When the Spaniard and I got married, after knowing each other for a number of years, I thought I knew him fairly well. Of course you can never know another fully, but I did think that I knew the main and essential facts about the love of my life: a passionate, expressive, loving, energetic, athletic man with a deep love for the wilderness, especially mountains. I knew that he had spent years exploring the mountains of both Spain and Canada, and that his favorite thing to do was to climb them, in both winter and summer. While I spent a decade becoming a doctor, he spent a decade getting an education in the mountains.
I am sure you know where this is going. You know how when you think you really know something, when you have certainty about your belief, that life of course is about to come along and turn that belief upside down, reminding you yet again that there is no such thing as certainty. That’s what happened to me on our honeymoon, when we spent some time hiking and camping in the Jasper area, a place where Martin had lived for a number of years. And explored. It was really fun to be there and hear him talk about every peak in the area like an old friend. He had climbed every mountain and walked very valley. But one day I had my eyes opened when he showed me the face of Pyramid Mountain. And casually mentioned that he was the first person EVER to ski down the face. The FACE. Turns out it wasn’t that straight forward. He looked at that face for years, and thought about it for months, and in fact couldn’t ski the whole thing – there was a section that he had to rappel down, with his skis on his back.
Oh really. So this is who I’ve married – a hard core mountain man. Oh my.
So, here we are, some years later, still married. Now we are living in the north, a place we came for adventure and experience. We thought it would be a great way to experience northern Canada – the people and the places, and ideally, the Arctic regions too. (Little did we know that our decision to buy a houseboat on Great Slave Lake was going to be a big adventure in itself).
And so this week we are making preparations for the next big adventure, Husband on Ice. Martin and a friend are leaving this week on a 1000 km dog sled trip along the Arctic coastline. It’s going to be an amazing experience, an adventure of a lifetime. How it came about is a story in itself.
Martin was in town one day this summer, watching world cup soccer, and began chatting with the fellow sitting next to him. After a while a light went off for both of them, and they realized they were long lost climbing buddies. I’d heard about Martin’s friend Max for years – they spend many days together rock and ice climbing in the Jasper area. Little did we know that Max had also moved to Yellowknife, and it turns out, lives on Great Slave lake not too far away from us.
Max in fact lives in a neat cabin a ways out of town, in order to have room to house his team of dogs. We had a wonderful dinner visiting with him earlier this winter – this involved a moonlit walk down a long (ie nonfunctional) driveway to the cabin on the lake. The traditional cabin was warm and cozy, lit by candles and heated by a wood stove. It was small but well organized, full of dog sled paraphernalia, books on dogs and the north, the occasional fur rug, and northern art related to Max’s two passions – dog sledding and kayaking. (In the summer, Max spends 6 weeks each year kayaking the northwest passage. This summer he is planning to go from Baffin Island to Greenland). Dinner was a delicious elk roast that Max cooked.
Somehow the idea of a dog sled trip arose, and without much ado, the plan was made. Max and Martin are now busy preparing. They are going to drive from Yellowknife to Tuktoyaktuk, then travel on the sea ice by dog team from Tuktoyaktuk to Kugluktuk, a distance of 1000 km, which they expect to take about 30 to 35 days. Since they will be travelling in April, they can hope for generally warmer temperatures, (perhaps between -20 and – 30 C) and certainly long hours of daylight. They might of course encounter much colder weather, and probably a few days of blizzard like conditions as well.
It amazes me how this is coming about – once the decision was made, of course there is lots of planning to do and things to consider – and what surprises me most is how relatively easy it has been. Of course it helps that Max has a dog team and sled and a wealth of northern travel experience, and that he and Martin have done wilderness adventures before, but it seems that our previous adventures have equipped Martin quite well for this sort of trip – he didn’t even need to buy much gear. I think his main purchases are the special ski bindings he needs, (they allow one to wear normal heavy duty winter boots rather than cold ski boots), and some roomy fur over mitts for driving the sled. (One of them will be on the sled while the other skis, or gets towed on skis.)
There are so many interesting things I want to say about this trip that I am going to have to continue them in the next post!