An Arctic Vacation: Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry

Baffin island residents and arctic veterans Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry have a rather different idea of summer vacation. Two days ago, they left the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River on east-central Baffin for a 70-day multi-sport adventure. They will be sledding, kite skiing, couloir skiing, rock climbing, kayaking, and running waterfalls.

From Clyde River, Boomer and McNair-Landry are skiing (or kite-skiing if there is enough wind) inland for 100-120km via a series of valleys and frozen inlets to spectacular Sam Ford Fiord. They will travel at night to take advantage of cooler temperatures and firmer snow. They will haul 20 days of supplies plus their kayaks. Some local friends dropped off the rest, including all their climbing gear, at their Base Camp.

“Each one of those activities is a dream trip in itself. Most teams come in and do one sport for that duration of time. I’m so looking forward to it,” said an eager Boomer shortly before departing. “The biggest thing is just to be unconnected and doing our thing for so long away from the rest of the world.”

Couloir skiing

If the going is good, the pair could arrive at Sam Ford Fiord within a week. The first item on their agenda is then to ski some of the steep couloirs flanking the huge granite spires in this area. For that, they need good snow conditions, so they must hurry before the snow melts.

The rough outline of the 70-day adventure. Photo: Erik Boomer

Big wall climbing

The experienced duo plan to ski for about 10 days, then climb for another 20 days, including in the neighboring and equally spectacular Stewart Valley. Although new to big-wall climbing (they began just last winter), the pair have all the gear to spend multiple days on a wall climbing moderate routes in the 5.10 to 5.11 range. In this remote region, they have a chance to attempt some new lines, although McNair-Landry stresses that they’re not going to “climb the biggest, hardest, gnarliest routes.”

Compared to the other disciplines, the pair have the least experience in climbing, so are looking forward to upping their game. “With arctic travel, [man]hauling, and kayaking, we can be a lot more confident. We’re definitely stretching our experience on the climbing,” said Boomer.

“It’s always overwhelming checking in 70 days of food and expedition gear. 16 bags at 50lbs. I guess that means we will each be stuck with 400lbs.” Photo: Erik Boomer

 

What they attempt depends on stable weather. Although temperatures at this time of year hang just a little below zero, the arctic weather can vary. “Last year, it snowed in July and there was ice on a lot of the routes,” McNair-Landry said.

River running and waterfalls

For the final element of this action-packed vacation, they will kayak rivers and descend waterfalls. For this, Boomer has a number of rivers in mind, during a 30-day window. Accessing the most northerly river (see map) involves a couple of days of glacier travel.

“It looks like an awesome route to me. I’m sure Inuit have traveled it, but it’s totally new to us,” says Boomer. The other options will involve some hiking and paddling lakes to reach. As with the climbing leg of their journey, there is the potential for first descents.

Erik Boomer is a top-class professional Kayaker. Photo: Erik Boomer

 

The adventure won’t end there, at least for McNair-Landry. A friend, who is sailing the Northwest Passage, is picking them up from Base Camp in around 69 days. Boomer will likely disembark at the town of Pond Inlet, while McNair-Landry will stay on board for the rest of the Passage. Quite the summer plans.

Ash Routen is a Writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, Mountaineering, Science, Camping, Hiking, Outdoor Gear for 5 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Red Bull, Outside, The Guardian and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid hiker, camper, and arctic traveller who writes about the outdoors around a full time job as an academic.

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basketbros
6 days ago

They have the opportunity to test some new lines in this isolated area, but McNair-Landry emphasizes that they won’t be “climbing the largest, hardest, gnarliest routes.”