Wandering 1,400Km to the Northwest Passage

Serial adventurer Frank Wolf has already knocked over two expeditions in 2024. In March, he paddled a sea kayak 500km around the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. In early June, he joined an all-Canadian team for a 325km sled trip to Baffin Island’s Clyde River region. Today, Wolf embarks on a significantly longer journey. He is paddling 1,400km from Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories to Kugluktuk in the Northwest Passage.

The Yamozha Expedition route.

The Yamozha Expedition route. Photo: Frank Wolf

Filling in the wilderness

“Over the years, I’ve slowly been filling in the wilderness, drawing lines on the map of northern Canada,” Wolf told ExplorersWeb, a couple of days before flying to Yellowknife. “This route is a fresh landscape for me. It’s a rarely used route…but I realize that these routes have been traveled for thousands of years by the Dene people.”

Inspired by those journeys, Wolf has christened the paddle the Yamozha Expedition. Yamozha means “traveler” or “wanderer” in the indigenous Dene language. Wolf won’t be wandering alone. He is teaming up with Arturo Simondetti. It will be the pair’s first expedition together.

At first glance, they seem an odd couple. Simondetti is just 23, while Wolf is in his mid-50s. But a chance meeting through their part-time work demolishing derelict boats was enough to convince Wolf that an expedition partnership would work.

“Grinding through these boats on 10-hour days showed me that he’d have the mentality to do this kind of journey,” Wolf explained. “He’s also a talented filmmaker…something of an old soul. We clicked straight away.”

Frank Wolf (left) and Arturo Simondetti (right) packing for their trip.

Frank Wolf (left) and Arturo Simondetti pack for their trip. Photo: Frank Wolf

Paddling and portaging

Wolf thinks their route, which includes the Yellowknife River, Winter River, Coppermine River, and Hood River systems and ends with 325km of ocean paddling in the Arctic Ocean, should take around 33 days. They’ll take 38 days of food, giving a slim buffer for windbound days.

The plan requires a 40km per day average, but Wolf thinks their daily totals will vary considerably.

“Early on, it’ll be a physical challenge working upstream on the Yellowknife River. With all the food, we’ll be carrying the most weight, and water levels are a bit lower this year. There will be some challenging portaging, dragging, grinding…Here, we might only average 20km each day,” he said. “But once we’re on the Hood and the Coppermine, we should move pretty good.”

With roughly 10 hours on the move each day, Simondetti will shoot footage for a film as they go. Wolf believes that’s for the best.

“Shoot when it’s hard or there’s no point,” he says. “There’s no point doing a film if it’s just lunchtime in campsites. You’ve got to get the good stuff in between.”

You can follow the Wolf and Simondetti’s progress via their Garmin InReach here.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.