Thursday, March 19, 2015

Two Separate Far North Adventures Summer 2014

The Ungava Crossing Expedition 
and the
Hanbury Thelon Expedition

Jonathan, Kirti and I often spend the summer traveling together on grand adventures.  This year I had an opportunity to join a canoe expedition in the far north on the Ungava Peninsula.  I jumped at the chance and began a whirlwind of trip preparations.  Jonathan and Kirti helped me figure out what to take and we redesigned and modified gear to make it work.  Amidst all of this preparation they also decided to explore the far north and incredibly put together their very own trip in a short amount of time.  Lee Sessions helped with ideas, maps and contacts. They decided to travel through the Northwest Territories.  We agreed to explore and learn about traveling in these two different areas and then swap information and stories upon our return.  These trips have opened up opportunities to travel through vast areas of wilderness.

                                                                  Trip Preparations
Jon and Kirti modifying a spraydeck for their canoe.

Practicing with the portage packs and designing a versatile strapping system

Trimming, marking, waterproofing and organizing trip maps

Ungava Crossing Expedition

For the summer of 2014, I paddled with the Crossing Ungava Canoe Expedition in Nunaviq, Northern Quebec.  We followed the route of a group of Canadian scientists who explored the area in 1948.   
Jenny dressed for a rainy morning start on the Payne River.
Photo by Chris Rush

Here is a link to information about my trip crossing the Ungava Peninsula.  This is created by Lynette and Laco who planned and organized this trip.  They have extensive experience in Nunavik.  Soon a full trip report will be posted here.

This trip was from July 5th to August 7th which means we did the crossing in 34 days.
It was 679 km long with 41 portages. I joined 5 other people for this adventure.  Paddlers for this expedition were: Lynettte Chubb, Laco Kovacs, Chris Rush, Iva Kinclova, Lee Sessions and Jenny Johnson.

Here are three short films regarding my trip in Ungava.  The first film is about the first few days of our journey.  The second film is about a portion of the trip right before the Height of Land when we encountered cold, wet, windy weather.  The third film shows black bears that we saw on the trip. These films were created by Chris Rush. 

Ungava Crossing Teaser #1

Ungava Black Bears

All six of us gathered in Ontario to pack a van full of our gear and supplies for the expedition.  We then began a long drive through the night to La Grande Quebec (near Radisson).   We chartered a Twin Otter from Air Inuit and flew North over open endless tundra.  The weather closed in with low clouds near the time we had to land.  Our pilot found an esker to land on, near the Kogaluc River, which is near the East Coast of Hudson Bay.  
The Ungava Crossing Six
Photo Chris Rush

We camped in a beautiful spot with caribou passing by.  Our first day started with a nice long portage followed by several more.  The sun was shining, caribou were watching us, an occasional Arctic fox scampered by and the bugs weren't bad. 
Land of Many Lakes

Our Drop Off Point

Building Our Canoes

Caribou at Camp

L & L and the Swan
Photo by Chris Rush

Once we made it to the Kogaluc River we paddled and portaged upstream to the Height of Land.  We passed beautiful powerful waterfalls and many miles of rocky terrain.  I was impressed with the vastness of the wide open sky and of the way it changes so quickly.  We had windbound days, rainy days and sunny days.  The wind can blow strong and long.  We recorded 60 mph gusts while windbound on an island.  We also had to line along the edge of a large lake just to be safe since there was an offshore wind.  If you have wind you don't have bugs, so it can be a mixed blessing.  

Jenny portaging a waterfall.
Photo by Chris Rush
Chris, Jenny and Laco exploring on a windbound day.
Photo by Lee Sessions
Upstream travel by the crew.

An Ungava Sunset

At the Height of Land we portaged from one little lake into another until we were able to drop into Payne Lake.  Payne Lake is 90 km long and acts more like the ocean when there are strong winds.  We ended up windbound at one point and then had to launch in surf the next morning just to get moving.  

Looking back across Payne Lake towards the Height of Land crossing.
Photo by Chris Rush

A rough legged hawk nest perched on a boulder.
Photo by Chris Rush

We had a few tough days paddling in the wind trying to make progress to get to Payne River.  After one long portage at the start of the Payne we were able to enjoy a downriver current for the next few days.  There were many caribou crossing the river and black bears strolling along the shores.  We lucked out with a stretch of beautiful weather as we traveled down the Payne.  

Paddling into the evening on Payne Lake.
Photo by Chris Rush

Lynette and Laco negotiating a rapid.
Photo by Chris Rush

Lee and Iva paddling on the Payne River.
Photo by Chris Rush

Ungava Black Bear
Photo by Chris Rush

Caribou crossing in front of our canoe.
Photo by Chris Rush
Chris glad to be going with the current.

Blue skies, no bugs and down river current = easy traveling in Ungava. 

Ancient tent rings, kayak stands, cairns, inuksuit, food caches and hunting blinds were discovered along our entire route.  We made a point of stopping at known archaeology sites such as the Cartier site, the Michea site and the Hammer of Thor.  

Jenny exploring an interesting archaeological site

Jenny at the Hammer of Thor.
Photo by Chris Rush

This trip was far enough North that there weren't any tall trees.  We saw lots of  caribou, some wolves, but no musk oxen.  We saw many black bears, but no polar bears.  We saw swans, rough legged hawks, peregrine falcons but no snowy owls.  We also saw thousands, perhaps millions of mosquitoes and blackflies by the time we were finished with the trip.

I was thrilled about learning how to travel in a new environment.  The trip was full of new discoveries, new learning and firsts for me and I loved that.  I loved being able to drink right from the river.  I loved the changing skies and the wide opened spaces that were calling out for me to hike. I loved finding new flowers that I've never seen before.  I loved observing the lemmings and curious black bears.  I enjoyed learning the new skill of filleting fish.  I loved pondering over the archaeology sites.  There were so many interesting things and it was such a rich experience for me.  I hope to go back to explore in the far North again.  
Jenny in a marshy area filled with cotton grass.
Photo by Chris Rush
Arctic Poppy

Friendly Little Lemmings
Photo by Chris Rush

Jenny's new skill: Filleting Fish
Photo by Chris Rush

L & L paddling into the morning sunrise.
Photo by Chris Rush

Packing Gear at Kangersik
Photo by Chris Rush


Hanbury Thelon Expedition

Jon and Kirti created a fantastic blog that tells their complete story.  You will find it here:

Kirti traveling the river.
Photo by Jon Walpole

A Magnificent Musk Ox
Photo by Jon Walpole

Giant Eskers
Photo by Jon Walpole

Kirti and White Water
Photo by Jon Walpole

A waterfall and canyon to portage.
Photo by Jon Walpole

Kirti contemplating the miles yet to travel.
Photo by Jon Walpole