Sweating on the Great Baikal Trail
Early in the planning of this trip, a mention in my guidebook of the Great Baikal Trail caught my eye. This long distance hiking trail is a work in progress, created by volunteers and extended each summer. The plan is to eventually have a trail that circumnavigates all of Lake Baikal. As I understand it, the full trail is not yet complete, but there are sections that are and every year volunteers help maintain and extend the trail. More here.
From the start, I wanted to hike a section of the trail. There is a section of the trail that is approximately 24 kilometers long that goes between Listvyanka and Bolshie Koty. The difficulty was in figuring out the logistics: given time limitations, could we find our way back from Bolshie Koty after a hike in time to pick up our luggage and make it back to Irkutsk and our train?
We weren’t able to determine that in advance–it was near impossible to find train and boat schedules online–so instead we booked a hotel in Listvyanka that was near the trailhead, and hoped for the best. And in the end, we decided that the logistics didn’t quite work the way we wanted them to, and that we would like to spend a bit more time in Irkutsk than we would get if we spent most of the day hiking (even assuming we could figure out a way to get ourselves and our bags back to the train station following the hike). So instead we hiked a couple of hours out, then turned around and went back to the hotel.
So here’s the thing. I have no idea what the trail profile is, but there was some significant elevation gain on the section we hiked. It went up, and up, and up. Then up some more. Here’s what that Great Baikal website that I linked to earlier has to say about the beginning of the hike:
The first 4.5 km trail goes uphill. This rise is the hardest part of the route.
Yeah. It was seriously steep. Beautiful. I think. Because here’s the thing: once again, shortly after starting the hike I was sweating like a….well I have no idea what sweats like I did, but it was off the charts. Within 10 minutes of starting the ascent my hair was dripping down the back of my neck. And my glasses were all fogged up–since I didn’t have sporty glasses but just my regular ones. In any case, off the glasses came and so much of the hike was a bit blurry.
(Note: Eventually I realized that it has been the humidity getting to me. I am used to dry Colorado weather, where I definitely get hot and sweat, but to nowhere near the extent that I have been on this trip. My body hasn’t had time to adjust to the higher humidity.)
When we finally reached the top, it was worth it. Simply gorgeous views, the kind no camera can capture. And at that point I was very loath to turn back; I wanted to keep going all the way to Bolshie Koty.
But turn back we did, and at least I was able to keep my glasses on and enjoy the views on the descent.
And thank goodness the hotel let me take a quick shower when we picked up our bags. I’m sure that made the 3 day train trip that followed a whole lot more comfortable for the others in my compartment.
Pictures of the hike below. It really was amazing.
Edited to add: Steve talks about this hike in Woods, city, train.