Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —Nick Walker

A fter 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, Adam Shoalts reached Baker Lake, Nu­navut, and the end of the epic Trans-cana­dian Arc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion on Sep. 6, 2017. It all started in Old Crow, north­ern Yukon, in mid-may. 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 — mak­ing stren­u­ous as­cents of the Macken­zie, Hare In­dian, Dease and Cop­per­mine rivers. Prag­matic as ever about what might seem to most a highly un­prag­matic un­der­tak­ing, the ex­plorer 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 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 weather was al­ready re­turn­ing to the North. “My con­stant mantra was ‘win­ter is com­ing, win­ter is com­ing, win­ter is com­ing,’ ” says Shoalts. “I had to re­mind my­self of that a lot. I’ve done ex­pe­di­tions in the Arc­tic be­fore, I’ve been through snow­storms in July and Au­gust, and there’s no way of know­ing when the weather is go­ing to turn too nasty to keep go­ing. I was rac­ing as fast as I could go.” Shoalts’s Rcgs-spon­sored Trans-cana­dian Arc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion was a mon­u­men­tal, metic­u­lously-planned yet in­her­ently dan­ger­ous mi­gra­tion over a cross-sec­tion of the Cana­dian North that few will ever see — and per­haps no one ever again in one sus­tained jour­ney.

‘There’s no way of know­ing when the weather is go­ing to turn too nasty to keep go­ing. I was rac­ing as fast as I could go.’

To read the exclusive post-ex­pe­di­tion in­ter­view with Shoalts and to see more images from his route, visit can­geo.ca/best17/shoalts.

Shoalts drags his ca­noe against the cur­rent on the Hare In­dian River, N.W.T., in mid-june, seek­ing a route into Great Bear Lake.

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