Monday, April 4, 2016

Exploring The Pond Inlet Shortcut - Part 2

I'm going back.  And this time, I'm bringing more gas.
March 29 was the day I returned to the Pond Inlet Shortcut with 10 gallons of extra gas.  My aim was to surpass the place where I stopped the last time and drive between 15 - 20km further inland.  I wanted to see with my own eyes by what the locals described as "too many rocks."  My actual destination was a large clearing, at least, that's what it looked like on Google Earth
Driving off the frozen inlet. Frowning shadow face left of centre.
Frowning shadow face.
I was fully packed and ready for adventure . . . again.  My fourth solo land excursion.  I followed the same skidoo trail for the first 50km.  It took me about an hour to reach the end of the inlet.  I happened to be the only one travelling in this direction.  I also didn't see any seals or polar bears.  My mind did a good job of drowning out the monotonous sound of the skidoo engine.  The funny mountain face shadow was there again when I drove off the ice, but this time, the "shadow man" was frowning.  Was he trying to warn me about something?

Entrance to narrow corridor.
I managed to find the exact spot where I stopped my skidoo on March 25.  The weather here wasn't as windy as it was during the previous excursion.  I had a snack and bathroom break before turning my attention to the southeast.  The tall mountains come together to form a tight but passable corridor.  Before I could gain access to this corridor, I had to navigate my skidoo around the many patches of exposed rocks.  I could have easily driven over these patches but I didn't want to risk damaging my skidoo tracks.  I felt like a frog, "hopping" from one white snow patch to another.  I followed a pre-established skidoo trail up the left side of a hill before I was forced to make my own.
Rocky landscape. Facing north west towards Arctic Bay.
I stopped halfway up the hill and proceeded on foot.  I needed to get a clearer picture of the land ahead of me before I could move my skidoo.  If my vehicle broke down, I would be in trouble.  I took pictures of the rocky landscape and noted how the frozen river entered the narrow corridor.  I walked back to my skidoo and slowly drove forward.  I descended down a hillside and noticed the remnants of a skidoo trail.  I followed the trail, crossing over to the right side of the corridor and driving up another hill.  I photographed a small inukshuk before continuing on my journey.

A recently made skidoo trail appeared after I drove down a hill.  The path followed the frozen river and snaked around large rocks.  I entered a large clearing surrounded by mountains.  The trail led me to an exit on the left side of the clearing.  The hills began to converge even closer to each other. 

After several more twists and turns, I reached a section of the shortcut that was littered with rocks.  They looked more like boulders and they were in my way.  The skidoo trail went around some of them but most were on the trail.  Someone from Pond Inlet came this way several days ago but was also pulling a qamutik (sled).  I heard he spent most of the day trying to get through this section.  Now I knew & saw why.  I stepped off my skidoo, scratched my head, and pondered what to do.  I would have to drive very, very carefully.
I drove up to the first large boulder (in the way) and lined up the skidoo tracks.  I revved the skidoo engine several times and squeezed the throttle.  My skidoo quickly went up and over the boulder.  I stopped the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief.  I lined up to go over the second boulder.  I revved the skidoo engine several times and squeezed the throttle.  Despite my best effort, the skidoo drove up the left side of the boulder and tipped.  I landed on my left side.
I wasn't injured.  I immediately pressed the kill-switch and rolled off the skidoo.  I discarded my backpack & shotgun and immediately began removing the two five-gallons gas cans.  I moved all these items off to the side and got to work on lifting the snow machine.  My efforts were successful on the fourth try.  I was glad my snow machine didn't weigh so much.
I walked up an adjacent hill to see how the trail progressed.  The next section around the bend had less boulders but, from a distance, the one after looked full of them.  At the time, I decided I didn't want to get "in too deep" and that it would be better to turn around and head back.  Now that I think about it, I could have successfully pushed onwards by alternating between moving the skidoo & all my extra equipment.  I guess the second boulder convinced me I was not up to the task. 
Turning the skidoo around gave me a workout on my upper body.  With so many boulders around the snow machine, I had to manually turn it around.  When the machine was facing the opposite direction, I slowly drove it over and around the large boulders.  I reattached the spare gas cans, and put on my backpack & shotgun.  I took one last look at the boulder(s) that prevented me from reaching my destination and drove off.  I wished I was a licensed pyrotechnic because all the boulders along this path need to be dynamited and cleared.
Entrance to narrow corridor. Facing north west, towards Arctic Bay.
Hidden skidoo path. Facing north west,
towards Arctic Bay.
A small white arctic hare suddenly dashed across the skidoo trail ahead of me.  Had he been watching me all this time?  The hare ran out of sight so quickly, I didn't have a chance to photograph it.  I emerged from the narrow corridor and followed the frozen river for some time before driving up the hillside I used to avoid the rocks.  I had to lean on my right side to prevent my skidoo from tipping again.  I drove across the flat rocky plain - avoiding the rocks, of course, - and onto the ice.  I followed the skidoo trail all the way back to Arctic Bay.  I was home by 4pm.
Skidoo path leading back to Arctic Bay.
I was disappointed for not being able to drive as far inland as I wanted.  Although, I didn't damage my snow machine, and now had a clearer understanding of what to expect on the shortcut.  Several weeks before these excursions, I had talked about wanting & planning to drive to Pond Inlet and back during the Easter/Spring Break.  I'm glad I chose to investigate the trails first rather than arrive pulling a qamutik and "play it by ear".  My skidoo trip to Pond Inlet will have to wait until next spring.  Maybe I'll take the long way, that is, travelling north, then east, past Bylot Island.  Only time will tell.      

End of ETPIS Mini-Series.

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