Injuries Plague Arctic Expeditions

Just a few days into the first leg of his multi-year Northwest Passage expedition, Canadian Rene Ritter has quit due to injury.

Ritter had planned to ski 435km from Kugluktuk to Cambridge Bay as the first leg of a 2,500km journey. Next year he was planning a winter/early spring ski expedition from Cambridge Bay to Taloyoak followed a few months later by a packraft and hike from Taloyoak to Kugaaruk (formerly, Pelly Bay). The final leg of the expedition, planned for 2021, was a ski and kiting journey to Hall Beach and Igoolik, before crossing Baffin Island to Pond Inlet.

Photo: Rene Ritter

In a Facebook update to friends and family, Ritter explained,  “Yesterday I made the difficult decision to end the expedition after taking a fall the previous day. While pulling the sleds through a large snow drift, I fell and injured my back. After making camp and sleeping on it, I realized that I am not able to continue and called my support person for assistance.”

Despite the obvious disappointment Ritter is determined to complete the expedition. “My resolve to complete this journey is even more solid,” he said. “I consider this to be part of the process of polar exploration and though setbacks are difficult to accept it will only make for a more rewarding experience.”

Photo: Rene Ritter.

Ritter intends to continue with Spring and Summer ski and packrafting sections scheduled for 2020 as planned and push to complete the entire expedition using an additional year.

Previous ExWeb article on Ritter’s expedition is here.
In similar circumstances, two members of the Arctic Return expedition have succumbed to injury. The four-man group led by veteran High Arctic outfitter, David Reid, set out on a 650km manhauling expedition from Repulse Bay to Gjoa Haven in the Central Arctic, retracing the steps of the controversial Scottish explorer, John Rae. The group has coped with winds of up to 70kph and temperatures down to almost -50 degrees.

David Reid (left) and Richard Smith haul sleds over pressure ice on the North Pole River. Photo Frank Wolf

After just one day on the trail, filmmaker Garry Tutte left the expedition because of a nagging foot injury. Said Tutte: “A person is only as strong as their weakest link, and mine proved to be a painful problem with my foot. Without our team operating at 100%, there was a strong risk of compromising the expedition, so it was decided best I bow out early. ”

A group of Inuit (not in red) see off the Arctic Return Expedition. Photo: Garry Tutte

Then just last week, adventurer Frank Wolf also left the expedition for medical reasons. No further details are known.
Despite the adversity, Reid and the fourth member of the team, Richard Smith, push on. They have covered more than 450km and have just 200km remaining. You can follow their progress here.