Through the Heart of the North: Yamozha Expedition

Frank Wolf - Yamozha Expedition
Frank Wolf - Through the heart of the north

It’s been quite the year of adventures so far, and yet one more journey awaits me after having completed a 500 kilometre sea kayak journey from Panama to Colombia around the Darien Gap with Mark Sky in March and April and a 325 kilometre ski journey through the Baffin Mountains with Dave Garrow and John McClelland in May and June.

The third and final trip of 2024 comes in the form of a 1,400 kilometre canoe excursion from Yellowknife to Kugluktuk with filmmaker and adventurer Arturo Simondetti. Paddling north from the NWT capitol, we will make our way through the Yellowknife River, Winter River, Coppermine River and Hood River systems to the Arctic Ocean. From there, we’ll continue west along the coast to our finish at the community of Kugluktuk.

The name of our project is the Yamozha Expedition. Yamozha is a character from the lore of the indigenous Dene people of the region whose name means ‘traveler’ or ‘wanderer’—an apt description as we wander the traditional travel routes of the Dene on our way to the sea.

Frank Wolf's Yamozha Expedition

Our canoe of choice for the trip is the Esquif Prospecteur 17—the most reliable, tough and versatile tripping boat around. Outfitted with a North Water spraydeck, it will handle the entire spectrum of upstream, downstream whitewater, big lake and ocean paddling that we will face as we work our way through the spectacular boreal and tundra landscape that encompasses our route. I’ve paddled this model of canoe on all my canoe trips since 2009, and it is hands-down the ultimate tripping machine.

We’ll be propelling our craft with the efficient and strong Werner Churchill bent-shaft touring paddles and switching to the burly Werner Bandit paddles when we maneuver down the whitewater sections of the trip, where banging off rocks and quick shifts are par for the course. Werner’s legendary quality and build ensure we won’t be ‘up the creek without a paddle.’

On the water, we’ll be wearing our Kokatat Maximus Centurion life vests for floatation, along with our Kokatat NeoZip Long Johns to keep us warm when immersed or on inclement days, and also to protect our shins when we’re lining upstream or down through the rocks.

To keep our gear dry and to comfortably portage it along the way, we’ll be using a combination of the Sealline Pro Pack 120 litre, Sealline Black Canyon 65 litre pack, Sealline Big Fork pack and a 60 litre barrel outfitted with a North Water Quick-Haul Barrel Harness. Robust, waterproof, visible and easy to organize, this is the best canoe-packing system around.

Frank Wolf's Yamozha Expedition

In camp, we’ll be using both a fire and a stove to cook up our delicious and quick Canadian-made HappyYak freeze dried food. For a real calorie bomb when you’re hungry enough to eat a horse, I’d suggest going for the scrumptious Pad Thai option.

After a long or particularly wet day, we’ll deploy the legendary and reliable MSR Whisperlite International stove to quickly boil up water for hot drinks and food. On other days, when we want some cowboy coffee or need to stretch our fuel, we’ll cook over an open fire. In both cases, the indestructible stainless steel MSR Alpine 2 pot set will do the trick. The stove nests in the pot set, and I’ve used this tried-and-true combination through 30 years of long-distance journeys.

Content from dinner and tired after a day of hard tripping, we’ll settle into our MSR Remote 2 tent and write in our journals atop our Thermarest Neo Air Xtherm sleeping pads, snugged inside our warm and light Thermarest Quester -6C sleeping bags. It’s an amazingly comfortable sleeping system to get those all-important night-time Z’s.

Frank Wolf - Yamozha Expedition

Finally, as we’ll be travelling through both grizzly and polar bear country, we’ll be carrying a precautionary shotgun, keeping it dry and protected inside a custom-made padded soft case by Orange Canoe. I’ve used this amazing dry-zip case for the past couple of years. On a 1,300 kilometre journey across the NWT in 2022—even with the bag being submerged all day in a pool of water in the back of the canoe—the firearm stayed completely dry. I followed that up by strapping it to the deck of my kayak when I paddled around Labrador last summer. Again, dry as a bone.

Our Yamozha Expedition will follow a remote labyrinth of lakes and rivers, beginning in the boreal forest and finishing on the windswept tundra of the Northwest Passage. I’ll be shooting images and writing a feature for Explore Magazine on the trip, while Arturo will create a film on the project. Through these mediums, we hope to capture the essence of long-distance canoe tripping and the spectacular landscape we’ll be travelling through.

Follow along with us on the adventure for daily haiku updates from our nightly camp at