Igor Skikevich: from Pole to Pole in a wheelchair

Igor Skikevich: from Pole to Pole in a wheelchair


Image: Igor Skikevich in a wheelchair climbs up the mountain along the ropes, doing paraclimbing


Igor Skikevich is a wheelchair-traveler, a para-climber and inventor. He is a Head of the Department for Youth Affairs of the Expedition Center "ARCTICA" of the Russian Geographical Society; an acting member of the RGS. Igor is a person who doesn’t admit barriers and limitations, whose life is full of travelling and wonderful adventures. And this is the story he told.



Part 1

– Igor, now you are travelling around the world in a wheelchair in the frameworks of the international program “The World from Pole to Pole” of the Expedition Center "ARCTICA" of the Russian Geographical Society. Please, tell us how you join this program, and who organized it.

– To begin with, back in the last century, Russian and foreign travelers were inspired with the idea of reaching the two poles – the Northern and the Southern ones – within one season. In the beginning of 2000s, the team of Arctica Expedition Center, whose president is an outstanding traveler, a distinguished polar explorer of Russia, Vladimir Semenovich Chukov, started to take the first steps to bring this idea to life. Within a few years, the participants undertook several high-latitude expeditions. And then, in 2014, after the “Polar Ring” expedition, the idea of conquering geographical poles was transformed into creation of the international-level multifunctional social program. 

After several revisions, exclusions and additions, the horizons of the program were significantly extended, as well as its objectives and prospects with involvement of interesting projects; and currently, it has the following form: international humanitarian complex expedition round-the-world program “The World from Pole to Pole” unites people of all states and nations of the Earth who have common interests and aims, opens new directions, ways and prospects for development of civilized society for cooperative protection of the world, freedom, solving global problems of the present. 

The purpose of the program is an opportunity for everybody to find their own potential, their own pole, reach it and fulfill their mission, their social, creative, sport or other interesting projects through this program which is designed to unite people and nations in aspiration for peace and creativity. Equilibrium in the world starts with inner harmony. Peace in the world comes through achieving harmony between humans and nature, environment and surrounding people. The purpose of the program is contributing to saving the resources, ecosystems of our planet and wellbeing of all its inhabitants.


“The World from Pole to Pole”  is a commonwealth of optimists acting in the same vector: saving, studying and creation to the benefit of our planet, cause the world that surrounds us as a state of civilization, and as animate and inanimate nature, is much wider and more important than ordinary short-term issues that occur on the way to the purpose.


This program unites all people, regardless of their nationality and confession, profession, age, political views and social status, including people with physical disabilities, all those who feel strong enough to act for the sake of benefit and prosperity; all those who believe that society is built on friendship, mutual respect and neighborliness, cause it is this very faith which can make a break-through in strengthening friendly relationships between nations. 


Image: group photo of people. participating in the project together with Igor in a wheelchair
“The World from Pole to Pole”  unites everyone!


In this year 2020, in the frameworks of the international program “The World from Pole to Pole” the Time Capsule project has already started. Participants of the project can appeal to the future generations with their most cherished dreams, important wishes, ideas and projects. To do this, you must fill an application form with the text of your message, at 11-22.ru in the Internet. Pictures, photos, videos, audios and any combination of the information up to 100 mb can be sent to e-mail: pole2pole-tc@yandex.ru if you like, or send a link to a file hosting service for downloading the information.

The Time Capsule will contain electronic device which can store millions of messages, and will be equipped with special system, which, after many years, will allow to find it and bring it to light. 

Geography of the project is: Antarctica – Russian Antarctic station “Novolazorevskaya” – Ice Pole district/ December 2020/. In this place, all our dreams and wishes will be united in one pole of human kindness, creation, warmth and light for the future generations.

And there are already many people writing to us, wishing to take part in the Time Capsule project, and send their personal and collective projects, which we are intended to consider in terms of their participation in the international program “The World from Pole to Pole”. 

To participate in the Time Capsule project, you need to fill out a questionnaire with your message text, which you can access by typing “11-22.ru” on the Internet. Pictures, photos, video, audio or any combination of information up to 100 MB of volume can be sent to e-mail: pole2pole-tc@yandex.ru or send a link to a file hosting service for downloading information.


– Which countries have you visited in the frameworks of the program? How accessible are they for travelers on wheelchairs?

– In the frameworks of the program, for now, I’ve в visited Primorsky region, the Far East, Rostov, Leningrad and Moscow regions of Russia. Everywhere I make expertise of touristic routes for people with disabilities, and, where possible, held motivation meetings “to believe in yourself, to live by your dream!”, where I demonstrate my photo-and video-materials about active live on a wheelchair, and tell the audience what and how they should do to live on a wheelchair as active as possible. This summer, I’m going to visit Kaliningrad and Anapa, where I’m going to take part in yacht sail regatta, and in December, I’m planning to visit Cape Town, and also to take part in the expedition to the Ice Pole in Antarctica. 

In Russia, accessibility is drastically left behind the developed countries. However, you can also travel on a wheelchair, visiting different cities, touristic bases and national parks. But, to do this, a person with disability needs a reliable, well-informed guide, so that they could provide the person with disability accessibility of moving from point A to point B and relevant comfort in the places of dislocation. When I travel, I always make accessibility expertise for people with disabilities for the future prospect. I make notes in my diary and, later on, I’m going to create my own accessibility map with descriptions, photos and videos for challenged people. 

People with disabilities often call and write to me, and ask me to give certain advice, and I always help them as much as I can. It’s not difficult for me as a person on a wheelchair who has great experience in tourism, to make expertise, regarding the fact that I weigh and consider every detail, every nuance for different disabilities. I feel myself very well in natural and urban environments, I can make decisions within a fraction of a second and a few steps ahead considering different situations. 

Official website of Igor Skikevich: skikevich.ru


– You construct wheelchairs for the most unexpected routes. A wheelchair for diving is your second invention. And what was the first one? What inventions are you planning? Where have you used your inventions?

– In fact, Barrakuda, a “self-propelled” wheelchair was my second invention in life in 2016. And the first one was back in my childhood, when I was in the 8th grade back in 1980, when I invented double pedals for bicycle and gripping device for removing felt trees, and got a “reward of a young inventor” from “Young technician” magazine (smile!). 


Image: testing of  Barrakuda, a “self-propelled” wheelchair  in a pool
Self-propelled underwater wheelchair "Barracuda" - the invention of Igor Skikevich


This year, I’m going to create a universal, passable, self-propelled wheelchair-transformer “Bars”-4WD” for navigation in hard-to-reach natural locations, including mountains. The most difficult is finding finance for its manufacturing, and the sum is not so small – up to half million rubles. But the main thing is that using it, you can overcome serious barriers as a participant of an expedition and feel that you are a team member.

As for the underwater wheelchair, I have already tested it in the swimming-pool, and it showed its high efficiency in learning diving and navigation in the underwater environment. It is so exciting when you can freely navigate it under water, doing different aerial stunts, up to “Nesterov’s loop.” I’m going to do diving this summer and make a short underwater film-excursion. I’ve received an Invention patent, and a Utility Model patent for this wheelchair. It was covered in articles written in more than 20 countries of the world, and it is the first underwater wheelchair for diving which has no equals in the world.


– What are peculiarities of travelling on a wheelchair in the mountains? Under the water? In snowy places? And in hot places? In deserts?

– I haven’t been to deserts yet, and not planning to travel there in the near future. However, I’d like to test the future “Bars“ wheelchair in snowy conditions and in the mountains. If needed, “Bars“ can be used even together with a team of dogs. My aim is to ensure maximum independence in personal or group expeditions and trips. So, I’m always searching for effective and, most often, improvised decisions to do the necessary tasks productively during the routes. If I need any consultation or advice for a particular expedition, I contact my friends, professional travelers, such as Evgeny Kovalevsky, Vladimir Chukov, Vitaly Sundakov and others. They are people who dedicated all their lives to travelling, they have great experience of survival in natural environment, have great store of knowledge and skills. And in sport tourism, when necessary, I take lessons only from experienced coaches and instructors. In the books, manuals, study guides and the internet, I keep on studying, analyzing, learning all the information which I need for different sport disciplines or touristic activity.

For the first time I travelled on my own when I was five, it was in a small miner’s settlement in Sakhalin, when we moved there from step Kazakhstan. When I saw the real, wild Taiga, the sea for the first time, saw people gathering berries and mushrooms in the forest, catching fish, salmon going to spawning, morning mists, heard sounds of forest birds, I literally fell in love with nature and was fascinated with it. I often ran away from home to the forest or towards the sea, and I was always sought. It was good that the forest and the sea were not so far away from our home. But, eventually, getting tired of seeking me all the time, my elder sister hanged a bell on me.

It was the first GPS-direction-finder for our family, and, using it, they could find me more easily. And when I came to school, I started to understand and sense that nature is created for me, and I was created for it. I avidly read books about adventures, about discoverers and travelers, always dreaming one day to visit distant lands and discover something, to become a pioneer in something or invent something. Since I was a child, this dream forged and modelled me as a personality and played a great role in my life when I was already adult.

Photo by Igor Skikevich


Read the 2nd part of the story here