Canada’s Arctic – Baffin Island Longest Backpacking trail (15 days)

The trip to backpack a wonderful peninsula for about 75 m/ 120 k with a few river crossings and rough terrain starting on a plateau and ending in the valley of a big river, with sides averaging 800 feet / 500 m. This is taking place in the Meta Incognita peninsula, often referred as Baffin’s Florida, in Katannilik Territorial Park.. The Itijjagiaq Trail follows a traditional pathway from Iqaluit to Kimmirut. It is item 18 in Canada’s longest hiking trails (see http://www.explore-mag.com/35_of_Canadas_Longest_Hiking_Trails )

The highlights of this remote and challenging trail include the ecosystem fed by the Soper Heritage River, ancient geology, the high plateau of Meta Incognita Peninsula and the glacier-scarred valleys beyond. Wildlife includes wolves, foxes, caribou and perhaps even polar bears (For polar bears, we would bring bear bangers.) Flora includes dwarf birch, willow, Labrador tea, Arctic heather and grassland tundra. Hike in July and August to see the vibrant Arctic blooms; truly an unforgettable experience in Canada’s far north.

I went many times to Baffin, mostly for backpacking but also for kayaking. A description of a similar trip, with three differences (i.e., we will do the whole trail and not just half, we will not fly to height of land and we will not have a boat on the river to carry our packs) can be found on Arctic Kingdom website under Soper River. A closer description can be found in a brochure from Blackfeather that I can send by e-mail.

The scenery is great from the valley but it is getting better once you climb up a bit to see it from above. As such, some days are planned to have less distance travelled so time is available to climb a peak nearby. My research is all done and I could coordinate many aspects. Next summer, the best dates to go, weather wise, would be from August 4nd to 18th when the bloom is good and the black flies less aggressive. At that time, the average temperature ranges between 4 and 10C or 39 and 50F in the valley.

This is an arctic trip that is reasonably affordable, safe and logistically manageable as you can get there with scheduled flights and the Park maintains nine emergency shelters. If you want to do some research, you can start by ordering the map of the trail from Nunavut Tourism at 1.8666.686.2888.

The required budget could be as follows:

1) Approximately 200$ for the Park entry and one boat ride.

2) Accommodations costs can be avoided completely by camping in communities as hotels are, otherwise, very expensive. This is what I am going to do.

3) Lightweight and rich food as well as lightweight gears.

4) Leaving aside the gears and food, the most expensive thing is the airfare. For example, the return flight from Ottawa is approximately 3000$ Canadian (First Air to Iqaluit for the way up and Kimmirut to Ottawa, via Iqaluit, for the way down) but it is still a lot cheaper than other arctic trip as you don’t need to add the cost of a charter plane.

As the packs would be heavy (approximately 30 kg or 65 pounds), a few weather-bound days are possible and well-though planning for weeks of autonomy respecting food and gears is critical, the composition of the group is very important. It is therefore important that interested persons be able to do at least one short group activity over the next few months, most likely in the New York State’s Adirondacks, in order to make sure that participants are compatible, capable, well equipped and fit enough. Since the river crossings are not expected to be extremely challenging, someone that is relatively short can still manage the crossings.

If you are interested, the next steps would be to participate into a discussion on Skype or phone. In order to participate in that discussion, please send me an e-mail (stephane_roberge@hotmail.com) with your skype id or phone number as well as your age, weight and height with a description of your relevant experience for this trip (backpacking or other similar trip) and whether the airfare is an issue. Please note that I am away from e-mail from Dec 31 to Feb 6 (Patagonia).

As you can expect, participation to this event would be subject to future decisions by the team leader in consultation with participants that have been accepted up to that point.

I am experienced, well-organized, mature, tall and fit. In addition to my personal gear, I have a good 2 person tent that can stand the possible strong winds.

Here is the precise itinerary with the days, the objectives, intensity and, as needed, clarifications:

Date What Intensity Note
4 (Fri) YOW-YFB (CN 12:45-15:59)
Park office (orientation course / pickup phone) and buying gas Low I (Intensity) 15 D (Day) away with 13.3 D of food in pack (i.e., starting with breakfast on the 5th and ending with breakfast on the 18th)
1. 5 Boat ride (2 h) and hike (5 K) Medium I
2. 6 Hike (10 k) High I
3. 7 Hike (10 k) High I
4. 8 Hike (5 k) = 30 out of 120 k Medium I Option to climb a mountain
5. 9 Hike (12 k) High I
6. 10 Hike (12 k) High I
7. 11 (Fri) Hike (5 k) = 59 out of 120 k Medium I Option to climb a mountain
8. 12 Hike (12 k) High I
9. 13 Hike (12 k) High I
10. 14 Hike (5 k) = 88 out of 120 k Medium I Option to climb a mountain
11. 15 Hike (12 k) High I
12. 16 Hike (12 k) High I
13. 17 Hike (8 k) = 120 out of 120 k Medium I YLC-YFB (14 :50-15 :36) as option
18 (Fri) not 15
YLC-YFB (FA 10 :15 – 10 :50)
YLC-YFB (CN 17:15-20:25) Low I Note: next YLC-YFB is on the 22nd.

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  1. You can see another option on the same dates for another place on Baffin island but with climbing