Coordinates: 66.18.922 N, 65.32.032 W
Distance Traveled: 19.26 mi / 30.99km
Temperature: -16 °F/ -27 °C
Wind: 3 MPH / 4.82 KPH
Cloud Cover: Mostly sunny with high cirrus clouds moving in by late afternoon.
A small crowd of community members came down to the ice to see us off this afternoon. We lashed our sleds and hooked up our dogs with a few butterflies in our stomachs. Our dogs were well rested and excited to pull after a week’s rest. Between us and the flat, open ice of the Pangnirtung Fiord was 100 meters of jumbled barrier ice, the broken ice that lines the shore, pushed up by tides and wind. We knew our dogs would pull with a great deal of strength and that the sleds would be careening in a somewhat out-of-control way, bouncing like a pinball off the mounds of ice.
I was mushing with Stetson in the first sled. We were both hanging on with all our strength and dragging our feet to try to slow the sled down. Finally we emerged from the barrier ice onto the flat ice of the sound. I let out a sigh of relief and said to Stetson, “Well, that wasn’t so bad!”
Now the challenge would be to put our skis on while the sled was moving because there would be no hope of stopping the dogs for long enough to put them on. I climbed over the handle bars, up onto the top of the load. Carefully balancing, I put each ski on. I then lowered my skis slowly to the snow, found my balance and then let the sled slide past me until I could grab the handlebar. I slipped a loop of nylon webbing around my waist and secured it to the handlebar of the sled with a knot I hoped I would be able to quick-release if needed.
The mountains plunged dramatically to the ice on all sides. The U-shape of the head of the fiord ahead of us gave us a clue to the glaciations that sculpted this land, grinding away the granite to leave shear walls of bare rock. I felt like I was inside an IMAX movie.
It felt so good to be back on trail. The weather was relatively warm compared with our start in Iqaluit. There was little wind and the sun was shining. None of us were wearing our heavy parkas. It was hard to believe that we were about to cross over the Arctic Circle.