After having completed polar survival training a week beforehand, Ben and Natalia travelled to the Auyuittuq National Park, a few hundred kilometres or so north of Iqaluit, on Baffin Island, in March 2014. While the journey from Qikiqtarjuaq on the northern side of the region, down through Auyuittuq to Pangnirtung was only a couple of hundred of kilometres, as this was their first time by themselves camping and travelling through the polar environment, the two wanted to take their time and just get as much experience as possible in the harsh conditions.
Putting our training to the test
We had had two weeks of polar survival training followed by a week of kite-ski training prior to travelling to Qikiqtarjuaq. In Iqaluit, we had to organise our provisions, and we gave ourselves enough to survive for 20 days. Although we needed much less, we just wanted to make sure, especially given our inexperience – and indeed, we wanted to get as much experience in Auyuittuq as possible, so the longer we had there, the better!
It was a little intimidating at first – at Qik, locals told us that a polar bear had been sighted, so advised us to camp near a couple of dog teams, which would scare any bears away. We weren’t able to carry any firearms, just flare-pens, due to Auyuittuq being a national park and anything like that was restricted, so we were effectively defenceless in case of any emergency.
On going to the park region, we passed by people ice fishing, which was quite impressive – they had driven a big 4×4 on to the ice and cut a large hole in the ice from where a couple of guys suddenly appeared when we got closed. They had a hut where went into that had four stoves burning, and was really rather hot. But we moved on and as we got to the park area, we saw polar bear footprints in the snow, just to make us more nervous.
The journey, however, was uneventful – fortunately, no more signs of any bears; they were all chilling with the seals, I guess. The landscape was absolutely spectacular, however, with the most incredible mountains either side of us as we skied along the valley floor. Some of the most breathtaking landscape we had ever seen. It took us about 15 days with a couple of bad weather days, and also a day stuck going up a moraine with fierce headwinds – couldn’t have it too easy!