are so last century. These days, adventurers clutching GPS devices
are conquering new territories – map coordinates. In the Russian
winter wilderness you can tread where no one has been before, for
example, to 59 degrees north, 35 degrees east.
There are certain
sounds that a cross-country skier definitely doesn’t want to hear,
especially when the day’s destination lies 15 kilometers (nine miles)
away across the snow-covered Russian wilderness.
The roar of
a brown bear – hunters shot two not far from here just this past
fall – would be one such sound. The growl of a wolf would be another.
Chernorutsky is prepared for wild animals. He’s brought along a
small stungun, several skyrocket fireworks and a dozen firecrackers
of a brand called "Black Death." He plans to use them
if necessary to scare away predators.
But an especially
unpleasant sound, one that Vladimir isn’t prepared for, is a crack
like a branch breaking, and it comes at exactly 59°01’01.8"
north latitude, 35°03’57.9" east longitude, on a dreary
Saturday afternoon. It’s the brittle snap of a ski breaking through
the middle, directly behind the heel.