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Ocean Frontiers 1000 hour day unsupported across victoria island the high arctic On a lengthy unsupported expedition, where you’re carrying everything you need with you, you can only afford to bring gear that is absolutely essential. Cutting equipment down to this absolute bare minimum, and then halving it again becomes almost an obsession when preparing to set out on a world-first, 2-man, unsupported expedition in the high arctic as we did. The two of us could only carry/haul/paddle/drag so much equipment with us – so when push came to shove while packing, we left behind many things, and considered leaving our Yowie snowshoes as well, but after careful consideration we decided to pack them – and we are glad we did.

Our ‘Ocean Frontiers 1000 Hour Day Expedition’ was no normal journey to the Arctic. My expedition partner Clark Carter (21yrs), and I (22 yrs), were headed for Victoria Island, up above the Canadian mainland – the 9th largest island in the world, and largely unexplored. Teaming with dramatic wildlife – arctic wolves, polar bears, musk ox, seals, arctic foxes, caribou etc – this bizarre lake-strewn land offered the perfect adventure. The problem was, with such varied terrain (almost as much water as land), we had to design and build our own combination kayak/sled/cart to allow us to transport all our gear. We called them P.A.C.s (Paddleable Amphibious Carts), and we built these wheeled kayaks out of aluminium in my garage at home. Fully laden, each would weigh a staggering 250kgs.

While the first half of our journey - bathed in perpetual 24-hr sunlight - was largely snow-free, the second half was a very different story. The transition to winter is not a gradual process up there, but more akin to someone flicking off a light. We awoke one morning to find our hiking poles – which we’d stuck into the sloppy ground the night before – now needed to be chipped out of the concrete-like ground with a tomahawk. The lakes and rivers, which we’d been paddling across up until now, turned solid.

Wind-swept snow was accumulating into drifts and tails behind anything protruding from the barren landscape – namely our tent and PACs. It was then that we dug out our Yowies from the depths of our PACs put them on. From then on, if we weren’t actually wearing them, we kept them in prime position just inside the cockpit of our PACs. They made a huge difference to our ability to push on.

Not only was the load-spreading ‘snow-shoe’ aspect of them great to stop us falling through thin sheets of ice covered by snow, but their metal teeth on the bottom were invaluable for gaining traction on the frozen lakes.

Walking across sheets of ice is slippery at the best of times, let alone when your trying to haul 250kgs behind you. Without our Yowies on we could not get enough grip on the ice to pull ourselves forward, but with them on, we could stride across the frozen lakes, easier and faster than any other terrain we’d encountered. It was brilliant.

The fact that Yowies are semi flexible was also a great advantage – it enabled us to ‘feel’ what we were treading on.

Giving us extra confidence and speed when the ground was obscured by spindrift and mounds of snow.
Lastly, but very importantly, being quick and easy to take on and off over our hiking boots meant that we never hesitated to use them for even short sections.

Overall we found our Yowie Snowshoes incredibly useful on our journey, and there will certainly be no questions about taking or leaving them on my next icy adventure.

Chris Bray

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