Aug 16 (day 8)

Shouldn’t have had that late night tea…midnight bathroom break then took a while afterward to warm up (or else should have worn something besides just hiking boots?).  Duck tape heels, balls of feet this morning to prevent further blistering – the baby toes, unfortunately, already damaged where they curl under adjacent toes. Breakfast is an Alberta specialty of “Sunny boy” cereal – good, hot, stick-to-the-ribs grub, perfect on this frosty morning. The wind is chilly but the sky mostly clear, we huddle under the tarp, debating the days’ plans.

Suddenly a wolf howls very close by – we all start and jump. He gives a second mournful howl, this time my binoculars are ready and I spot him scaling a steep snow bank to the top of a high plateau, his gray body blending in perfectly with the surrounding rocks. Is this the same animal from two nights ago? I wonder what he eats as we haven’t seen any caribou up here.

Today will be a day hike into one of the side valleys that we passed in yesterday’s fog. I’m excited, looking forward to some climbing without the burden of a pack. By 10:30am we are backtracking, moving fast and hard westward. It’s a tough scramble up the broken rock even without a pack but the views are worth it – up and down the McCormick plus deep into the guts of the Torngats, looming to the west.

Up we go, climbing beside a small waterfall that flows over smooth rock of alternating beige and dark brown bands. Steep rubble fields surround a deep blue jewel of an alpine lake, partially coated with floating rotten ice. A few mosses and lichens colonize the glacial terrain. I find a dead lemming, four paws turned up to the sky. Its very clear, very calm, about 15C. We lunch at 1:30 and push on. Finally, we can climb no more: the weather seems to be turning, we’re tired, out of food, and not prepared to overnight. Mount Caubvick (5420’ the highest peak in Labrador) silently, majestically notes our descent and smiles at our fragile beings.

I stop on at the lowest terrace to dunk my head in a sun warmed pond. After 8 days, it’s great to have fluffy hair again! Now will have do something about the underwear…back at camp, my feet are throbbing, unused to the amount of toe stubbing, rock bashing and sheer pounding. Mole skin is not working as blister prevention, time for more duct tape. I’m glad it was a day off, my body needed some rest and mentally I needed to find that balance point again. The night is clear (on this side of the ridge) and I watch the moon rise - it’s craters mirroring the surrounding lunar landscape here.