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Quttinirpaaq National Park, Ellesmere Is.

Just a Walk to the End of the Earth
Paul Blanchard came up with the idea for the hike to Quttinirpaaq National Park or Ellesmere Island National Park as it was known then, a few years before we actually put it all together in July of 1999.

"Think of it, Ken", he said after a few drinks at a dinner party, "We will walk in the footsteps of Shackleton, Peary, Cook and Greeley. " Oh yah," I said in my best Inuit dialect, "I'm not sure I want to spend the winter sleeping in a mud hut next to you if the ship gets locked in for the winter".

"We're not going to get locked in", he said. "It's a plane trip. We fly to Resolute from Ottawa and then we take a bush plane to Lake Hazen were we set up base camp for two weeks".

"Base camp? What are we talking about here? I don't think I can spend two weeks in a tent with you either Paul. It's nothing personal. I'm a thrasher. I toss and turn in my sleep. It's an old habit I haven't been able to break".

"Nah, we don't share a tent. We bring our own gear including the food. We share the cost of the charter and the cost of the guide, that's all. It's a real deal as long as we don't go out and buy all kinds of new stuff".

And that was how it started and after spending almost as much on new gear as the cost of the charter and the guide, Paul and I set out to Resolute for the trip north July 5, 1999 to the land of the caribou, the muskoxen, the ptarmigan and the Arctic hare; to the land of the Independence people, the ancestors of the modern Inuit who hunted in this glacial oasis, this polar desert, this land of 24-hour sunlight bringing to the good earth the colors of the Arctic wildflowers dotting the landscape with the yellow, the white, the pink and the mauve of an Arctic summer, the land of the glacial valleys and the fiords, the land of the self-sufficient.

With light-weight gear in the bag, a four-season tent, a down sleeping bag, freeze dried food by the ounce and a Gore-Tex jacket and a fleece in hand, we waited for the charter plane to take us the rest of the way across kilometer after kilometer of frozen lakes and tundra to the far north.

"Would the passenger who is taking his wine cellar with him please identify himself. We have a serious weight problem and cannot, and will not, depart for Hazen Lake unless we solve the problem".

She had a nice Scottish accent and obviously did not favor wine over single malt scotch although I was sure I had packed a couple of those bottles as well.

"Paul, half of your gear is going on the table before I abandon the case of Chilean Pinot Noir and the Scotch, not to mention the Riedel wine glasses tucked away inside my hiking boots".

"I don't think they care much about the glassware," he retorted with a sly grin suggesting that his pack had even more hooch in it than mine. After much debate over the pros and cons of survival gear, the plane took off with the overweight and made a pit stop in Eureka, a small military base, to refuel.

And so our journey began and after two weeks of hiking up and down mud flats, tussock mounds, boulder fields, rock mountains and fording fast rivers and streams and picking our way up onto glaciers that stretched across the landscape under the midnight sun, Paul and I, like children swept up by the magical presence of an unspoiled land, left behind our adulthood and the responsibilities of our working life.

And if that was not enough there was more.

I made it into the unofficial High Arctic record book. At no time, ever, going as far back to the days of Shackleton, Peary, Cook and Greeley had anyone had the pleasure of drinking vintage Pinot Noir from a fine crystal burgundy Riedel glass 500 kilometers from the North Pole.

Paul and I reveled in this statistic every night as we turned to the cocktail hour, dressed in our fashionable outdoor clothing, unshaven, grubby and smelling like two wart hogs in a sauna, to relive the adventures of the day and to plan those for the next.

Kenneth J. Ross, Ottawa, 2005

This trip was organised by:

Mary Kunzler-Larmann
Canada North Outfitting (US)
7169 Forbes Rd., Canastota, NY 13032
Tel/Fax 315 697-3245
email: mk-l@juno.com

For more information on Quttinirpaaq Park:

Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada


For more stories and pictures, visit the following members' sites/galleries:

About Ellesmere Island & Quttinirpaaq National Park
Ellesmere Island
Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada

Members & Friends who attended Ellesmere Island

Paul Blanchard
Ken Ross


Future Treks

Other Past Treks:

Altas Mountains-Marrakech-Essaouira
Morocco, 2011
Silk Road
(Uzbekistan)/Fann Mountains(Tajikistan), 2009
Inca Trail/Machu Picchu
Peru, 2008
Mt. Kilimanjaro
Tanzania, 2007
Cradle Mountain
Tazmania, Austalia, 2006
Canadian Rockies
2005
Patagonia
Argentina/Chile, 2005
Bizkaia (Basque) Region
Spain, 2004
Everest Base Camp
Nepal, 2003
Milford Track
New Zealand, 2001
Quttinirpaaq National Park
Ellesmere Is., 1999


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