Gary's spring diary 2005
- April 2005
400-mile, twenty-two day round trip from
Inuvik to Liverpool Bay (Amundsen Gulf)
in Canada’s western Arctic.
mileages have exceeded those I’ve planned for. It’s
come about because of wonderful ice conditions. I’d have
been happy with fifteen miles per day. Up until yesterday, with
our payload heaviest this first week, I’ve walked or run
beside my sled to push and pull with my dogs. There’s
been no sprinting. Today I skied our nineteen miles. It took
us seven hours. The tips of my ski tips clashed once or twice
like duelling sabres. It didn’t take long to cross Nicholson
Island. We’re camped north of Wood Bay at the mouth of
the Anderson River. On the shore is a 1920’s cabin Arctic
explorer Stefansson built and lived in. Surprising because I
don’t notice much driftwood on the shoreline. The Anderson
doesn’t source from Canada’s forested interior.
Snowdrift and clouds blow over in the wind. At twenty below
zero it felt colder tonight. I reason it’s because I’m
tired. There’s another DEW line site behind us, with
another phone where I’m tempted to phone for a pizza.
8, March 26th
first film footage this morning. Covered sixteen miles in five
hours, forty miles directly north is Baillie Island. This famous
polar bear hunting location is where tourist hunters pay $Cdn20,000
to kill a bear. I’ve never met one of these hunters to
be other than American.
I made camp tonight where the Mason River spews out into
Liverpool Bay. I’m happy to take a rest day tomorrow.
Dogs have worked well. I’m pleased. They should be too.
Tonight I ate as much food as was physically possible. I watched
the stove air my Horizon
socks in the tent loft and think what they’ve endured
this last year. They’ve kept their shape, my feet blister
free and healthy.
9, March 27th
rest day was just that. I didn’t budge from my Wiggy’s
sleeping bag until noon. Fed my dogs half their feed. After
their initial yawns and stretches I watched them spread out
to relax. I mended Cream’s harnesses. I don’t
think he’ll be bothered the thread I used isn’t
Checking through supplies and spare gear on my sled I was
pleased some of it hasn’t been called into action. I
Wear booties and a dog coat in case one of my dogs’
feet needs isolation through injury or an open body wound
requires protection. The cold tends to prolong healing if
I cut fur away to stitch a wound. Beautifully made, I did
leave this gear outside before the journey to see how the
materials coped with forty below zero. As usual I’m
unforgiving with everything used. After putting a set on one
dog for a test they worked great and materials didn’t
falter a bit.
10, March 28th
morning through very deep snow I had to strap on my Tubbs
snowshoes and break trail ahead of my dogs. The process is
achingly slow. Without snowshoes I’d have been up to
my waist in snow, which isn’t fun.
Around noon a polar bear hunting contingent on snowmobiles
pulled up alongside me at the mouth of Mason River. The Inuit
guide was overjoyed to see a dog team travelling the way things
were done years ago. The client, an American, strolled up
and interrupted loud and rude. Pouting he said, "Hey,
I wanna keep moving". Apparently the American didn’t
get his bear. Drip. Tomorrow we’ll be heading back to
Tuktoyaktuk too, without pouting.
Tonight snow is so deep instead of ice screws I anchored
the dogs’ stakeout chain with my snowshoes acting as
a deadman snow anchor at either end.
made it west of Nicholson Island. I noticed a relic from the
past, tatty coral fencing used to graze reindeer (not caribou)
during Arctic summers. Reindeer were herded here years ago
in a pathetic attempt to create a ready meat supply. It took
years and years to get reindeer here and days for wolves to
pull in and create havoc. I believe it was a sad Danish idea.
Saxon spoilt what should have been a decent day. Tonight
Saxon’s very last move as I was getting dogs out of
their harnesses was, you guessed it, he just had to start
fighting. What is it with him?
12, March 30th
forever looking to encourage my dogs. Today opportunities came
thick and fast as we powered hard into a - 30ºC head wind
all day. The cold left no room for joy. Chinks in my face protection
had snow hit me hard like shards of steel. I worked my skis
alongside the determination of Piston and Bomber. Together there
was a rhythm as we kept moving forward. I fell into my tent
pole-axed with tired tonight. I knew I’d be feeling worse
if I hadn’t eaten bite size PowerBar
chunks previously cut up and dipped in flour. The flour prevents
the pieces sticking together before freezing. I stash my daily
allowance in front of my Arktis
chest rig. Tasty PowerBars are the only sports nutrition bars
I've used capable of maintaining and providing carbohydrate
and protein nourishment throughout prolonged physical effort
in extreme cold. I’ve trained and used them on journeys
over the last two years. They’ve definitely improved my
performance. I don’t do placebo. Gulping PowerBar
Performance Sports Drink I know from experience I won’t
ache in the morning.
Not in a smug way, I was pleased I’d spent so long
preparing what I ate on this journey with care. I’ve
always considered pre-packed grub sold as ‘expedition
food’ as a convenient rip-off. It’s always tastes
dull too. Look at the ingredients on the packaging. It’s
always clear making it up yourself is cheaper and you can
determine ingredients to be of superior nutritional value.
Food dehydrators and vacuum packing machines smaller than
a regular microwave and costing around the same are a wise
investment. Ovens work. An oven will dehydrate an elephant
if you chop it up into daily portions.