Tuesday, December 3, 2013

News and crazy idea

So it has been quite a while now without posts. Well life can't be always as exciting as last year.
At the moment Julien is working at MEC in Edmonton while Piia is enjoying her last moments of wilderness in Alaska.

After our challenging backpacking adventure this summer I (Julien) thought that I was done with long distance backpacking for a while. Well I always say that and two months after I dream about going back in the mountains.

For a few weeks I have been looking for different possibilities until the ultimate idea came to my mind :
Baffin Island
This island is located in front of Greenland, most of it is in Arctic area. It's really remote, without any high vegetation and the average temperature in July is about 8°C. This is a totally crazy idea, I mean, I'm thinking that we might be able to cross the island from south to north by walking about 1400 km next summer.

So for now, we have about 10% chance to really do it as it is a big project on which we have to work a lot if we want to do it safely. What I will try to do is to share in this blog the different steps that could eventually lead us to the Baffin Island ,or not. Including how we investigate the area, the mapping methods used, the first thoughts about the gear. Meaning all the steps which are in my opinion important while planning a pretty serious expedition like that.

So let's summarize :
-Monday - I get the idea while watching http://www.panoramio.com/, the landscapes are amazing, that looks challenging, not so much vegetation so we would be free to adapt our routes. Okay, project launched.
-Tuesday - Research online, first measurement between the communities using google map. It looks like the distance between the communities through the most interesting area of the Island (East coast), is about 1000-1400 km so our ideal length. Evaluation of first problems : Cold and windy climate, really technical terrains, high density of polar bears on the coast, many glacier to go through.
-Wednesday - Study of climate data using http://en.allmetsat.com/climate/nunavut-baffin-ellesmere.php . Then on google earth I tried to adjust the first draft in order to avoid the most difficult glacier, I mainly focused on the glacier issue and not really on wildlife or terrain issues, that we come after with the input of local advice. The route look like that after this step.

View Larger Map

So a reasonable plan would be to leave from  Pangnirtung and head to Pond Inlet on the North side. The glaciers issue as well as the river crossing issue might be resolved by the use of a packcrafs. (https://www.alpackaraft.com/index.cfm/store.catalog/Packrafts/Alpaca)
-Thursday - Research on the possibility of making a food drop after about 700km. At this point Google Earth is not accurate enough to be able to have a good idea of the terrain, I switched to some GIS data found on earthexplorer.usgs.gov , i focus on some elevation layer (DEM from ASTER) as well as some Landsat 7 ETM+ images which will allow me to assess the shape of the glacier in late July. There isn't any Topographic maps of Baffin Island that we could use so the data downloaded will be used to create our own Topographic map.
-Friday - I mostly plaid with the map on QGIS (http://www.qgis.org/en/site/) which is a free and open-source GIS software. I merged all the images together in order to get a full coverage of the area and produced the contour lines of our future topographic maps.

Contour lines produced on Qgis
Relief map, will help for the route planning

-Saturday - Obviously this adventure will be really expensive so I began to look at the costs in gears, logistic and food. I contacted the national parks office and some locals in order to get their feeling about what we plan to do.
-Sunday - We might be able to use some kind of trolley in order to not carry too much on our bags, the terrain seems appropriate to this system. There is a small community : Clyde river located at about half way to Pond Inlet. It is on the coast but it seems possible to reach it by doing a small detour. That might be an interesting option to consider. The layer showing the glacier are now ready and wow, this place looks amazing from a satellite point of view!
Landsat mosaic around Pangnirtung

So here was a short summary of a crazy week. I haven't slept so i was excited about this idea. As I said before it might never happen but we won't know until we try to make it happen so here we are officially trying.

This is just us showing how we plan things, we are not experts and might be a bit messy in our way of doing but you know sometimes you feel like checking maps sometimes you feel more like checking out some gears. The main point is to keep track of everything so everything that is done doesn't have to be done again, in those kind of period my bookmark folder get heavier and heavier every hours :D.

Piia is joining me in Edmonton in about a week, she will be able to give her point of view and to take her share of the huge amount of work that we have to accomplish if we want to go there.

See you soon!