With the blizzard finally over, my dog and I began hiking again and left the emergency shelter behind. With over 10 days of solo wilderness travel still in front of me, I ventured into the mountain pass, continuing to film my Arctic documentary. In the pass, I left much of the Polar Bear danger behind but now faced the danger of very strong winds. Baffin Island’s Akshayuk Pass can act as a wind tunnel and winds of over 100 mph (170 kmph) are not uncommon.
The epic scenery was getting better and better and we walked on glare ice for a stretch. I was happy I had spikes on my boots. Soon, I decided to walk overland to cut off a bend in the river but it turned out to likely be a bad idea. I had much uphill and the ground and snow was soft, making it harder to haul my sledge. Additionally, even though the day had started out in near perfect conditions, the weather got bad and a strong and cold headwind picked up. I fought hard against it but had to travel fairly light so as to not work up too much of a sweat. This meant that whenever I stopped, I would get very cold. Fortunately, Buck was doing very well! – Huskies and Malamutes are born for this type of environment and Buck is a Husky Malamute mix.
Eventually, I met back up with the river after making my way down a steep hill in more or less a controlled fall. With the weather getting worse and camera batteries dead, I made camp in scary conditions after putting in a good day of travel.
It was a little tough getting out of bed the next morning because of the cold day I’d faced the day before. But as soon as I was out moving around I felt good, and it seemed a great day was in store. I now followed the river and was in a state of true awe as I made my way close and closer to my destination. Towering mountains on each side of me made me feel very small and you can’t feel small without recognising something larger than yourself. In this case, it was the mountains and the age-old wisdom of nature itself. It was humbling. Funny though, I’d made better time the day before even though the going was tougher. This is just because I’d put my head down and pushed on hard. This day, I was enjoying myself a little more but after the late start, I realised I’d be getting to my destination – the June Valley Shelter, later in the evening. Akshayuk Pass is part of a far-flung national park and the park operatives included some emergency shelters in the wind ravaged corridor. They do not have a heat source, however, and they should not give the traveller a false sense of security. People have died of exposure even after reaching a shelter, and in the summer too. But because I had a Coleman 2 Burner Classic and was hauling plenty of naphtha gas, I could heat these shelters a reasonable amount.
As the sun dropped behind the mountains, it got bitterly cold and I was walking hard, dressed very lightly so as to not sweat much because I had to walk fast. The snow was not hard packed and it would break under me, letting my foot sink into the snow deeply while other times it would support my weight. This forced me to stumble along awkwardly and made the last three kilometres feel like six.
When I finally reached the shelter I was greeted by gorgeous, towering cliffs and the weather got perfect! I’d rounded a corner in the river and moved away from the shadow of the mountains in doing so.
I reflected on the perfect evening and the day’s events and then pondered whether or not I should stay in the shelter. In the end, I left the decision up to Buck….
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