Winter Rages, and Justin Barbour Calls it Quits

The onset of winter has thwarted Justin Barbour’s quest to paddle across Labrador and northern Quebec, after 80 days and 992km.

Barbour and his dog Saku have been holed up on the shores of the Caniapiscau Reservoir for 8 of the last 10 days because of early winter blizzards, including 30cm of snow and 90kph winds. Barbour has shown great stamina in reaching the Caniapiscau, but his progress has now ground to a halt. The smaller lakes are beginning to ice up, and he still has at least 800km left. Most of this is downstream on the Great Whale River, but before that, Barbour must cross long stretches of big water, in the almost constant squalls typical at this time of year. Knee-deep snow hinders portages, and the thin ice on smaller lakes would be both impossible to paddle through and to walk over.

Barbour started his journey near the end of July — late for such a long northern trek, but he wanted to attend a family wedding. He made good progress at first, with 170km of difficult upstream travel along the Naskaupi and Red Wine Rivers in eastern Labrador. He wanted to retrace, in part, the route of famous and ill-fated Leonidas Hubbard expedition of 1903. Ironically, that expedition also faced a late start and an early winter. They did not get nearly so far, but like Barbour, they too had to retreat after being windbound for 10 days, not far from a major river that would carry them to safety.

Barbour received his second and final resupply on September 29 before attempting to cross the Caniapiscau Reservoir, the last of the major lakes on his route. After the Caniapiscau, Barbour still had a 750km paddle down the Great Whale River to the village of Kuuijjuarapik on Hudson Bay.

This is the 30-year-old teacher’s second major expedition. He completed a 68-day, 700km crossing of the island of Newfoundland last year.

Justin Barbour at the end of his Newfoundland crossing in 2017. Photo Justin Barbour

You can view previous ExplorersWeb articles on Justin Barbour here:

For Barbour, the Worst May be Behind

Barbour sets off