March 8 (Day 11)

The coldest night so far, -50C I guess as thermometer stops reading at –40C and the mercury is buried deep in the bulb. Of course, I was cold sleeping, there were huge frost rings around my face in the sleeping bag from warm breath being exhaled. Wow, who will believe that we slept in a tent at –50C? that’s dam cold no matter how you slice it.

 We pack up and depart by 10am…my sled feels lighter than usual, could it be I’m getting used to it? Or is it the huge quantities of disappearing food which are making a difference? Well, the light sled feeling doesn’t last long – the pulling is tough due the cold weather and snow resistance. The snow is fluffy but very abrasive and no glide! Its apparent that we are not going to make our goal of a 50 mile loop as we are traveling about 3 or 4 miles a day compared to the 8 to 12 miles the Conovers have done in past trips.

We pass by more open water…how can the river not freeze at –50C? we are forced up onto a bank to avoid the unfrozen edge…Garrett discovered with a wet foot. Lots of huffing and puffing to move these loaded sleds up a slight elevation. One or two persons pull and one person pushes from behind. Its back breaking work at the rear, especially for us tall people!

Lunch is 3 miles from this morning camp. I love the Snickers candy bar and take care not to break a tooth on the frozen chocolate. More sensible to eat are the fruit squares which, like all good Christmas cake don’t seem any the worse (or better?) given the temperature. Now, if only I had a little brandy…the down vest will have to keep me warm instead.

It’s a wonderful winter day in spite of the difficult pulling. The official decision is made to abort the loop and return back the way we came. I would like to see new country but there is so much to explore and plain enjoy, I don’t mind returning the way we came.  The lunch spot is almost visible from the evening camp site on Howell Lake.

Its been cold throughout the day, the wind kicking up and temperature in late afternoon –25C. Body parts exposed are chilled: frosted eyelashes, frozen cheekbones, hands cold after fooling with the camera. The chemical hand warmers have been useful in keep the camera battery warm during the day, during the night I take the batteries out, put them in a zip lock back and tuck them into the bottom of my sleeping bag. The camera stays in its soft case outside, safely hung on a tree branch overnight. In the morning, I just pop the batteries back in, open a fresh hand warmer and voila, good for another day. So far, I’ve only used them on very cold windy days. As the camera case is strapped on top of the toboggan it is exposed to the worst weather and my theory is the hand warmer keep the battery alive until evening when I can warm it. Seems to have worked, the camera only needed 1 change of batteries during the trip.