Posted by Gary Schultz for Kate
Each day on this journey to Shingle Point presents different landscapes
and obstacles On Day 1, I pushed over the soft surfaces of the Peel
Channel; Day 2 we turned in to Moose Channel, a much narrower, windy
frozen waterway. On Day 3 I continued for a while along the Moose
Channel, eventually leaving the channel and up into a vast expanse. Most
of the day was spent riding through terrain carpeted with stunted willow
bushes covered with snow. The trail was just compact enough for me to
push through, occasionally sinking into holes.
The best way to cope with this challenge mentally is to break it down
into smaller more manageable sections. Claudio would usually drive his
snow machine about 8 – 10km ahead and wait. It has been really important
to eat regularly to keep my strength and energy up and as more
resistance against the cold. That night we made it to a hunters? refuge
cabin, a lone hut on the western periphery of the vast Mackenzie River
Delta. It was a treat to have a warm cabin to arrive to, rather than
spending an hour or so setting up the Arctic Oven tents, get fire wood
and sort everything out.
Day 4 was probably the toughest day of all so far. The aim was to get to
Shingle Point by day?s end. The first 16 km were the worst. The path was
over snow-covered low willow bushes and then grassy tundra; both
surfaces were a nightmare because the snow does not settle into a firm
surface. It was completely energy-sapping. I walked about 2km in total,
the rest was a hard grind. The frozen sea between the flat islands was
generally much easier and I could move at more like 8-9km an hour.
As I headed west, the path was intermingled with patches of sea ice. It
was rather beautiful browns and blues glimmering in the afternoon
sunlight. The clear blue ice however was also treacherous. Essentially I
could not divert my tyres at all going over the ice. I just tried to
stay completely upright and mostly tried to glide, barely pedalling to
avoid slipping. After one nasty fall I became very tense crossing the
ice patches and moved very cautiously. The route edged closer to the
coast and there were some really technical sections to negotiate.
At the mouth of the Blow River, Bob managed to run his snow machine into
an overflow. Only experience got him out of it, though the his machine
did get wet. Theresa and Bob were probably two hours ahed of us, so when
we arrived at that point, we were able to follow a diversion as the
water was rising.
I was cycling late into the evening. In the distance I spotted two
massive fuel tanks. Just behind the cliffs was a DEW line station. DEW
stands for Distant Early Warning – the radar stations were set up during
the Cold War, spread out across the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic to
detect whether the Russians were about to attack. The station is still
From there, in the distance, (about 5km away), I could see a small line
of five cabins and the faint line of a long spit protruding into the
sea. It wasn?t actually Shingle Point, but another peninsular. Bob and
Theresa had already set up camp there in between the derelict wind-
blasted cabins. Shingle Point was visible to the west. We decided to
camp here for two nights so that I can have an easy day, just cycling
the 8km to Shingle Point and back.
In the summer, this place would be completely different. It is a 4-5
hour boat trip from Aklavik and locals come here to fish its fertile
waters and hunt beluga whales. In the winter, hunters travel with snow
machines through the region, trapping and shooting game; caribou, arctic
foxes, musk oxen, even polar bears. No one however has ever cycled from
Aklavik to Shingle Point before! Its a very different world out here.
Now I have to do the return journey, so tomorrow will be a big day.