On our second night and into the third day, pictured here, it started to snow (yes, those white blobs on the picture are snow flakes). Views of lofty peaks disappeared, the world shrank and became white. Yesterday’s bare ice was now snow covered. As well, the grade was slowly but noticeably increasing. Pulling now required effort. Then there was the wind…
I didn’t mind the snow but the headwinds gave a hint of what was to come. Wearing ski goggles, neck tubes and assorted styles of expedition long underwear, we headed off in the biting cold of a headwind. Prevailing weather patterns push the wind from north to south. Funneled down the Weasel Valley and further accelerating as it falls from the surrounding higher mountains and Penny Ice Cap down to the valley floor, crazy wind speeds of 175kph have been recorded.
Given the cold temperatures, bone chilling winds and limited snow, it was completely unexpected to come across ‘overflow’ and slushy ice. Just three minutes ahead of me, Patrick luckily missed the wet overflow that now spread across my path. The rate of seepage was amazing. The wet originated from the centre of the river where humped gravel beds braided the river in to numerous channels and obviously thinned it. Despite the snowing, blowing and overcast, it was not particularly cold (-8C) and the suns weak rays were enough to melt ice, creating this wet.
Looking for a campsite. It has been a long day, an uphill day (gaining 169m/555 ft) and a windy day - instead of being exhausted I feel energized, satisfied by what we’ve accomplished. Day 3 and my body has acclimatized to cold camping conditions. Psychologically, my brain has switched tracks from survival mode to enjoyment mode. There are uncomfortable moments (like putting frozen boots first thing in the morning) but by and large, the rhythm of the trip is becoming established and we feel comfortable with the day to day routines.
Facing south, looking down at camp number three, Patrick contemplates the view from the snow slope. Below, the orange tent, sleds and sleeping bags drying in the wind. Finding deep snow down here along the river was difficult. In the Weasel Valley, late spring snow is continually removed by wind and sublimated by the sun. April conditions in the Owl Valley, on the north side of Akshayuk Pass are different: snow remains on the lakes thus skiing is possible.