevin and Ray will carry a Solara tracking device from start to finish, and will be updating this website with video journals, photos, and voice blogs and communicating with classrooms via video conferencing software utilizing a Macbook, BGAN and Digigone software. Interested schools please register here so we can speak live to your students!!!
When do you plan to start?
The expedition begins on January 20 or 21, 2011. It’s approaching quickly!
How do you get to your start point? Where is the start point?
We will fly to Santiago, Chile, purchase all our food and supplies there and then fly north to the city of Arica at the Chilean-Peruvian border. From there it’s a two to three hour jeep journey from the coast to the interior and to our start point at the Northern tip of the Atacama Desert at Lago Chungara.
What will you carry in your backpacks?
We’ll carry all our gear to survive which entails 8-10 litres of water per day, our running clothes (longs and shorts), underwear top and bottom, an amazing custom light-weight shell jacket, pants and down jacket from Canada Goose, a small single-walled two-man tent, a half-length foamy sleeping pad, stove and all the accessories for cooking and eating, fuel, headlamp, a small emergency medical kit, sunscreen and one pair of Inov-8 trail shoes that will be taking the beating of a lifetime.
We’re basically carrying everything we need for the journey. We will need water resupply everyday and food every few days. The idea is to do it with minimal resupply.
Where will you get water?
We have organized to have water/food drops when a community or water source is not in our route. Most of the time we will have water drops. We will have a GPS, topo map and compass and hopefully find our water!
We would love to carry ALL of our water for the entire trip - but that would be a HUGE amount, so we decided to go each day completely on our own, and stagger re-supply once per day (two days at most extreme). That will be our minimal support.
So basically, we start running each day. With winding/climbing/descending it will be something like 80 km per day average (probably less as the crow flies. At the end of each day we re-supply water and food- we carry all of our gear/clothing/stove/tent with us entire time. Those re-supply points will be for water and food- and will be when we will communicate with schools.
What will you eat during the day?
We plan to eat easy to digest foods like energy bars, chocolate and nuts. It’s hard to eat when running so we’ll eat a huge breakfast and dinner and ride light during the day, eating just enough to keep glycogen depletion at bay.
We will be taking supplements morning and night as well, the most important being Akea Essentials as well as monitoring our hydration using the Gatorade 3 series system.
What will be your biggest challenge(s) you think?
The biggest challenge will be the huge mileage day-to-day with such a heavy pack on. Running 80-90km is one thing. Doing it with a 12kg (25lb) pack on is another. Doing it 14-15 or even 16 days in a row is…to be honest…pushing the limits. It’s intimidating. Especially when “as the crow flies” you may only gain 60-70 kms in a straight line. Mentally frustrating! Our job doesn’t end when we set up our tent. Thats when we start communicating with students!
What type of terrain will you be running on?
We’re going to be running on a little of everything but we’ll be avoiding roads. We start the journey at an elevation of over 4000 meters and then start to descend to 1800 meters and then we head back up again this time to a height of about 2200m where we’ll more or less stay for the duration.
The terrain is very hilly and is completely exposed with absolutely no shade. The ground under foot will be a wide variation of surfaces including sharp crystals (very much like broken glass), soft sand, parched salt flats and rough rock.
What topics will you discuss with students during the live video conferencing?
- The Amazon Rainforest and Atacama are only separated by a small distance. How and why are they so different?
- Decomposition in the rainforest happens very quickly, while there is virtually none in the Atacama Desert. What are the factors that cause the change in the rate of decomposition between these two environments?
- Local people have lived in both of these environments for thousands of years. What tools and knowledge do they both use? Have their techniques for gathering food and water changed?
- What has man’s impact been on the rainforest. Are there the same kind of issues in the desert?
- In the Amazon, plant life was very diverse and constantly changing. How has plant life adapted to an environment with almost no water? Do the plants change with the amount of water they receive?
- How is water consumption different between the rainforest and the desert? What happens if you become dehydrated in the desert compared to the rainforest?
- Have you seen any unique and innovative strategies that people use to help them survive in the desert?
- What does it take to become a Youth Ambassador? Is it all about being a great athlete?
What happens after Atacama?
In late 2007 Ray, Bob, Kathy and some close friends founded the organization impossible2Possible. Our goal was to use exciting adventures as a backdrop for an innovative Experiential Learning Program. The idea was to conduct 3 expeditions per year on various topics. 2 of the three projects would see selected Youth Ambassadors completing the expedition- THEIR expedition, with us in tow. These have included RunningTunisia in 2010 where 4 youth ran across southern Tunisian Sahara, a distance of 268 km in 8 days. They shared their adventure- what they were learning about themselves and the educational topic of water- with thousands of their teammates in classrooms all over the world. The Youth Ambassadors utilized video conferencing, a live website, tracking, video/photo journaling plus a comprehensive Educational Program to achieve this. Students in classrooms were then challenged to help the Youth Ambassadors in meaningful action. By December 2010, enough money had been raised by students all over the world to construct 2 water projects in Africa through established water based NGO’s. Youth Expeditions have also included treks/runs on Baffin Island and most recently the Amazon Jungle. There is no cost for participating schools, and there are no costs for the Youth Ambassadors to participate on an expedition !
One of the three yearly expeditions is an exciting and compelling story where limits are pushed, and participation with schools once again is live and participatory. Examples of these are 2008’s Canada ONExONE in which Ray and team ran 80 km per day average in each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories in so many days. Also, our 2009 South Pole Quest expedition and the Siberian Express expedition last winter. Click here to re-visit past i2P expeditions.
We are pumped to kick off 2011 with an exciting expedition across the Atacama Desert!!! Our primary goal will be to engage schools in both the topic of biodiversity (as a continuation of Expedition Amazon) and communicate live from the Atacama with a clear message that we are all capable of doing amazing things! Of course we want to get schools and students pumped for the most elaborate i2P Youth Expedition to date Expedition Jordan: Beyond The Kingdom. This May, 4 selected Youth Ambassadors will run between 250-300 km across Jordan, communicating with a record number of students live. The interactive website will feature i2P’s Educational Modules, videos, photos, and so much more!!! Schools, register here and potential Youth Ambassadors here for what will be an incredible expedition of inspiration, education and empowerment!!!
For expedition inquiries, please contact Matt Howe or Adriana Rossi.