The Ungava Peninsula separates the waters of Ungava Bay and Hudson Strait on its eastern side, from those of Hudson Bay on it’s western coast. In past decades, serious adventurers have crossed the peninsula by canoe in summer, and in winter by dog team or ski-doo.
Before me, the only other recorded winter crossing on foot was in 1902, and to my knowledge, it has never been crossed via its mountainous northern reaches from Hudson Straight to Hudson Bay until I completed a solo crossing in May of 2016. It took me 36 days to complete the journey along with my sole companion Buck, my Husky Malamute cross who also pulled a sledge. We endured wind chills of -60, climbed 2000 foot mountains, and dealt with extreme weather as we navigated through this stark but beautiful region. Our entire route lies about 300 miles north of the Tree Line and Buck and I walked 218 miles the way the crow flies to complete the crossing.
Our route included a stop at Pingualuit Crater which is the most impressive meteor impact crater in the world. It’s lake is one of the deepest lakes in North America, and it contains some of the World’s purest water! Additionally, the crater is 400 meters deep, (that’s only about 50 meters less than the height of the CN Tower). After leaving the crater our route followed the Povungnituk River, an the ancient Inuit travel route used to access the peninsula’s interior. Travel was relatively easy on the river, save for the multiple blizzards we encountered there. Bad weather cut our progress in half on this 60 mile stretch. After finally leaving the river system on Day 29, we headed straight for Hudson Bay over numerous boulder-strewn ridges which steeply rise over 200 feet. This is no flat monotonous tundra!
Due to the multiple days of unexpected bad weather, and frankly, not bringing enough food, Buck and I began to run out near the end of the trip. I needed to cut our rations and up our daily travel distance to at least 13-miles a day for 7 days straight. No easy feat through rugged terrain in deep snow with tightly rationed calories. Especially while factoring in the sledges laden with gear, fuel and cloths that we were both hauling.
I am very thankful that I brought FirstMate High Performance dog food and a couple cans of FirstMate’s Wild Salmon formula on this trip (I’m sure Buck is thankful too!) The High Performance kibble is what pro dog mushers use to keep their K-9 athletes fuelled during races like the Yukon Quest. It’s packed with energy, which allowed us to travel further distances while hauling less weight in dog kibble. And, on the last day, when provisions were low, I ate some of Buck’s Wild Salmon Formula (yes I ate canned dog food). I figure, if Bear Grills drinks his own urine, what’s the big deal? They say hunger is the best seasoning, but this stuff is not your average dog food – it tastes truly good. It’s basically puréed salmon, and higher quality that a lot of canned meats marketed to people. Buck’s face jerked into a surprised reaction when he saw me eat his food. So, I gave him a bit of my breakfast in return.
Buck made it up several very steep ridges that day in our final push to Hudson Bay, and because of his efforts, we made it there before dark. I am really proud of him.
Written By Jim Baird.