When I arrived in Canada, I took a small shuttle-bus from Calgary to Jasper. On the way, we stopped for a break at the Columbia Icefields which straddle Jasper and Banff National Parks. I was informed by the driver/guide that this was the Great Divide, or Continental Divide of the Americas as it is also known. This huge array of glaciers in the peaks of the Rocky Mountains is the source of all water draining into the 3 oceans surrounding Canada – the Arctic, the Pacific, and the Atlantic Oceans. ‘Well, I thought to myself – that’s the adventure for me!’ From then on, my sole objective was to travel from this magnificent series of Glaciers to the sea.
Over the past year, my partner and I have developed this rough expedition plan into a feasible voyage. This expedition ends at of the Beaufort Sea from the Mackenzie River Delta in the Arctic Ocean – a journey of some 4,000km from the Columbia Glacier in the Columbia Icefields.
From the glacial source of the Athabasca River, we follow this entire river to its output into the Athabasca Lake. From this lake we follow its drainage into the Slave River and into Great Slave Lake. We traverse a portion of this lake into the Mackenzie River and follow its entire length and output into the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. We then follow the Arctic Ocean coastline some 40km until reaching Tuktoyaktuk – a small Inuit village from where we can begin our return home using far more modern methods.
This expedition entails around 4,000km of primarily paddling with some necessary hiking (most likely snow-shoeing), and we have planned to take 4 months to complete. Our aim is not a race to the finish, but to experience almost 3 seasons (spring, summer and autumn) in the Canadian Wilderness powered by our own steam and with limited outside assistance.
Our Expedition is divided into 5 Stages (I-V) so as to make planning easier, and so the stages do not appear too long. I prefer to have smaller sections whilst undertaking such a venture so that each portion appears more obtainable. Such a vast distance can appear daunting when looked at as a whole. Each section has been chosen so as to make them reasonable in length and logical, as for the most part, each River is a section. The only exception is Stage I as this entails hiking/snowshoeing and canoeing a small part of the Athabasca River to Jasper.
We undertake this venture to explore the rugged beauty and unforgiving terrain of the Canadian North, a journey which relatively few people ever experience during their lifetimes. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that offers the potential to travel through and cover vast distances of wilderness North, East, South and West via canoe. Our aim for the expedition is to capture the Canadian spirit of tradition and modernity. We shall travel by means of canoe – the traditional method – used for thousands of years to navigate the waterways, whilst utilising the modern equipment available to us.
Few methods of travel engage a person so intimately with their environment as does a canoe journey along rivers and across lakes. This method is so unobtrusive to the natural surroundings that it allows a person to explore more than just the physical attributes of nature.
The end goal of this expedition is to learn more of Canada, and to pass on what we have learnt of this magnificent environment to others, whilst exploring the differing ecosystems and terrain encountered along the route. I shall be chronicling our travels online; before, during and after the expedition and its final evaluation is complete. I also intend to record and document my journey visually as much as possible, so will post pictures and hopefully some film upon our return.
Thank you for taking the time to read this expedition summary, and I hope you find this expedition as interesting and exciting a venture as I do. This promises to be a wondrous journey full of adventure, excitement, and its share of danger, and I hope to pass on what I experience so that as many people as possible can share in my voyage from wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing.