EXPLORER ADAM SHOALTS COMPLETES HIS TRANS-CANADIAN ARCTIC EXPEDITION
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.