Thurs July 29:
Wild dreams last night! Have to stop eating so late…more loud booms throughout the night, must be ice finally cracking up as the leads get larger every day. Our camp is in weak sun, the fog stuck over Cape Hardy and Sverdrup glacier. An east wind blowing over the sea ice brings a chill to the air but it’s at our backs…we travel west, having packed up camp and returning to Truelove Lowlands. The creeks and rivers and waterways which caused us problems when coming in to this area seem to be lower: could be the time of day (usually less water in morning), an easier crossing place or just we are more confident.
We are going to search for an alternative way home: neither of us wants to go around Cape Skogn again, especially in iffy fog/rain weather. The route with most potential is the steep valley just before the cape – hopefully it is not a rock strewn crevasse with car sized boulders! I looked at it on the way in but couldn’t see the back of the valley – the sides were steep and too crumbly to climb. Map contours show a it’s a climb from sea level to about 700 feet.
Turning behind me, I wave goodbye to Cape Hardy and Cape Sparbo, as yet, unvisited by me. A river gushes down the steep slopes from the back of the valley, which I still can’t clearly see but with fingers crossed, hope for easy passage. Although ascending, the going is easy as footing is solid, the black granite rock smooth, like oversize steps. Feeling happy, we dawdle, taking photos of each other and action of the water.
As we progress deeper into this side valley, a fine waterfall at the very end becomes evident, cascading in gentle drops. Huge snow banks from last year’s winter reach from top to bottom. Ah ha! Tracks and a trail developed by the muskox has been pounded out – we simply follow it up and up and up, our steps in theirs. Although there are steps, the snow is slippery from freeze/thaw and we are careful, not wanting to slide 600 feet to the bottom. Fantastic views of the lowlands and capes in the distance. We stop for lunch, stripping off a layer – it’s a warm microclimate that gulls, nesting in the cliffs along side are also enjoying.
A false summit appears, more elevation yet to go. A second waterfall, smaller than the first, dribbles over a smooth series of polished rocks. I turn and admire the view for the last time. The summit is a low flat insipid landscape of dull brown flat rock, mud and wet run off. Rocks are plentiful for rock hopping, musk ox trails criss cross the area. After about 1 km, we locate a place where the valley seems to start its descent into the next lowlands. Staying high on the right shoulder, we avoid a steep box like canyon that would have meant backtracking. An explosion of purple saxifrage flowers, worm lichen, mosses, unlike any we’ve seen on Devon before, blanket the moist, south facing slopes, a rich contrast to fractured rock.
It’s been a long day. This is (hopefully), the last challenging leg…we work our way down the steep slope to the valley below, looking for a potential camping spot. Once again, fantastic views of a western sky and big ball of low sun. Conveniently, we find a small level and rock free zone adjacent to a small stream. Great, water and level! Camp is set up and refreshing tea is made.
In the far distance, six yellow tents stick out like sore thumbs. Our tent is dark green, undistinguishable at a distance from the tundra. It’s likely the Blackfeather group…being good neighbours, we walk about 15 minutes to their camp, meeting Katya, Sally and Lindsay and eventually meet up with Gisela. We head down to the beach strip – ice has been pushed up and melted into fantastic shapes, a big change from only a few days earlier. Each piece is like a mini iceberg, fantastic blues and greens shimmer in the sun. There is much more open water, it’s the peak of the arctic summer.
We say good byes and head back to our camp. The wind is bitter, I’m glad for my down jacket. It’s a wonderful evening of rich arctic light, I take pictures of a spent green seed heads of the past yellow arctic poppy. Dark horizontal bands of cloud develop over Jones Sound, the temperature is dropping as well as the sun. A few more notes in the journal and I too, am setting for the night.