Hunkered down…again!

David Reid, and the ritual of boiling snow to water on the expedition. Photo: Garry Tutte/Arctic Return

Good evening. It’s Richard here, (and David of course), checking in on Sunday, the 21st of April, Easter Sunday. The stove is on (mainly for the heat).

David, is already in his sleeping bag…wasting little time in doing so, even though it’s early. This is something he usually does as soon as our camp is set up, irrespective of the time. 

Me? I’m busy reading Ken McGoogan’s book, Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. I will probably be having a second dinner shortly. uh… let me see now, I think I’ve already had lasagna, followed by a protein bar, a protein shake and then maybe shortly, yes shortly, I think I’ll have chicken and rice too. David has had, uh…wait, you had chicken and rice too, didn’t you, David?

It is so very easy to get into a second dinner out here. Let me see, hmm…there’s also pasta primavera …which is really quite nice…it has vegetables in it. There are so many choices we both really should have a second dinner. Maybe some hot chocolate too!  And there’s coffee. (Confession) The Nescafe coffees we’ve been drinking are a ‘godsend’. To wake up to a Nescafe coffee in the morning is well…is just the highlight…yes, the highlight of the day. Ah, those simple pleasures. I’m not a coffee drinker but have certainly turned into one this trip. 

Well, it’s just so much easier to give an account…with a second dinner nigh in the offing. Pushing tonight’s gourmet menu aside:

Yesterday we had passed over the Simpson lakes. We did again cross paths with a group of Inuit: our friends, Lionel and Clayton, with their families travelling on four skidoos. They were out…hunting muskox.

We stopped and chatted with them for some time…quite nice really, and so befitting our expedition. Rae’s had essentially done the same, 165 years ago, when his expedition travelled through the Simpson lakes area, in 1854. It was here, that Rae, speaking with the Inuit with the help of his guide and interpreter, Ouligbuck, first learned of the fate of, ‘some white men who had perished, further to the West.’

Looking back on our day, much easier on an almost full stomach, I might add, we had a strong day, over the ice on Simpson Lake, eventually coming off the western end of it. We woke this morning to very windy and cold conditions and debated whether we should  head South and then West along the Murchison River, or to head North and then West, as advised by our Inuit friends.

We’ve taken their advice, as Rae would have done (and did) and we set out, heading North, to then, later in the day turn West, to venture into the central Arctic’s, Ross Hills. 

We did a fair bit of climbing, in what turned out to be a very full day. Heading North was good, the West wind hitting us side on. A welcome change. You could just hide (figuratively) inside your hut, as it were. At times we saw ourselves as being very much like two small tractors advancing North into the wilderness.

But as we all know, things can and do change (quickly) out here. Visibility started to decrease rapidly as the day wore on. The winds started to pick up, blowing up a steady 30-35 km/h mostly, which gave us a windchill of -35C, conservatively speaking.

Once we had reached the Ross Hills, it was time to turn West, and again, we were facing the wind head-on – quite bitter on our faces that was. Conditions failed to improve.

The windspeed increased and visibility diminished over the afternoon, to the extent that we are now in a complete white-out situation. Trying to find the trail, trying to navigate, just became too difficult. By 3:30 pm we just couldn’t see the way at all. It was very much like we were skiing, ‘ inside a glass of milk,’ or in David’s, ‘ping-pong ball.’  We just couldn’t see which way was, ‘up—down—left, or right,’ let alone any semblance of a trail. So the decision was made that there was no point to continuing and we set up our tent  in the fierce blow to wait this out. 

By this day’s end, an early one at that, we’d managed to complete about 11 kilometres overall, half of the distance achieved on yesterday’s march. Still, we think we did very well today, considering it was all a bit of climb (into hills) with headwinds and poor visibility, as our only companions.

But hey, we’re good. We’re on target, maybe ahead a bit…to reach Point de la Guiche, (aka De la Guiche Point) barring any injuries or bad weather. We plan to be there in another week, or within the week, we hope.

Busy feeding ourselves and getting some rest in this evening, before tomorrow’s push. Let’s hope there’s some sunshine, so that we will be able to make up for some lost ground.

Richard [and David]


[A big thank you to Costa Sunglasses, which we’ve both been wearing extensively. They are fantastic!  Had we taken the sunglasses off today, as I did at some stages trying to find any remnants of the trail — well, I just couldn’t see anything at all. Having the Costa sunglasses on, you could at least make out a bit of detail, in this swirling and diffuse ping-pong ball world we find ourselves in. They work great!]