Pond Inlet, straight off the good-o-meter

During June and July, Delia spent a a month in Pond Inlet, northern Baffin Island. I visited Pond for a week at the end of Delia's trip. Pond Inlet turned out to be a gem.

The community is overlooking the ocean on a hill. Glaciers and mountains are visible directly from town and hunters were catching narwhal in front of our house.

Pond scores high points for aesthetics.

There was practically no wind and the sun was shining most of the time. Tide was much lower than in Pangnirtung which would make boating a lot easier. Furthermore, we tried fishing for half-an-hour down by the shore and caught two nice size fish with one rod. Try to do that in Pang!

Loads of more points for lack of wind, easy boating and great fishing.

We hiked around on a couple occasions. Salmon Creek was the closest destination, Salmon River a little further. Locals regularly camp along the shores in that area and catch arctic char. Salmon River has char up to 30 pounds Crazy!

Curiously, Salmon River starts at lake called "looks like a vagina". We saw it from the air. It did. That's when I lost count of the points.

(However good Pond may have been, Pang still wins because it's home!)

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October outings: Mt. Duval

It was just another hectic work week in Panniqtuuq. Stephanie, Delia, David (a visiting star at Uqqurmiut Centre) and I collected Donald from his hideout and deployed ourselves on the slopes of Mt. Duval for a little Sunday hike.

We wanted to catch a glimpse of the sun up on the mountain and smell the mountain breeze.

Two Scotsmen, one Finn, one francophone, one German-Canadian plus an apptly named Boston bulldog called Mischief. Your regular daily combo of diversity typical in Pangnirtung. It works out very well because nobody stands out, really. And if you are a little crazy, that's ok, too. In some ways it's almost preferred.

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Clearwater Fiord trip: an ode to rocks

See all photos from the trip.

I hear Delia grunt behind me, somewhere, between massive blocks of rock. "Are you okay?" No answer. I see her clambering up to a boulder. Holding on to the surrounding rocks, she heaves herself up the next waist-high rock with a big backpack on her shoulders. She's tired. I'm tired. I keep moving ahead, trying to scout a good route through a narrow gully we want to pass through to save distance. This is a boulder yard on steroids. I continue on all fours.

It was our second day on a walk from Clearwater Fiord to Shark Fiord, a stretch of land in the northern end of Cumberland Sound on Baffin Island. The plan was to spend seven days exploring this backcountry a three hour boat ride from Pangnirtung.

Before the trip, we had announced our plans to travel in a chilled, laid-back style rather than surrender to monotonous walking dullness as usual. This time we wanted to have sheer, unadulterated fun.

Fools.

The first night we were perched on the ocean, watching beluga whaled surface all over the bay. We wanted to linger. But after seeing how rugged the terrain along the shores was, we wanted to start moving to make sure we got to our pickup point on time. No prior information on traveling through this area had been available.

After getting out of the boulder jungle of the shortcut gully, we sat down exhausted but relieved that the torture was past us. This was our second hiking day. The first day had been rather straight-forward, which had given us confidence in the terrain ahead. Tha pass from Hell, in our minds, was just an exception. The next mile after the pass was cruising over flats to a waterfall. It seemed like our shortcut had paid off.

After the flats we scrambled up a moderate mountain slope to a large top plateau that we needed to cross. That is where we realized the hell was merely about to begin. We later called this the Hell Breaks Loose Day.

What we saw at the top paralyzed us: it was an ocean of boulders, ravines, cliffs, completely devoid of any kind of vegetation. It was a desolate, bleak view without an end in sight. The pass had only been a little prelude.

The irony was nearly too much. A chilled trip, right. How about an epic. Based on what we saw, the next three-four days over the plateau were going treat us with possibly the toughest hiking we had ever done, with potential unknown nuances.

We tried to criss-cross around some river boulders but moving forward was impossibly slow. Nature has such a sense of humour. This was not the fun we had planned. The only thing that was sheer here was the rock.

Four hours and five kilometers later, at sunset, we reached our target lake, exhausted. We had to stop moving because it was getting dark and we soon wouldn't be able to see the rocks we were hopping on. By the lake we found a 2 x 2 m spot for our tent between rocks.

The next day woke apprehensive. This day we called the Contained Hell Day.The game was on but we didn't know exactly what opponents we had to deal with. As we started moving again through the aggressively rocky landscape, we had two optional route plans. The first one fell through after several hours of hiking when we realized the route was impassable. Option number two ensued. It took us to a lake that didn't seem to exist on the map. We climbed to a lookout point to make sure we knew where we were. To our left was a large canyon valley that looked nasty. "At least we don't have to go through THAT!", gasped Delia. Everything seemed okay, but the map error baffled us. During location checking, we had used the glacier-capped peaks of the national park as a directional reference. They are pretty widely spread.

The next day we were hit with yet another shock. This day we were going to name the Light in the End of the Tunnel (Maybe) Day, but the light was too dim throughout the day that we dropped the name. After leaving the comfort of the unmapped lake, we arrived at a 300 meter high cliff dropping into a fiord. It was a mind-boggling moment. We had gone too far to the right. The mistake wasn't very bad but we had been fooled by the terrain. The unmapped lake in fact had been on the map. The immediate result of this mistake was that we had to go further left through the canyon valley that we had been so glad not have to go through.

The fun just seemed never-ending.

That day we pushed for nearly 11 hours quickly stopping for a lunch once but covered only 12-14 km on the map. We were determined to get out of there. The day was ridden with cul-de-sacs, extremely technical terrain and draining ups and downs. Once we spent half-an-hour looking for a route down to a valley. One thing we did not want to compromise was safety, and for that reason we did a lot of extra mileage to get around obstacles.

Finally, just when sun was setting, we saw Shark Fiord. After a failed attempt to scramble down from the mountain plateau, we pitched a tent on the mountainside in darkness. We were wired. We were high on life and happy to have accomplished what we had. We were almost a day ahead of our schedule. Even after such a long day, it was hard to fall asleep.

The next morning we descended down to the fiord via an easy route and set camp. That and the first day were the only chilled days of the trip.

Our pickup came the following morning. The trip hadn't been at all what we expected but it had given us a valuable lesson. It had put us to a spot and made us work hard, shining a light to any weaknesses in our wilderness skills. It is a great opportunity to improve upon. Our biggest weakness was an over-confident interpretation of the map and the lack of compass or GPS use (i.e. always check the map with the compass; and get a GPS). The compass works fine here as long as one knows to compensate for the 37-38 W degree declination but we just kept it in the first aid kit in the bottom of the backpack.

On our next trip we'll just rent a condo somewhere and read books.

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