After 4,000 kilometres of trekking over muskeg and canoeing up and down countless icy rivers and lakes, sustaining himself on more than 1,100 protein bars and two bush plane-delivered food crates, it has been confirmed that explorer Adam Shoalts has reached Baker Lake, Nunavut, and the end of the epic Trans-Canadian Arctic Expedition.
It all started in Old Crow, northern Yukon, on May 13. Shoalts faced east and set out from the small Gwich’in town on a solo expedition that saw him weaving north and south of the Arctic Circle across Canada’s northern mainland and three territories. Pragmatic as ever about what might seem to most a highly unpragmatic undertaking, the explorer and Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society was more concerned with the prospect of unrelenting Arctic winds than potential grizzly and polar bear encounters.
As he told Canadian Geographic the day before his departure, “The way I’m managing this whole 4,000-kilometre route is breaking it up into smaller trips. Mentally, that’s how I think about it. Physically, it’s all one continuous journey.”
Communications were sporadic, characterized by one- or two-week stretches of silence and irregular satellite phone updates made to his family and communication supports in the south. For nearly four months, their surrogate Facebook updates marked him as paddling upstream against the mighty Mackenzie River, reaching the Dene hamlet of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. (the last community he would encounter until Baker Lake, Nunavut, 86 days later), and stranded on an island and waiting for ice to break on Great Bear Lake. By the end of his long pilgrimage, winter was already returning to the North.