The Way of the Wolf: Gearing up for the Pikialasorsuaq Expedition

On May 5th, Dave Garrow, John McClelland and I will be heading up to Aujuittuq (formerly Grise Fiord), Canada’s northernmost community. Situated at the southern end of Ellesmere Island, it will be the starting point for a 310-kilometre ski expedition along the North Water Polynya (Pikialasorsuaq). We’ll head 65 kilometres south across Jones Sound to the northeast corner of Devon Island to explore this phenomenon, travelling a land of glaciers, mountains and sea ice. You can view a detailed map of our route here.

One of the planet’s most productive ocean ecosystems, Pikialasorsuaq is the Inuit name for an open-water area surrounded by ice in northern Baffin Bay. It supports an abundance of marine mammals, including narwhal, walrus, seals and polar bears, as well as seabirds and a variety of fish. Covering about 85,000 square kilometres, the zone provides crucial habitat during annual migrations. Our journey and the stories that arise from it will profile local Indigenous as well as scientific knowledge that displays the importance of the Polynya as it relates to traditional use and the ecology of the region.

The wind-blasted snow of Sirmilik GlacierFrank Wolf

To be prepared for the rigours of the journey, we’ve selected key pieces of gear to help us survive and thrive in the often-inclement conditions of the High Arctic.

Though the flowers are blooming down here in the provinces, the spring up there is still locked in snow and ice. Despite the 24-hour daylight we’ll experience, it will still be chilly when the old North Wind blows and sets the temperatures down into the minus 30 C range. To counter this, we’ll be cozy and warm in our Arc’teryx Alpha Parkas and key base layers like our Rho LT bottoms and Rho AR tops. To cut the effects of the breeze and blowing snow while we’re moving, we’ll deploy our Alpha SV jackets for the ultimate shell protection.

Final approach to Angilaaq Mountain SummitFrank Wolf

We’ll get water for our food and hydration by melting snow with the workhorse stove of all arctic expeditions: the MSR XGK EX stove. This baby liquifies snow in no time and burns any kind of fuel in places where it’s often hard to find items like white gas that’s more consistently available in the southern latitudes. Two of these stoves combined with the MSR Heat Exchanger wrapped around the indestructible Alpine 2 pot set will have us sipping hot tea out on the tundra in minutes.

I’ll be using a pair of Fischer S-Bound 98 skis to propel myself across the ice and over the glaciers of Devon Island, pulling all of our essential food and equipment behind me on the ultra tough and efficient Paris Ski Pulk, which tows as well downhill as up with rigid cross poles that prevent the sled from running up on your skis and from rolling over when you turn at speed.

Camp on Sirmilik with wind blockFrank Wolf

In camp, I’ll be using a sleep system that consists of Thermarest Z-Lite sol pad, Thermarest Xtherm and -30 C Polar Ranger Sleeping Bag that will have me sleeping like a baby inside our secure, Arctic-proven Helsport Spitsbergen Xtrem 4 tent. Surrounding our camp when we’re set up on the sea ice, we’ll have a bear-fence armed with 12-gauge blanks designed to give off a hell of a loud blast if any curious polar bears try to get intimate with our camp and cross the hair trigger lines. If the noise doesn’t scare them off, we have a shotgun to fire further warning shots to tell the ursine intruders that we’re not to be messed with. With all the available food around in the spring we aren’t too worried about the bears as they’re well-fed during this time of year, and three bony guys like us are a paltry meal in comparison to a blubber-wrapped seal.

Feeding the dogs in Pond InletFrank Wolf

All in all, it should be a wonderful natural and cultural exploration of the North—and I can’t wait to bring back the stories from this adventure to share with explore‘s readers in an upcoming feature.

Camp on Sirmilik glacierFrank Wolf

To follow our adventure on our live tracking map, including a daily haiku about each day penned by yours truly, please follow us along at To explore all the adventures to be had in Nunavut and how to experience it for yourself, check out Travel Nunavut for tons of great ideas and inspiration.