Solo Trek In Will Steger's own words
If things go according to plan, I will be dropped off by my friend and bush pilot Dave Olesen on the Arctic Circle ten miles west of the Coppermine River on Kamut Lake. This year there will be no re-supply or canoe. Rather, I will be testing out a new light system of travel with three small six-foot sleds hauling a total load of 240 pounds of supplies. On board will be 60 days’ worth of food and fuel, minimal lightweight gear and clothing, and an inflatable 10-pound Alpacka raft.
My tentative route will take me on an 800-mile journey on rivers that will be either frozen, breaking up or flowing. The first 300 miles I will be on skis, hauling my sleds over the rugged Coppermine-Great Bear Divide to Dease Bay on the northeast side of Great Bear Lake (one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world). From there I will sled along the lake’s north coast and then ascend the Blood and Haldane Rivers to the headwaters of the Horton River. The crux of this route will be making it to this headwaters before breakup. I may have to wait out breakup there and then descend the Horton 400 miles by raft. Near the Arctic Ocean I will hike overland 100-plus miles to get to the Inuit village of Paulatuk, arriving mid to late June.
This is a very remote, unpeopled, and rugged country, most of which is not accessible by plane in the breakup season. Since there are so many variables involved—seasonal trends, weather, terrain, injury, etc.—I have mapped out half a dozen contingency routes. The number of exit points are limited. My main thrust will be Paulatuk, where I can take a commercial flight out. Another option is the Inuit community of Kugluktuk to the east on the Arctic Ocean near the Coppermine River delta. Or Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie River could be a possibility, some 400 miles to the west of Dease Bay.
This year’s solo is going to be an incredible adventure with lots of unknowns. If I am able to do the entire 60 days I will experience the full ecological changes from winter to summer. I will arrive when the first bears are coming out of hibernation and I will be there to greet the migrating waterfowl. As season breakup progresses I will experience the nesting, birthing and blooming of the Arctic landscape and its creatures. Later I will witness the young taking flying lessons from their parents and the flowers seeding. This short six-week spring-season immersion (before the bug season) is rarely experienced by humans since most of the country is impossible to travel through using traditional means.
The advent of any expedition is a humbling and introspective time for me. This one in particular is special. I have diligently planned and studied routes and options for the past half a year, always looking for the most difficult and challenging scenarios. At first some routes looked impossibly dangerous (a sign of a good route) so I wrote them off, only to come back after some late-night pondering and soul searching to look at my approach from a different perspective. I shaved every ounce of my gear down, making sure to keep what was essential to my survival and safety. I am looking forward to the Zen simplicity and rhythms that will free my mind, allowing me to see the wilderness for what it is—one amazing creation.
My goals are simple. First and foremost is to come back home safely. What gives my expedition substance is my ability to share these adventures with you through my daily satellite dispatches along with the real-time satellite locations of my camps. If you have friends or others who might want to learn about the Great Bear region through my stories and adventures, please put them in touch through our website, stegercenter.org. And if the spirit moves you, please join our team with a donation that will help us develop new programs and build out the Steger legacy.