It started after a briefing from 17th Ottawa and their trip to Auyuittuq National Park in 2005 that Scouter Peter Dodsworth had the vision to one day go to the Arctic too. After a small diversion for a big trip with the Scouts to Gros Morne NL in 2009 (see Scouting Life Summer – 2010 and 1st Kanata’s website), it wasn’t more than 9 months later that a brief mention of Baffin got everyone thinking again about another big adventure.
The Akshayuk Pass, among many other features, offers the opportunity of hiking across the Arctic Circle followed by camping at the base of the highest vertical drop on earth. The logistics, training and fundraising were also raised to new heights to make this expedition a reality. Along the way, SEVEC (Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada) was contacted and we became the beneficiaries of airfare support but more importantly a unique experience to exchange with 13 youth of Pangnirtung, NU, their chaperones, families and community. We also had the opportunity to have 2 hiking groups and a third group of 1st Kanata Scouts participating in the exchange.
While Groups 1 & 2 went into the park in the first 9 days, Group 3 had a whale of a time with the Making Connections hosts in the hamlet, on-the-land and on-the-water. Speaking with the Elders, walking on ice flows and making palauga were but some of the many highlights. Meanwhile, Groups 1 & 2 hiked their way to Summit Lake with awesome views and memorable rock slides! River crossings posed the
greatest threat however they were crossed with confidence and were relatively uneventful. The weather was a tad wet at times which pushed the limits of footwear and rainwear however it made for interesting views and even more glacial fresh water for the river crossings! If the weather was good for us it was apparently good enough for the IMAX™ film crew seen flying in the helicopter down the valley.
On the trail, the largest animal we had the opportunity to see was the big white…arctic hare that was seen walking on all fours and looking like a mountain goat in the distance until one readjusted their perspective given the size of boulders and landscape in general.
Back in Pangnirtung, the hosts and families continued their generosity with all 22 youth, Scouters and parents. Hiking up Mount Duval, having lunch way out in the Cumberland Sound among the icebergs, or sharing palauga with the elders, touring the fishery and taking a swim in the Arctic Ocean filled our days. The Hamlet’s Senior Administrative Officer also took time to meet with us in two groups in his office for an hour explaining the unique challenges and yet future opportunities of the people of Pangnirtung. The mayor also dropped in to say a warm welcome. We also received a printing session with Andrew Qappik where we were taught how to make postcard size prints. At the school, we received many treasured gifts from our hosts and we also had opportunities to purchase artwork from the artisans of the community.
Soon it was time to leave Pang, or so we thought! “Uh oh,” I said as I peered out the window in the early morning. A late night farewell party must have included a tribute to the fog as it came overnight and reminded us of the frequent disruptions caused by the weather. Our morning flight was cancelled to the joy of many. We flew out the following late evening only to stay two nights in Iqaluit, and not a bad diversion after all, before we returned to the heat of the south!
We had an awesome experience that will be remembered for a long time (if not forever on Facebook) and our thanks go out to Peter, Chris, Nigel and the many others that made this trip possible. Our Making Connections hosts, Naomi, Talieh, Karine, Gabby and junior chaperones Daniel and Julie delivered on the promise to give us an unforgettable experience. We must not forget our Sponsors that made the trip more economical and a pleasure to share our experience with.
1st Kanata has now been to the four compass points of North America. Where will we go next?
[Photo Credit: Youth participants, Scouters, chaperones and David Kilabuk.]
Local Supporters of the Pangnirtung youth down south: