Mt Asgard - a well know mountain and one of many sheer faces in the park
( as seen in James Bond movie "the spy who loved me")
Sophie with her Kokopelli Packraft on a training session in Banff, Canada.
(Yes, it does look like an oversize pool toy!)
Into the Arctic by Pack-raft.
The Flatlanders will be heading north this summer. Way, way north to the "land that never melts" above the Arctic Circle on Baffin Island. Adam and his daughter Sophie will be going to Auyuittuq National Park (which in the Inuit language actually means "lands that never melts" but is actually melting faster each year) to trek the Penny Ice Cap and hopefully make a first descent of an Arctic river. That's right, as far as we know, its never been done before! We propose to hike from the south, traverse a glaciated ice cap located above the Arctic Circle, and then descend the Owl River to the Arctic Ocean, hopefully dodging polar bears that are resident in the area at that time of the year.
About our adventurers:
Sophie is not your typical 14 year old girl. In her short life, she has lived in the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and on a sailing boat. With life now rooted in the small town of Steinbach, Canada, she excels at school, is a competitive cyclist representing her Province, and above all, is an avid adventurer and outdoors person. Sophie initiated the idea of heading to Canada’s north, researched this expedition, and ultimately came up with the plan that we will execute.
Sophie comes by her love of adventure and outdoors honestly through her father. Adam is 45 years old, and has participated in offshore sailing, mountaineering on some of the world’s highest peaks, and is a competitive (but ageing) adventure racer. These adventures have taken him from the rivers of Yukon and Alaska, to peaks in South America, to the Alps of Europe, to the Southern Ocean, and many points in between. When not on the trail or water, he is often asked to speak at various schools and other organisations about his travels.
Where are they right now?
Part one - Where is Auyuittuq
Auyuittuq National Park (Inuktitut: ᐊᐅᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ, "the land that never melts") is a national park located on Baffin Island's Cumberland Peninsula, in Nunavut, Canada. It features many terrains of Arctic wilderness, such as fjords, glaciers, and ice fields.
The nearest towns are Qikiqtarjuaq and Pangnirtung. The most common hiking route in the park is known as Akshayuk Pass, and follows the Weasel and Owl Rivers via Summit Lake. In 2008, heavy rain and warm weather caused Summit Lake to burst through its banks, flooding the Weasel River and washing away the Windy Lake bridge. We will be paddling the Owl River from its source at Glacier Lake to the Arctic Ocean.
Well known peaks include Mount Asgard (shown in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me) with an 800 m (2,600 ft) face, and Mount Thor with a 1,250 m (4,100 ft), 105° face, which is considered the highest single continous face in the world.
part Two - What is a packraft
Alaska is generally considered the birthplace of packrafting as long distance, non-motorized, landscape travel across untracked wilderness necessitates a small, portable boat for water crossings.
Typically the boats are carried to cross and float rivers, streams and lakes while carried between watersheds. Packrafts have historically been used as portable boats for long distance wilderness travel. This classical use has been modified by most packraft owners to shorter trips that mix trail hiking and river and creek floats or lake paddles. Most of these hike and paddle applications are in gentler water of Class II or less. However, low-flow steep creeks rated to Class V and other whitewater runs that were previously considered suitable only for kayaks and bigger rafts, are now run frequently by packrafters. The addition of spray decks and thigh straps allow more precise control of the craft. Eskimo rolling in packrafts is now done routinely. Packrafts are increasingly popular among fishers and hunters as well as travellers who wish to carry a lightweight craft on aircraft.
part Three - what is the plan
After no less than 4 commercial flights to get to Pangnirtung, we will be briefed by Parks Canada before entering the park. The park only gets approximately 100 people per year, the majority of which only stay in the southern section, and so is extremely remote.
We will use an outfitter’s boat to insert us into Auyuittuq National Park where we will hike through Akshayuk Pass to the Arctic Circle. From here, we plan to ascend to the Penny Ice Cap traversing several glaciers until we reach our proposed put-in. From the put-in, we will paddle for 2-3 days until we reach our planned take-out in Northern Pangnirtung fiord near Qikiqtarjuaq, a remote Inuit village on Broughton Island.
Parks Canada and local Inuit have been unable to advise us of the river classification, and because it is so remote, they have advised there are sections of the river that have not been seen before. From satellite imagery, we estimate the maximum class will be 2+ but that remains to be confirmed until we get on the river. We will use an Inuit outfitter to collect us at our northern extraction point to cover the open ocean segments (and to avoid contact with polar bears), but we will take the time to paddle amongst the many icebergs that are always present in the area at that time of year, subject to mother nature.