The Way of the Wolf: Bringing the Team Back Together for the Kangiqluk Expedition 

Frank Wolf and the team on the Kangiqluk Expedition

It’s rare to find a group of people you synchronize with in the most trying of circumstances—individuals who rise to the challenge the greater it gets.

When it comes to Arctic ski expeditions, I’m lucky enough to be part of just such a team. Dave Garrow, John McClelland and I have a few Arctic ski journeys under our belts now—regularly gathering in the high latitudes where we take on engaging adventures through a vast, snow-swept landscape.

John McClelland, Dave Garrow and Frank Wolf on the Kangiqluk Expedition

In 2017, Dave and I skied to the middle of Bylot Island and climbed its highest peak—Angilaaq Mountain. Then in 2018, John McClelland joined us for a 280 kilometre traverse of Baffin Island over the Penny Ice Cap and Akshayuk Pass. The three of us followed that up in 2022 with a 300 kilometre tour of Devon and Ellesmere Islands, investigating the North Water Polynya.

It’s always a good time out there with these guys, whether traversing an ice cap, huddling in a tent sipping coffee, telling stories during a whiteout or laughing at how much Dave farts. We all know our roles and work together to get the job done, all the while having a good ol’ time.

Frank Wolf and his team fuel-up in camp on the Kangiqluk Expedition

This year, I’d planned on doing a 500 kilometre kayak journey with my friend Mark around the Darien Gap, instead of a ski journey. However, the allure of the bright, clean wilderness of the Arctic Spring was too much. I just couldn’t say no and decided I had to squeeze it in between the kayak trip and an upcoming summer canoe escapade. Having just returned from the sweltering tropics of that paddle around the Gap, I’m now on my way up to Clyde River to join Johnny and Dave for the next one.

Our mission is to ski 275 kilometres over the course of three weeks, travelling up, over and along the 1,219+ metre walls of the deep, spectacular fjords of the Clyde River region of Baffin Island. We’re calling the journey the Kangiqluk (Bay) Expedition, a.k.a. The Great Fjord Traverse.

Kangiqluk Route Map

Our food for the journey will include a cow’s worth of Dave’s homemade jerky, Happy Yak Freeze dried fare for dinner (the Shrimp Curry with Rice is truly spectacular) and the usual oats for breakfast and a grab-bag of food for the day. The key to food and drink on an Arctic journey is a stove that can quickly melt high volumes of snow into water. For this, we use the MSR XGK EX multi-fuel stove—the hottest and most reliable snow-melter around. A true lifeline, it’ll burn naphtha, gasoline, kerosene or any other combustible. Paired with the indestructible MSR Alpine 2 Stainless Steel pot set, this stove system will keep us fed and hydrated throughout the journey. It’s tried and true, having seen umpteen explorers through decades of arctic expeditions.

We’ll be sheltered in camp inside our Helsport Spitzbergen Extrem 4 tent, where we’ll stay warm and cozy sleeping on our Thermarest Neo Air Xtherm mattresses, while snuggled inside the luxuriant down cocoon of our Thermarest Polar Ranger sleeping bags.  Since we’ll be in polar bear country, we’re using a highly modified version of the Ice Bear Alarm System to warn us of any potential intruders while we’re sleeping, so that we can deal with them accordingly.

Dave Garrow and John McClelland watch seals in the distance on the Kangiqluk Expedition

Out on the trail we’ll be hauling our gear with our SkiPulk Paris Pulk sled systems, a versatile and simple set up that allows us to smoothly pull our gear both up and downhill. I’ll be using my trusty Fischer S-Bound 98 skis with their integral Easy Skin system to cruise around. My feet will be kept cozy using the Baffin Guide Pro II ski boots, and my body clad in layers of Arc’teryx apparel for whatever nature throws at us.

We usually pull our sleds for an hour, then take a 15-minute break to chat and snack before continuing  the next ‘pull.’ This is where I deploy my favourite piece of apparel— the Arc’teryx Alpha Parka. Putting on this warm, windproof and waterproof garment will instantly put me back into the tropical climate of the Darien Gap, no matter what the temperature outside is.

Pulling sleds full of gear on the Kangiqluk Expedition

A big part of these journeys to Nunavut is getting to know and to learn from the locals. In Clyde River, I’m looking forward to meeting the Inuit folks who live up there, gaining insight into their way of life in this far-flung spot. And of course, I’m looking forward to teaming up once again with Dave and Johnny—to having the team back together as we take on yet another grand Arctic adventure.

Finally, this journey wouldn’t have been possible without an Expedition Grant from the RCGS,  as part of their mission to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.

Follow the Kangiqluk Expedition live via our daily map tracker, starting May 10th for a daily haiku that captures the essence of the day, along with our camp location at:

I’ll be writing a feature on the journey for Explore, so look for that in the Winter 2024 issue!