Dispatches

The Arctic by Boat

Exploring the arctic by boat presents you with an opportunity to see the tundra from a truly unique perspective.

While out on the water you can at once explore coastal areas not directly accessibly by foot—allowing you to observe a great diversity of wildlife such as polar bears, whales, seals and all sorts of bird life—as well as geological features that you may have missed while on a land based expedition. Plus, when travelling by boat you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with towering ancient icebergs, an experience, which in itself, makes an expedition by boat a spectacular opportunity.

Out on the water you can also explore remote outposts and retrace the long forgotten paths of European explorers. Visit Inuit communities and see, first hand, how many residents of Nuanvik continue to practice an ancient way of life. Or just relax on deck with a cup of tea and binoculars, and quietly take in the natural splendor of the Arctic.

If you are interested in exploring Nunavik by boat, check out Cruise North Expeditions which offers cruises in Nunavik (Kuujjuaq, Akpatok Island, Kangiqsujuaq, and Digges Islands) and across the Arctic on an ice class ship, including zodiac excursions and sightseeing, wildlife observation and photography, hiking, sea kayaking, throat singing workshops and other cultural demonstrations.

 

If you have ever thought of taking a boat expedition, this is certainly one you should not miss out on.

Oct. 29, 2013, 2:33 p.m.

A Rest

Here's Team Outpost Kuururjuaq taking a well deserved rest after the summit of Mont D'Iberville in Nunavik.

 

Oct. 16, 2013, 10:53 a.m.

Photo Gallery Update

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

Check out our photo gallery and let us know which image you like best on Facebook.

Quote by Marc Riboud

Oct. 15, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

Nature's Most Volatile Form

The whitewaters of Nunavik are incredible, offering a challenging paddle that tests the limits of your perseverance, strength and courage.

At once you are surrounded by waters that seem to explode in every direction while pulling you deeper into a vortex of churning water.

It is you against the current—against nature in its most volatile form.

A challenge certainly worth every second.

Oct. 14, 2013, 12:22 p.m.

The Unit

Teamwork, it makes even the most treacherous of conditions a little better.

Your trust in your teammate when out in the field must be solid—you can’t be stuck questioning or second-guessing what the person behind you is doing.

A natural flow begins to develop with all teams, individuals seem to move to various positions and responsibilities naturally, and as the rhythm of the unit develops, so does its capabilities. Over time, the group begins to function in symbiosis, as a singular unit more effective as a whole than each individual member separately, making every challenge possible.

Together.

Oct. 13, 2013, 10:43 a.m.

Ice Cold River Crossings

Trekking across the sometimes unforgiving northern Canadian landscape is one thing, but crossing the icy cold rivers, brooks and streams, is quite another.

There is an odd mix of exhilaration and foreboding that seems to wash over you as you move closer and closer towards the a water crossing.

At once, you know the water will be freakishly cold, and that the current may be fierce enough to push you off balance. But in your mind you recognize that this challenge is exactly the reason why you came out here in the first place. To seek out these incredible adventures. To test yourself. To better yourself.

Oct. 11, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

This Great Land

Nunavik means "great land"

Nunavik comprises the northern third of the province of Quebec, Canada. It is larger than the U.S. state of California.

And the landscapes, mountains and sky honour this great name.

This place is so spectacular that you need to see it for yourself to beleive it.

Sept. 8, 2013, 11:33 a.m.

This Extraordinary Adventure

I woke to the sound of someone unzipping my tent fly. I looked up, slightly startled and unsure of where I was. A solidly built man in camouflage gear with a wind-burnished face was peering in at me. His teeth were too white and too close to me. I didn’t know who he was, but he certainly looked healthy. I also saw he had a rifle in his left hand and that he looked amused. “Time to wake up.”

He was smiling. I asked him what time it was and thought he said 10:30 a.m. A wave of embarrassment swept over me—here were the people who had come by boat from George River to pick us up, and we weren’t even awake yet, much less ready for them. I asked what everyone else was doing. “They’re sleeping too,” he said. I was tempted to remind him that I was technically no longer sleeping, but I prefer that people don’t know how petty I can be until after they get to know me.   

It turned out I’d misheard him: it was only 7:30! Daniel Annanack, his son Jacko and nephew David had come by boat over Ungava Bay.  

While we got breakfast and started packing up camp they happily threw lines into the river to fish, where thousands of Arctic char were sort of lining up to head up the rapids. Within a few minutes they’d caught a couple of good sized fish, and at least one was eaten raw by us before we headed out for George River.   

By 11 a.m. we had carried everything around the point and ferried it over to Daniel’s boat, a 23-foot aluminum beast with twin 150s on the back. We laughed and talked and ate char while we got ready to go. We took a last look up the Koroc River, white and loud as it emptied into Ungava Bay, until Daniel wheeled us around and we headed out into deep water.   

The day is hazy and cool, the sun more often than not a vague white sphere mostly obscured by cloud and fog. Nonetheless, the bay and the rocky shoreline to the east was beautiful, and the water calm enough to make good progress towards George River, where our Kuururjuaq expedition was coming to an end.

About 20 minutes out we see large canoes and other boats heading north. Daniel tells us that everyone is on their way to get clams. This is a reminder of what life is like in this part of the world: people in open canoes out on Ungava Bay, wrapped up against the cold and the damp, willing to travel an hour or more in each direction just to get clams. We see Bobby Snowflake, who lost his brother out on this bay about a year earlier, and Suzie Morgan, both smiling and seeming to enjoy the ride.   

About 30 minutes later we are in George River, unloading gear and talking and laughing with France and Charlie, our expedition hosts. They’ve been watching the weather for the last five days and keeping track of our progress, and frankly seem a little relieved to have us back safely—not that we were ever in any danger, but Kuururjuaq Park can be a challenging environment, and you need to go prepared and know what you’re doing.

The next morning we head to Kuujjuaaq and then on to Montreal. We are all starting to feel the cumulative effects of the cold, the wet and our exertion over the last 11 days. But, speaking for myself, all of it is infused with that feeling of satisfaction you only seem to get when you’ve done something incredibly worthwhile, experienced something real and powerful.

As tired as I am, my mind is full to overflowing with the images and sensations from this extraordinary land, from this extraordinary adventure.  

Over and out. 

Text by Paul Auerbach Photo by Colin O' Connor

Aug. 21, 2013, 1:03 p.m.

Remembering Mount D'Iberville

As Team Outpost looks back on their journey across Kuururjuaq, we decided to showcase their climb on Mont D’Iberville.

 

At 1,652 m, it is the highest summit in Quebec, providing a stunning view of la Belle Province and Labrador.

 

Stay tuned for more exclusive photos and a final farewell dispatch to Kuururjuaq.

 

Photos by Colin O’ Connor

Aug. 13, 2013, 12:39 p.m.

"You Will Experience Yourself and Your Own Fragility"

The river widens as we move west toward Ungava Bay, and for the first time since we got on the water we can see how clear the famed Koroc River really is.

The sand and silt that was washed into the river during the recent heavy rains has settled, and now we can see its bottom, 10 or even 15 feet down. The tree line meanders near the Koroc, and then crosses it further east.

We are now on the north side of the line again, and the landscape on both sides of the river is rocky and barren. If we were travelling overland to George River, we would be heading away from the river into country that would offer no protection from the wind and the cold at all. It would be like walking on top of a topographical map in a stark and unforgiving land. Still, as much as I like travelling on the river, I would relish the opportunity to strike out across the landscape once again, and to feel the vast expanse stretching out in every direction.

The widening river also makes the current much less forceful, and we are doing a lot of steady paddling. We have many kilometres to cover if we want to make it to the mouth of the river by tomorrow, which is what our schedule calls for.

Colin and I take over on the main oars for periods of time, but most of the heavy rowing is being done by Guillaume, who is as strong as he is good natured. We haven’t seen a soul in two days, and that won’t change until we reach Ungava Bay.

There is simply no one out here. We stop paddling and the raft does a slow 360, and all we hear is the breeze. The silence itself is breathtaking, and I can’t recall ever being in a quieter place.

In that rare moment when the wind isn’t blowing here, you will experience yourself and your own fragility in the midst of a landscape that has been formed over thousands of millennia.

We have, all of us, grown less talkative as we have moved through this land. It’s impressed upon us how still and quiet one needs to be to grasp even a small portion of what it can teach us. 

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

Aug. 8, 2013, 9:47 a.m.

Out and About on the Koroc

This looks like polar bear country. We have not yet heard about the polar bear incident over near the Labrador Coast, but I am a little apprehensive about white bears in this area.

 

They have been spotted even closer to George River than this. Mostly though, I’m glad to be getting into my sleeping bag after a cold afternoon. The wind down here on the coast is whipping, and even though it’s a nice day, the temperatures are cooler than further on up the river. 

We set up a wind break (the raft) and Colin starts fishing. Within a few minutes, he's got a large Arctic char on the line. The fishing here at the mouth of the Koroc is legendary, and within only a few minutes we've got four good-sized char that Colin and Guillaume are happily cleaning. Only a few minutes later and Colin has the wasabi and soy sauce out, and we're enjoying sashimi the likes of which you probably cannot get in Tokyo.

Dinner is grilled Arctic char and vegetables. I hear Colin and Guillaume out and about talking of the tides and rolling whitewater here at the mouth of the river. Will is talking about running some of the rapids we portaged around earlier today, but that can wait until tomorrow.

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

Aug. 6, 2013, 9:34 a.m.

Mountain Mornings, Nunavik Nights

The landscape continues to amaze us for its variety and its beauty, as we raft down the river, through the glorious summer days of Nunavik.

 

We are now well away from the Torngat Mountains, and instead are in a low range of hills about 40 kilometres east of the mouth of the river. On either side there are bogs and intermittent stands of larch, beyond which are the hills rising steeply away from the river.

Everywhere are signs of recent rockslides, with large amounts of talus and scree lying at the foot of some mountain that has disgorged them. 

We have a great afternoon of rafting and talking and eating. By the time 5:00 p.m. rolls around we are starting to flag, and the search for a campsite begins in earnest. Again, the influence of the recent rains can be felt as the campsites noted on Guillaume’s charts and maps are now submerged. 

When we finally locate a spot, we have just enough in our tank to set up tents, get dinner on the go, and make an attempt at filing a dispatch via satellite—hope you like!

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

Aug. 5, 2013, 11:35 a.m.

The Whitewater Risk

After breakfast we load up the raft and move out. It’s 10:30 a.m. or so before we hit the first set of rapids, which is always an eye opener.

 

But we’re getting used to how Guillaume manages the risk, and I just stare at the water and listen while he and Will run through the analysis of the rapids. 

And I really listen when they talk about which shore to swim to in the event of a flip—then remind Guillaume that I’m a writer here, not a daredevil, and that the story is more important than anything, and that my safety is paramount if the story of our expedition is going to be rendered in words.

The photos, I say, will speak for themselves—but the words really need a craftsman to arrange them in just a certain way.

By Paul Auerbach

Photo Colin O' Connor

 

Aug. 5, 2013, 11:08 a.m.

Morning Glory and Arctic Char

Waking early on a sandbar in the middle of the Koroc lends me the opportunity to sit in the silence, and absorb the scenery. 

To the east, the Koroc snakes through the sharply cut rock faces that suggest, at times, more Arizona than Northern Quebec. On each side of the river there are stands of low trees, mostly larch, but possibly black spruce as well.

The morning is grey and cool, and the wind is soft for a change, coming in gentle waves from the west, and, at least for a time, managing to keep the bugs down. 

Guillaume is up shortly, and moves very precisely as he gets breakfast started. In the backcountry I’m an oatmeal kind of guy; but Guillaume has opened my mind to all the options rafting can offer: typically, an omelette with toast should not be trusted out of a foil bag, unless there’s a frying pan to handle it. 

Colin and Will are both in good sprits. Colin takes on a boyish appearance as soon as there’s the possibility of catching fish, and the Koroc is famous—well beyond Quebec—for its luscious trout and famed Arctic char. 

The volume of water in the river has clouded it, and the fish have mostly been lying low; but Colin is undeterred and bursting with enthusiasm for the day’s fishing possibilities.  

By Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

 

Aug. 2, 2013, 1:02 p.m.

A Stunning Stillness

Everybody is getting along brilliantly—this team is really clicking. It’s drizzling softly, and everyone quickly finds something useful to do as we alight from raft for the day, and set up camp on a sandbar, confident that water levels have peaked and are dropping.

 

We use the raft as a windbreaker, and happily eat dinner, chatting about how stunning and isolated it is here on the Koroc River, probably dozens of kilometres from any other lively sole. 

 

When the group falls silent, the echoing stillness of the evening—a silence and calm of incredible proportions—speaks volumes.

 

By Paul Auerbach

 

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

 

Aug. 1, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

The Koroc Whitewater Exhilarates

There’s no doubt that the rains here make some things easier and some decisions harder. Rocks that are usually visible in the middle of the river are now obscured by raging, foaming whitewater.

Will is an experienced and able whitewater paddler, and is accompanying our 13-foot raft (where the rest of the team is) in a Pyranha kayak on his own. He and Guillaume are having detailed conversations about each set of rapids, often getting out of the boats to scramble through the willows to get a better look, before making critical decisions about what course to take.  

The volume of water is making travel on the river faster than normal and what we were expecting—it also makes the whitewater frothier, and more challenging. By the day’s end we’ve managed to navigate three sets of rapids, each one exhilarating and thrilling in its own way.

Somewhere along the way I discover that being struck in the face by a six degrees Celsius wave is just as effective as a cup of molten coffee when you don’t quite feel awake!

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

Aug. 1, 2013, 1:43 p.m.

It’s a Down River Raft!

We wake in good spirits, and begin preparing for the river rafting portion of our expedition. For the rest of the trip, we’ll be travelling down river by 13-foot raft over rapids and through currents that at times will make us feel like a giant rope is attached to our vessel, pulling us mightily forward.

After a gruelling three-hour portage around the raging Korluktok Falls, we set out down the Koroc River. The rains mean the river is higher and faster than usual, but soon we enter a band of boreal forest, and the trees are a welcome change of scenery.  

We run many sets of large rapids under the steady direction of our exceptional guide, Guillaume Lafleur. Guillaume is careful to gauge our abilities and tolerance for risk.

We have a lot of ground to cover over the next few days, and we’ve already expended a lot of energy trekking overland from the time we arrived in Nunavik, on July 13th.

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

Aug. 1, 2013, 1:35 p.m.

In Nunavik, every metre of trekking progress is earned

I have to admit—it felt good to know we would not be keeping the rest of the team waiting for us at the falls, even though we are disappointed not to have made the whole planned trek on foot. And the beauty of this big fat land splayed below us and before us is breathtaking, remarkable, a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

The chopper does one of those steep, hairpin turns to give us a look up the valley we had walked through these past six days, the rivers and creeks sparkling like necklaces unfurling on a green velvet background—the landscape looking so easy to master, so benign, from the height up here of what is comparable to (or what feels like!) the Empire State building.

But we know better. We know that every metre of trekking progress on the ground in Nunavik is earned (how did our Inuit ancestors survive, let alone thrive, here?)—and that only Colin’s photographs will convey the stunning beauty on display here.

We travel about 24 kilometres in 10 minutes. Looking down at the dark green boreal forest and steep hills below us, both Colin and I are thinking that that walk might’ve taken two days to do, even if the water levels had dropped quickly enough to allow us to cross the rivers.

Sometimes, you just can’t tell until you’re on the ground what is doable, and not. Aerial photos and topographical maps can tell you a lot; but they can’t convey how much energy, or how much time, every kilometre will consume.

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

July 31, 2013, 4 p.m.

I’ve Never Seen the Waters Like This!

We are not far from our last reported position, and the pilot with Nunavik Rotors has no difficulty locating us on the ridge. He does a large circle, descending smoothly, and puts the chopper down on the rocky plateau as if he was pulling into a suburban garage.

 

We wait for him to power down, and check our surroundings to make sure nothing is being left. Jean Francois greets us with a big smile. He knows the reason for this ride has everything to do with the swollen rivers that lay between us and Korluktok Falls.

“I’ve never seen them like this,” he says. Moments later, we are in the chopper, feeling the power surge and the bird starting to lift off. Nose down, we swoop low over the plateau as the ground falls away beneath us. 

In just a few seconds, we are a thousand feet up, the sun has come out, and we are gazing down on the silver line of river that had stopped us in our tracks. The lightness of flight was a strange contrast to the heavy, grounding force of trekking with the kind of packs we had humped all the way over these last six days.  

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 31, 2013, 1:25 p.m.

Nowhere to Hide on the Tundra

Rains on the barren lands of the northern tundra have little to break their fall—and when they fall you suddenly realize (again!) that this great big wide land, so glorious and open on the one hand, is devoid of secret hiding places, on the other.

Meanwhile, other members of the team are being flown to Korluktok Falls, and timing is becoming an issue. We’re all scheduled to meet on a specific date for the second part of our expedition (rafting down river), and we’re eager to make the rendezvous and a timely impression with the our hosts and outfitter. But we’re still 25 km away! 

Eventually, it becomes clear there’s no going back or forward: the rains are making the river impassable for every plausible option. We’ve no choice but to call in a helicopter to ferry us to Korluktok, but lament to ourselves that if such heavy rains hadn’t come, we’d need just two more days to complete the trek!

But we understand Nature won’t be controlled in such places as these, and after all, our food supplies are dwindling. Without the benefit of a satellite phone we’d have faced some difficult choices, possibly a daunting two-day walk with depleting sustenance, are so choose to be grateful. 

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O’Connor

July 29, 2013, 5:56 p.m.

Steeper and Deeper, I say

Finally, the cold rains drizzle out and eventually stop, and we pack our camp to continue our trek. We look for a crossing at the first creek we encounter: after a suitable period of manly expedition talk we agree—no way that’s gonna happen!

We are still on the north side of the Koroc River, on the broad ridges and plateaus where the walking is best. It’s still challenging, but we’ve covered a lot of ground, staying out of the willows that increasingly dominate the river’s edge.  

But again, we are forced to set up tent and take a time out: Colin and I are concerned about the weather. We discuss moving further away from the river, up the draw, in search of a point where we can cross. 

“Steeper and deeper,” I say, and Colin nods in agreement.

When we look up the draw we see rock faces stretching to 30 metres in height or higher. Even if we can cross higher up we’d be faced with dangerous, technical scrambling and climbing to get up the other side.

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo Colin O’Connor

July 29, 2013, 5:55 p.m.

Exhilarating and Daunting

The feeling of being out here, on this exposed ridge, deep in the backcountry, is hard to describe. It’s both exhilarating and daunting.

We’ve been on the ground here long enough to have a profound sense of how rugged and challenging an environment this is: the rain and the wind and the cold and the vast open spaces seem to come together just to impress on you how fragile you are compared to all that surrounds you.  

This is true of many of the most beautiful places any of us have visited in the past—where there is wilderness, its awesome beauty comes at a cost. Usually, it’s just comfort that needs to be sacrificed. Sometimes, the price is higher still; but fortunately for us, not this trip!  

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo Colin O’Connor

July 29, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

Our Trek Halts as the Sky Begins to Rage

The next morning, the team wakes early and starts to head west on the north shore of the Koroc. For the most part we stay on high ground and the weather cooperates. At mid-morning we spot a bear about a kilometre away.

At 500 metres, he starts to move towards us, up a slope with increasing speed. At 100 metres, he stops (and I’m almost sure so too does my heart). A bear banger and flare don’t seem to faze him, though finally he decides it’s best to leave us and ambles away up the hill.  

We carry on to the west in worsening weather. Rains start mid-afternoon and stop only for an hour or so, as we set up camp on a rocky plateau overlooking the river. The rains start again at 6 p.m., and come down in sheets for the next 15 hours straight. I become worried that the sands of time are streaming through the hour glass, as we are forced to stop and wait.

Little did we know that as we slept, the creeks we would need to cross during the following days are swelling like boiling milk. Crossings will be difficult, and in some cases impossible. 

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O' Connor

July 26, 2013, 5:50 p.m.

The Great White Bear Appears

My heart jumps when I see something white moving up above—for an instant I’m thinking it’s a polar bear ranging inland in search of food. The speed with which these animals cover difficult terrain is truly amazing, and we watch silently until it moves out of sight. 

We set up camp at the river’s edge at about 6 p.m. The daylight lasts until almost 10 p.m., so there is none of the usual pressure to get camp set up before dark. The food is the usual backpacker’s fare of dehydrated pasta: lasagne with meat sauce has established itself as the early favourite, and supply and demand is lopsided.  

The food is shared, as among brothers. Colin has made some outstanding choices and has distinguished himself as the resident chocolate expert.

Words by Paul Auerbach

Photo by Colin O’Connor

July 26, 2013, 2:21 p.m.

Crossing the Creeks of the Koroc Basin

A few days earlier we had started west and conditions were good. We walked higher on the ridges, looking over the valley towards the silent mountains to the south.

The team starts out west in good condition, early in the morning. We walk higher on the ridges, looking over the valley toward the silent mountains to the south. The air is astonishingly crisp, and the steep slopes a kilometre away across the valley stand out in sharp relief against the brilliant blue sky. 

By now the team is starting to gel, as we’ve had the benefit of trekking together for three full days. There is a strong sense of camaraderie, and everyone seems to take the inevitable joking in stride. The going gets slower toward lunch, and we spend a lot of time navigating through tall willows and walking over bogs and rocky ground.

Toward the end of the day, we are forced down towards the river where the going is better. We cross a number of creeks, some involving more adventure, and yelling and laughing, than others, and eventually cover the last kilometre or so on sand bars on the shores of the great Koroc River that slices this land. 

As we let up for the day, we see three Arctic wolves, and a pup, high on a ridge. We have company! 

Words by Paul Auerbach

 

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 26, 2013, 11:04 a.m.

Weather Turns and Circumstances Change

It was left for me to arrange the pick-up. You always plan for these contingencies, but in the back of your mind you don’t really expect anything of the kind to happen.

Well, now it’s in the forefront of my mind, and I give Peter Duncan a call from Nunavik Rotors. Peter owns a helicopter company, and he’s in the air more than on the ground. I’m lucky, as he answers the phone at home on a late Saturday afternoon, and explains that rough weather—it seems to be all about the weather—has grounded one of the choppers scheduled to head north.

As the weather was a little less ferocious to the east, where our guys were now stranded, I got a bit of good news from Peter. “We can take off within 15 minutes. Send me their GPS location and tell them to be ready for pick-up at 3:15 p.m. in a clearing where we can land.”

I email him the GPS coordinates from Team Outpost’s SPOT device—each morning the guys use the device to send a check in/OK message which includes their latitude: 58.66889, longitude: -64.18048. Departure and pick-up are confirmed.

Now I’m waiting by my phone for the call back from the field. I’m checking my cell signal strength and start to worry as the bars fluctuate between 2 and 3 and 0, and then back to 3 again. I call my phone several times from my landline to make sure it can take a call—seems to be working, but I’m still worried I might miss their call.

 Missing a SAT call may mean they won’t be able to connect again, and now I’m going through all the possibilities if we don’t connect: they don’t get to a clearing in time, they decide to try and cross the Koroc River if we can’t connect, they decide to seek shelter in their tents, thinking it will be an entire day before a copter can make it in.

I try calling the SAT number with the hope it might still be on, though to save battery life they only turn it on when making a call. The automated voice comes on, “Don’t hang up, we are transferring your call,” and then an automated voice comes on saying something to the effect that the phone ain’t on, so you ain’t getting through!

I wait 30 minutes, and then another 30, and 3:15 p.m. is fast approaching. Finally, the call comes in and I relay the instructions for pick-up. Paul’s relief is clearly evident in his voice, and he tells me they are ready and in a clearing, waiting. “Call me as soon as you are successfully at Korluktok Falls, OK?” I say.

This is the stuff of wilderness trekking. The weather has turned, circumstances have changed. Stay tuned for more, as Paul and Colin check in from the field!

Words by Matt

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 26, 2013, 10:39 a.m.

The Mighty Koroc Roars

The cellphone suddenly rings, and I can see it’s the SAT again. In our last call, we had determined the guys were going to continue on because the weather seemed to be clearing, and they’d check in tomorrow.

I was now concerned that something had developed, as Paul’s voice crackled through. “Matt, we’ve hit a dead-end, and the river is flowing over its banks with all this rain. We trekked back to see if there was a go around, if there’s any way to get across, but there’s not.”

With all the recent flooding that’s happened, with all this strange summer weather of incredible thunderstorms, flash urban flooding and rivers swelling and spilling water in the weirdest ways, I am not surprised. Yesterday, violent storms were reported in Montreal and across southwestern Quebec, and though we’re trekking in the province’s northern region, it all feels part of the bigger picture.

We had brought a 4.5 lb. inflatable Alpacka raft—an extraordinary piece of equipment—on the expedition, just to allow for river and lake crossings. The idea is that one guy paddles across with his pack while the others pull the raft, which is tethered to a rope, back. This was how we had envisioned everybody crossing the Koroc River; but Paul and Colin had tested the water, and decided the river was just moving way too fast and that an attempt would be foolhardy.

“There are literally white caps everywhere on the river, and it’s simply impassable,” says Paul. Now I’m worried, cause Paul and Colin are pretty hardy fellows and experienced hikers (as is everybody on Team Outpost!). And if they’ve assessed a no-go, I’m hoping the situation isn’t worse than they’re saying.

“Wish we had better news, Matt. But it could take days for the river to calm down. Think we’ll need a fly out!”

Words by Matt

 Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 26, 2013, 10:39 a.m.

The Wonder of SAT Phones!

It’s not always easy getting accurate weather reports in very remote areas, but after several calls and some Googling in between, I’ve got a detailed three-day forecast that I can relay when the next SAT number pops up on my cell.

Fantastic technology, the SAT phone, and though calls get dropped regularly as the satellites move beyond the horizon or as thick clouds roll in – or as static turns “Tell Will we’re making tracks” into “Tell Will to bring in bacon sandwiches” – I am still ever so glad to have access to the team in the field. When married with a SPOT device, which connects more easily to the satellite grid, we can also track the team as they trek along, and it adds communication assurances re: their safety. A big must for me.

The phone rings, and as Paul likes to say, “Too much information, Matt.” But I get out the three-day weather report, thankful we’re connecting. Paul tells me assuringly, “We’ll set out again this afternoon and try to make solid ground. Let them know we should be in Korluktok Falls later tomorrow.”

And then the call drops again, and I lament that I didn’t get to check on the bacon sandwich order. But am momentarily reassured, knowing they’ll be moving more today, shortening the distance to their connection.

Words by Matt

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 20, 2013, 5:01 p.m.

The Weather is Turning

Heard from the Team this morning that the weather has turned, and they may have to hunker down for the day.

Downpour making trekking difficult and potentially dangerous, as it’s not just about the wet and the rain, but the slippery rocky terrain.

SAT phone communication is not always crystal clear, and though I could certainly make out their instructions, “Matt, we need you to get us a weather report for the remainder of today and into tomorrow so we can make some decisions” it sounded a bit like Paul was speaking behind a mask and over a crackling campfire.

The guys were expected in Korluktok Falls today, July 20th, where there’s a way-station. The idea was to connect up with rafts, guide and Will, another member of the expedition who is bringing in supplies.

But they are now a full day out, and more, if the poor weather persists. I can hear Paul’s voice crackling over the phone, “Tell Will to bring in bacon sandwiches!” But his voice trails to a whisper through the static just as I start laughing (did he really say ‘bacon sandwiches?’), and then the SAT phone drops the call, as they are wont to do. Better get in touch with Will, fast–will take time to cook that bacon.

Words by Matt Robinson, Expedition Manager

Photo by Will Allen

July 20, 2013, 12:55 p.m.

Rolling Thunder

We woke to the sound of rolling thunder in the Koroc valley at the gravel airstrip where we had landed the night before.

The concussive peels of thunder rolled through the valley and the threatened rains arrived shortly after.

As we finished packing and getting ready to move, the rain came literally in sheets, being propelled by the wind. We crossed the Koroc River by foot, wading through the crystal current, then headed north, up a side valley that will lead us to Mount D’Iberville.

The valley stretched out for miles in front of us, just as a high pressure system moved in and the weather began to improve. As we trekked across the river’s remote and stunning basin, we spotted black bears on hillsides and caribou on a distant ridge.

We arrived at our base camp after a gruelling 12 km trek over what was at times uneven and rough terrain, but challenging too, because of our fully loaded packs. Truthfully, base camp was a welcome relief, and sleep that night came sound and easy. Except for the mysterious drone-like night rumbles drifting out of the tent of the unknown snorer.    

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 19, 2013, 3:12 p.m.

On The Move

Towards the Turquoise waters of the legendary Koroc River.

After an intense climb up Mont D'Iberville, Team Outpost Kuururjuaq is back on the move after a well-deserved rest.

 

With spirits soaring and morale high after becoming the first magazine ever to summit Mont D'Iberville, Team Outpost is now heading due south towards the Turquoise waters of the legendary Koroc River.

 

Photo by Colin O’ Connor  

July 16, 2013, 2:37 p.m.

We did it!

After a rigorous summit.

Outpost Magazine is the first Canadian magazine to summit Mont D'Iberville! Stay tuned for more as Outpost treks and rafts 170kms back to George River...it’s gonna be a wild ride.  

Photo by Colin O’ Connor 

July 15, 2013, 4:51 p.m.

Mont D'Iberville Reaching Skyward

After a final briefing from Nunavik Parks personnel, we hiked in the hills around Kangiqsualujjuaq (George River).

As we climbed, the wind gusted and the sun shone, and we were able to take in the view of the George River, flowing north to Ungava Bay. 

By 4 pm, we are in the Inuit Air Twin Otter, roaring up the Koroc River with the sun sparkling off the water 500 feet below. We study the terrain we are going to be hiking soon, and then to the north, we see Mont D'Iberville reaching skyward. 

Now on the ground, we watch as the plane rises and turns back toward civilization. We set up our tents on the broad valley floor, and take in the sheer immensity of this place, which is greater than pictures can convey. We are all excited and looking forward to trekking up the side valley to the Grande Dame herself, Mont D'Iberville.

Photo by Colin O’ Connor

July 13, 2013, 10:34 p.m.

Legends and Myths

Everywhere here seems infused with these kind of not-so-veiled Inuit legends and myths.

Mont D'Iberville is known to the Inuit here as "the place that was only ice but is no more." And the Torngats (Mountain) come from an Inuit term meaning "the place where our spirits live." Everywhere here seems infused with these kind of not-so-veiled Inuit legends and myths. 

And that wind. Constantly whistling, constantly a presence of magic and spirits in motion. Speaking of spirits, Suzie, an Inuit Elder here, today warned me not to look at spirits or shamans along this Koroc River corridor.

And "don't be surprised if you see them on ski-doos," she added. "They used to chase us by ghostly dog team, but the spirits have kept up with technology!"

Finally, the caribou depend entirely on lichen here; and "tingiit" is the Inuit word for lichen. Tingiit also means pubic hair...Go figure! 

Words by Bill Roberts

Photo by Colin O’ Connor 

July 13, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

In Kangiqsualujjaq

Breathe deeply and absorb the spirit of our land.

Quite a day of discovering the George River Plateau by air, walk, tour and airport. Our first glimpse today of the Ungava Coast and the Koroc River valley. 

In Kuujjuaaq we felt the in-your-face force of the prevailing Nunavik winds. And were reminded of the Inuit invitation to breathe deeply and absorb the spirit of our land.

In Kangiqsualujjaq tonight we did our supper foraging at the local cooperative. Then reviewed routes, maps and safe options for the next two weeks of walking, climbing and river travel. All following the traditional Inuit trade routes.

The team is syncing with the rhythms and harmony of our indigenous hosts. All very promising for the expedition afoot.

Words by Bill Roberts

Photo by Colin O' Connor 

July 12, 2013, 2:34 p.m.

Final Checks

The land calls to them, beckoning them forward.

Team Outpost arrives in George River after their First Air flight from Montreal to Kuujjuaq, then took an Air Inuit flight a few hours later from Kuujjuaq to Kangiqsualujjaq (also known as George River).

One final set of diagnostic testing is performed on the various pieces of equipment to make sure everything is in working order: satellite phones, tracking devices, solar panels, batteries, videos and audio equipment—all is rigorously tested to ensure it works and works well.

With the final checks complete, the team signs off for the night for some much needed rest.

The expedition ahead looms—excitement, anticipation and determination run high with the team, as the land calls out, beckoning them forward. 

Photo by Colin O' Connor 

July 12, 2013, 2:32 p.m.

It Begins

All are equally necessary to the success of this expedition.

Finally, after countless hours of preparation, planning and remote conferencing, Team Outpost Kuururjuaq meets in person at the Burgundy Lion restaurant and pub in Montreal.

 

Seeing each other for the first time galvanizes the team, and spirits are high as each member introduces themselves to their expedition partners.  

For the next two weeks, each member will be in total symbiosis, each member reliant on the next for their respective skills: videographer, writer, mountaineer, gear expert—all are equally necessary to the success of this expedition—and to the constitution of the team.  

After the formalities of introduction, Team Outpost hunkers down to review the topography of the Nunavik region, measuring distances and charting paths, with a swig or two of beer to get the conversation and social juices flowing. 

opXpeditions Kuururjuaq has officially started.

Will Allen (left), Paul Auerbach (centre) and Bill Roberts hunker down to chart the course

Photo by Colin O' Connor 

July 12, 2013, 2:28 p.m.

Kuururjuaq Expedition

Stay tuned as Outpost explores this legendary Inuit land.

Outpost's Kuururjuaq Expedition, set to launch in mid-July, will trace an ancient Inuit trading route along the Koroc River through Parc national Kuururjuaq in Nunavik, homeland of the Inuit people of Quebec.

July 5, 2013, 5:01 p.m.