Explorer and adventurer Adam Shoalts has had his fair share of adventures, trekking everywhere from the Amazon jungle to remote waterfalls in northern Canada. This spring and summer he’s at it again, embarking on a Royal Canadian Geographical Society flag expedition that will see him hike and canoe 4,000-kilometres solo across the Arctic.
His five-month expedition is scheduled to begin May 13 in Old Crow, just north of Whitehorse in the Yukon. From there, Shoalts will loosely follow the Arctic Circle, make his way across the Dempster Highway, and then along the Mackenzie River.
“The way I’m managing this whole 4,000-kilometre route is breaking it up into smaller trips,” says Shoalts. “Mentally, that’s how I think about it. Physically, it’s all one continuous journey.”
His hope is to make it to Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories for Canada Day. “When I come up over the mountains there and I can see the vast expanse of Great Bear Lake, that’ll be my celebration,” says Shoalts. The festivities will be solitary, and capped with a 435-kilometre paddle across the lake.
The few communities Shoalts will pass along his expedition will be the only faces he sees, if he stops, for the duration of his journey. “My canoe will probably become a very close friend after five months as my only companion,” says Shoalts.
As with any outdoor expedition, this journey is very weather dependent, waiting on spring ice melts and storms to pass, and bracing against heavy winds. “It’s just my luck that in 2013, 2014, and 2015, they were setting records for the earliest ice break ups, and then all of a sudden this spring turns out to be really cold,” says Shoalts. “It just adds to the excitement.”
And this journey will likely have no shortage of excitement: Pilots will deposit plastic barrels of food along Shoalts' route past the Dempster highway. They'll be encased in a wooden crate to keep bears out, which will serve as firewood for Shoalts when he arrives to claim it.
In order to keep his load as light as possible for his portages, Shoalts is not bringing a gun with him. While he jokes about getting mauled by a Grizzly bear, his biggest concern isn’t the bears. “My biggest concern is the wind,” says Shoalts. “It’s just so fierce and I’m going to be going against it for a lot of it.”
Shoalts will be documenting his adventures on social media throughout his expedition.