The Hike to Torngak’s Lair
It is now mid August, the days are getting shorter. The skies are grey, the weather unstable over the last few days. Change is in the air. Base camp supplies are becoming depleted. I’m getting restless and want to start getting ready to hike the 5 or 6 days to our next supply depot to the north in Komaktorvik Fiord. Preparations involve sorting out what gear we will take and what will be left behind: fishing rods and tackle, unworn clothing, rubber boots, extra Nalgene containers, uneaten food, empty fuel containers, books, life jackets and gear for the Aven. It’s quite a large pile of must takes (despite the elimination of extras)and I wonder how we are going to fit the essentials into our rather puny looking backpacks.
Our gear is damp. I long for a hot sunny day to dry things out before they are stored. The day spits rain intermittently - we are not motivated to start a hike under such gray skies and opt to delay until tomorrow. In the mean time, we will fish. The peregrine family rockets, the two adult birds training the juvenile to dip and dive, test and strengthen its’ young wings. I cast the line but with no luck and instead manage to snag the lure on some rocks. Cursing under my breath at the wasted effort, Alfred clucks his tongue and returns to camp for more hooks. Waiting, I get satisfaction by pounding used food tins flat, making as much noise as possible with rounded beach rock. Eventually, with a new hook, my diligence is rewarded with a pot size char, our last in Nachvak.
Next morning, the clearing skies encourage us to make final preparations. While Alfred dismantles the alarm fence, I pack the tent and common gear. The last act is baking bannock which we will not make on the hike as I don’t want to carry the extra fry pan and baking paraphernalia. At last, 10:30am and we roll out, starting of our first back packing trip as a team.
All too soon, the easy banter fades as we wilt under a hot sun. Slowly we toil up the first gentle 200’ of elevation. The packs are huge, heavy at 60lbs, weighted with extra food goodies we couldn’t bear to leave behind (coffee, ghee, milk powder, express maker, camera and full size trip pod) as well as 10lbs of alarm fence, 10lbs of guns, ammunition, and many extra D sized batteries to run those powerful flashlights. By 2pm, we break for lunch and already I’m reconsidering the route…cutting a corner through a valley would shorten some distance but invoke an uphill climb of 350’. Forget it! I’m already getting sensitive to contours on the map.
Slowly, Nachvak Fiord recedes from view. It must be 30C and with no shade, I’m fading fast. We decide to go another 2 or 3 km which means another 90 minutes of steady hiking along a winding caribou trail. Grunting like a caribou, I sweat my way uphill. The late afternoon sun takes it toll, I’m ready to collapse from the heat, the climb and the heavy load. There are enough mosquitoes and black flies to preclude the wearing of shorts. It’s 4:30pm, the end of day one: the tally is 7 km and 1100’ elevation gain. With many grassy and level sites to set up the tent, we pick one and unceremoniously dump our packs.
A short distance away, Sennerkitte Brook pulses an enticing blue as its drops over a small ledge, promising cool waters to soothe throbbing feet. To my surprise, instead of being icy, the water is pleasantly warm. Stripping off sweaty clothes, I crouch and splash water over my naked skin. Drops fly across polished granite boulders which nestle amongst dark bedrock. The air is still and I dry quickly, basking in the late day sun. It’s heaven: I feel like a moth that has shed an unwanted coat, emerging clean, polished, and born to a new sky ready for what ever lays ahead.