Welcome to our blog! On the right, you can navigate to find out more about past portions of the expedition, as well as meet the team members. This summer we will be kayaking from Taloyoak to Repulse Bay. We are very excited to be returning to Taloyoak and to be continuing kayaking in the beautiful territory of Nunavut. We will be leaving in less than 2 months! Eek! Until then, we will be dehydrating, dehydrating, and dehydrating! Yahooo!
The notion for the trip began as an idle conversation between Chris and Bob during a kayak trip on the west coast of British Columbia in 2005 with Elisa Hart and Graham Brown. “So, what trip would you really like to do?”. “Well, let’s do it!” It was only natural that we would gravitate to the Arctic. Over the years both Chris and Bob (and Sandy, too!) have spent considerable time in arctic and alpine regions, both through play and work, and have come to love those places like no other. Ask anyone who has fallen in love with the mountains and arctic regions and they probably would be hard-pressed to come up with a rational reason. After all, it’s often cold, windy, dangerous and miserable with mosquitoes and black flies – no place for a sensible person! Luckily, we aren’t always sensible. After Susan’s first trip from Yellowknife to Chesterfeld Inlet, she too had fallen under the spell of the north.
We had no motives other than to spend as much time as possible travelling through the Low Arctic in as self-sustained and self-powered manner as possible from our homes in Calgary and Cochrane, Alberta. Thus, we weren’t interested in setting any records – the fastest, and the longest, the most daring. We weren’t promoting any charity or worthy cause and we deliberately avoided asking for sponsorship.
We did contact Kokatat, however. Two years earlier Bob had been part of an expedition that traced the route of the Adophus Greely and his men from Fort Conger in northern Ellesmere Island to Pim Island. Of the 25 men who accompanied Greely, only 6 survived. Kokatat had supplied the trip with drysuits and I found them to be exquisite – I don’t think a finer drysuit exists. Surprisingly, they agreed to supply both of us with a Rogue drytop and Whirlpool Bib pants and Chris with a Guide PFD (I already owned one). We chose the drytop and pants combination rather than a full drysuit simply because we knew we would be often wading in water lining boats and would probably be too hot in a full suit. Having broken through thin ice on the Greely trip, I knew the combination would keep us perfectly dry. The pants aren’t meant to be walked in for long distances (and we have walked in them for considerable distances), so it wasn’t surprising that after a season or two of hard use, the Goretex socks had to be replaced. The neck seals eventually break and they must be replaced every so often, as well – that is simply unavoidable. After six season of very hard use (over 275 days in the field), Bob’s suit was sent in to Kokatat to have the socks and seals replaced. Kokatat took one look at them and decided they had passed their prime and replaced them with a new set. Thank you Kokatat! There is no way we would have done the trip without drysuits – it would have been foolhardy. They, along with a tent, tarp and kayaks, are the most important pieces of equipment taken on a trip of this sort. They need to be reliable, safe and sturdy.
In 2006, Chris and Bob began by cycling from Calgary to Jasper. From there we canoed to Yellowknife via the Athabasca and Slave Rivers to Great Slave Lake (45 days, 2500 kms).
In 2007 Chris and Bob were joined by Bob’s daughter, Susan. Beginning in mid-June, we kayaked from Yellowknife to its eastern arm, portaged to Artillery Lake, then followed the Hanbury and Thelon Rivers to Baker Lake, and continued down Chesterfield Inlet to the town of Chesterfield Inlet, where we left our kayaks (58 days, 1650 kms).
In 2008 Chris and Bob continued from Chesterfield Inlet to Repulse Bay (40 days, 750 kms). That fall, Chris’s hip began giving him problems, so we decided to postpone the 2009 trip. Instead, Susan and Bob canoed from Calgary to Lake Winnipeg via the Bow and Saskatchewan Rivers.
Originally, we had thought the most aesthetic route would be to do it in the same direction (in this case, counter clockwise) but owing to the time of break-up and to the fact we weren’t really doing the trip to impress any one, it just made more sense to start the trip over from Yellowknife and continue on to Repulse Bay in a clockwise manner. In 2010 we continued the journey from Yellowknife via the Marian and Camsell Rivers to Great Bear Lake and from there via the Dease River and Sandy Creek to the Dismal Lakes and on to Kugluktuk via the Richardson River with Elisa Hart, Chris, Susan, Sandy and Bob (61 days, 1500 kms).
In 2011, with Chris unable to go owing to recent hip surgery, Susan and Bob were joined by friends Eric Binion and Karl McEwan. We began the trip in early June, spending the first three weeks pulling the kayaks over the ice and utilizing shore leads, finishing in Taloyoak (70 days, 1700 kms).
The plan this year is to complete the circle by paddling from Taloyoak to Repulse Bay, about 900 kms. Our kayaks are stored in Taloyoak. We will arrive in the last week of June and travel overland across the neck of Boothia Peninsula linking small lakes. We will continue on to Kugaaruk where Sandy will return home. From Kugaaruk we will travel to the end of Committee Bay and then proceed overland to the North Pole River by linking small lakes. Earlier exploration of the North Pole River suggests that it may be necessary to pull the kayaks down much of the river through boulder gardens. Repulse Bay is a short paddle from the mouth of the river. We expect the trip to take 45 to 50 days , but will take 55 days food with us to account for possible delays.
It has been quite an amazing journey through an incredibly beautiful land. As always we are never certain how each leg of the trip will end – there are so many uncertainties in this type of travel. Each part of the trip has it’s own set of problems that must be worked out, and this latest trip will be no different. We expect the ice conditions to be quite challenging this year, owing to the strong tides and currents in the region. We never say we will be successful, rather we say we hope to be. It seems too much hubris to say we will definitely to this or that. We can only do our best and deal with what ever comes our way in the safest manner as possible. In our favour, we do have considerable experience and patience to overcome problems that are presented to us, but even so, some things are beyond our control.