Baffin Island residents and Arctic veterans Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry have a rather different idea of summer vacation. Two days ago, they left the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River in East Central Baffin for a 70-day multi-sport adventure. They will go sledding, kite skiing, corridor skiing, rock climbing, kayaking and waterfalls.
From Clyde River, Boomer and McNair-Landry ski (or kite-ski if there’s enough wind) inland for 100-120 km via a series of frozen valleys and creeks to the spectacular Sam Ford Fiord. They will travel at night to take advantage of cooler temperatures and firmer snow. They will carry 20 days of supplies as well as their kayaks. Local friends dropped off the rest, including all their climbing gear, at their base camp.
“Each of these activities is a dream trip in itself. Most teams come and play a sport during that time. I’m so looking forward to it,” an impatient Boomer said shortly before leaving. “The biggest thing is just not being connected and doing our thing for so long away from the rest of the world.”
If all goes well, the couple could arrive in Sam Ford Fiord within a week. The first item on the agenda then is to ski some of the steep couloirs flanking the huge granite spiers in this area. For this they need good snow conditions, so you have to hurry before the snow melts.
Big climbing wall
The experienced duo plan to ski around 10 days and then climb another 20 days, including the nearby and equally spectacular Stewart Valley. Although they are new to big wall climbing (they started last winter), the two men have all the necessary equipment to spend several days on moderate wall climbing routes in the 5.10 to 5.11 range. . In this remote area, they have the chance to try new lines, although McNair-Landry stresses that they won’t be “climbing the biggest, toughest, gnarliest routes”.
Compared to other disciplines, the duo have the least climbing experience, so they are eager to up their game. “With the trips to the Arctic, [man]transportation and kayaking, we can be much more confident. We are definitely expanding our climbing experience,” Boomer said.
What they attempt depends on stable weather. Although temperatures at this time of year are just a little below freezing, arctic weather can vary. “Last year it snowed in July and there was ice on a lot of the roads,” McNair-Landry said.
Streams and waterfalls
For the final element of this action-packed vacation, they’ll be kayaking down rivers and down waterfalls. For this, Boomer has several rivers in mind, during a 30-day window. Access to the northernmost river (see map) involves a few days of glacier travel.
“It looks like a great course to me. I’m sure the Inuit have walked it, but it’s totally new to us,” says Boomer. Other options will involve hiking and boating lakes to reach. As with the climbing leg of their journey, there is the potential for first descents.
The adventure will not stop there, at least for McNair-Landry. A friend, who sails the Northwest Passage, picks them up at base camp in about 69 days. Boomer will likely disembark in the town of Pond Inlet, while McNair-Landry will remain on board for the remainder of the passage. Quite the summer plans.