NEWS

Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer try to beat spring melt

05/09/2015 04:32 EDT | Updated 05/09/2016 05:59 EDT
Two Iqaluit adventurers are trying to find a balance between racing for home and not exhausting themselves or their dogs on the final leg of their 4,000-kilometre dog sledding expedition.

Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer have so far spent 97 days travelling by dog team around Baffin Island, passing through the communities of Pangnirtung, Qikiqtarjuaq, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay and Igloolik. Reaching Iqaluit next month will complete the journey that retraces the steps of McNair-Landry's parents 25 years ago. 

This is the longest leg of their trip — 1,000 kilometres — without a community, which makes it mentally challenging. 

The couple have been travelling at night so it's cooler for the dogs. They were cooking dinner and getting ready for bed when CBC reached them by satellite phone on Friday morning. 

Delicate balance

McNair-Landry says because this is the last leg of the trip, she and Boomer can arrive in Iqaluit more "burnt out" than at previous stops, but they have to be careful not to push the dogs too hard. She says finding that balance is difficult, because she and Boomer like to push themselves.

"We really have to gauge the dogs. They can't just turned around and be like, 'Oh, I'm tired, can we stop now?'"

Since leaving Igloolik, McNair-Landry and Boomer have been travelling about 50 kilometres a day, and they hope to keep this pace up for the remainder of their trip — no easy feat considering that they ski beside the sled as their dogs are pulling.

Still, McNair-Landry says the end's in sight. "Even though it's 25 days" away, she adds.

'Big storm coming in'

McNair-Landy and Boomer had some good luck coming into Igloolik last week. They were sleeping in their tent, planning to get to the community the following day, when they were woken up by some hunters. 

"There's a big storm coming in, you guys should get travelling now and beat the storm," McNair-Landry says the hunters told them. 

The couple packed up and made it to Igloolik at 3 a.m., just as the wind was picking up. 

"We were pretty glad the next day when the storm kind of came in full force, that we weren't out there travelling. We were inside drinking coffee."

Race against spring

While in Igloolik, they fattened their dogs up with as much seal meat as possible and shed some of their heavier winter gear, trading it for rain coats and warmer weather items. We shifted into "spring mode," says McNair-Landry.

They didn't dwell in Igloolik longer than necessary, as they noticed snow melting off roofs and didn't want to "get stuck out there on the tundra" if the snow melts too much.

She says the conditions since leaving Igloolik have been great. But conditions can change so fast, she says. "It can melt out in a couple of days."

In case it does, they have a back up plan: they will cache their sled and move into "hike mode" using backpacks and toboggans. 

"[It's] definitely not the best back up option, but it's something," says McNair-Landry. 

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