Gleizer aims to set kayaking record

Anya Gleizer '14 hopes to be the youngest person ever to kayak the circumference of Lake Baikal, the world's largest lake by volume.

While the majority of the Class of 2014 will stay on campus next term for sophomore summer, Anya Gleizer ’14 will be kayaking around the outer edges of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. She will undertake the more than 1,000-mile adventure, for which she said she hopes to set the record for the youngest person to kayak around the circumference of the lake, with her friends Matt and Hannah Abbotts, whom Gleizer described as “professional adventurers.”

Gleizer said she hopes to set the record for youngest person to kayak around the circumference of Lake Baikal.

Gleizer’s trip is expected to take 60 days and will begin this June, according to A Superior Adventure, a website dedicated to documenting the adventures of the Abbottses. The kayakers will create a short adventure documentary during their trip, and Gleizer said she hopes to conduct ecological research on the lake, as well.

Gleizer first met Matt and Hannah Abbotts on a volunteer research expedition through the Earthwatch Institute on an island on Lake Superior. Matt Abbotts was leading the crew, and the two maintained a friendship after the completion of the expedition, Gleizer said. Since the trip, Gleizer has visited the Abbottses in their home and has maintained a close relationship with the couple, she said.

The Abbottses had been planning the circumnavigation for several years, according to Gleizer, and when the couple invited her to join them, she immediately accepted.

“They wanted to help introduce me [to outdoor adventures], and it’s the safest way because if I broke out on my own, I’d be putting myself in dangerous situations all by myself,” Gleizer said.

Gleizer’s “adventurous spirit” will be one of her biggest contributions to the group, Matt Abbotts said in an email to The Dartmouth.

“Passion and enthusiasm are paramount when the days turn long and the initial excitement begins to fade,” he said. “All we wanted from a partner was someone who could be as honestly excited as we are, and Anya more than fills that requirement.”

Gleizer’s fluency in Russian will also be an asset in Siberia, where she will be the main liaison between the kayakers and Russians with whom they interact, which she said is one of her greatest concerns about the expedition. To plan ahead, Gleizer will contact research and tourist organizations in the Lake Baikal area to connect with locals in every town in which they plan on stopping, Gleizer said.

Despite safety concerns about traveling abroad, Gleizer said she is not particularly worried about issues related to weather or the outdoors.

“Nature is not to be minimized at all, but Matt and Hannah are very experienced outdoorsmen, and I’m pretty sure as a team we’re prepared for [natural dangers], as well,” she said, adding that the risk is part of the thrill of the trip.

Although Matt Abbotts was in favor of not planning refueling stops, Gleizer said the shoreline of the lake is so sparsely populated that she did not feel comfortable without concrete plans.

“You can’t wing it in Russia for something as essential as food, so I’ve decided to undertake that portion of the planning myself,” Gleizer said.

Seafaring kayaks are large enough to store up to two or three weeks of food depending on provision sizes, according to Gleizer.

Gleizer said that she is most excited for the opportunity to have such an extended, isolated experience with nature.

“Maybe it’s a characteristic of our age, or maybe I’m some crazy romanticist, but the freedom of it, the simplicity of the lifestyle, where you have a set goal, and it’s all about your mental and physical strength and endurance, and you’re surrounded by the incredible beauty of something so much bigger than you are I get to experience that with no distractions,” Gleizer said.

She emphasized the “full body and mind commitment” of a trip of this magnitude, adding that it will prepare her for a lifetime in the outdoors.

Matt Abbotts said he hopes Gleizer “deepens her passion for the outdoors” during the trip.

After they finish their counterclockwise cicumnavigation of Lake Baikal in Irkutsk, the three will travel across Mongolia into Beijing and possibly continue into Southeast Asia, depending on remaining funds, according to Matt Abbotts.

Catalina Mejia ’14, a friend of Gleizer, described Gleizer as a “wild spirit” with a great appreciation for the outdoors, adding that Gleizer is “tougher than she seems.”

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