Arctic Adventure Diary: In The Deep Cold and Snow, Heavy Gear Is Worth The Weight

Finally, Ted and I got onto Great Bear Lake. Now our expedition is officially underway. We used the extra time we spent waiting in Tulita and Delene to soak in all of the local advice we could.

If there was one question I heard from the experienced people we talked to, it's this: "What are you doing for heat?" People were a worried when we told them we were just using a mountaineering tent and a couple down sleeping bags. So, we took the advice of the locals and bought a canvas tent off a guy in Delene named David and picked up a Coleman stove, too.

I suppose I should have been more acquainted with the style of winter camping in this region. It's much different than the winter camping I have done. It's like dogsledding--but with a snowmobile. There are no portages, no mountain climbs, and no long backpacking. Just cold, wind, and long stretches of snow-covered country. You can bring an extra ax, a heavy-duty bucksaw, or, even better, a chainsaw. I soon realized that the canvas tent and stove is well worth the extra weight.

In the late afternoon, after traveling about 30 miles on Great Bear, Ted and I stopped for the day. Had we continued, we wouldn't have reached the spot where we could safely set up camp until after dark. And even though the weather was good, the last place you want to get caught in a storm is the middle of massive Great Bear.

The snow is very deep--up to my waist in places. When we tried to tow our heavy toboggans on shore we got stuck quickly and had a tough time lugging them to camp. We made trails around camp, packing the snow down for our tent. Ted and I each got stuck a couple times and were getting frustrated--especially because we hadn't eaten for a while. Eventually, though, we got our new tent set up and got the stove working. Immediately we realized how much warmer it was than our other tent when we climbed in and rested on our down mats and musk ox hide. There is warmth and lots of space for our gear--far better than climbing into a frigid dome tent to hide in our sleeping bags.

It felt good to lay down, and we'll need the rest.

Tomorrow, we fish for lake trout.