26-Mar-2005 -- Saturday March 26, 2005 started at a brisk -20 degrees when Dave Buckerfield and Gary Vizniowski packed their snowshoes and thermos of hot chocolate and drove from Hay River Northwest Territories 120kms toward Fort Resolution and its nearby confluence site. We chose a suitable spot along highway 6 to pull the truck off the road and the temperature had risen to -8º, tropical indeed!
The landscape is crisscrossed with innumerable old resource exploration cut lines through the otherwise virgin bush and we found one the seemed to follow 114º W. Strapping on our snowshoes and knapsacks we headed down the cut line toward the shore of Great Slave Lake, about 0.3 mile away. This proved to be the most difficult part of the journey.
Snow in these parts is like sugar. It does not pack owing to the dryness and the fact that once winter comes in October, it remains until April or May. The snow does not melt and pack periodically through the winter. The winter of 2004-2005 brought a lot of snow and we found ourselves struggling to break trail in 3 feet of dry, powdery, sugar snow. Gary fell into a hole at the lakeshore and was trapped for 20 minutes with one foot stuck under some willows. Getting unstuck was difficult because the snow is so light that he couldn’t excavate a large enough hole to even see his feet, the snow just kept refilling the hole. None of the rabbit tracks we saw suffered similar fates.
Sighting through the cutline we could see the frozen lake and Paulette Island a further 1.1 miles from shore which, although the 114º cutline appeared to cut through the island, we would be skirting around the island in order to stay on the more easily traversed wind packed snow of the ice surface rather than the deep snow of the bush. The confluence was another 1.2 mile past the island.
Once on the surface of Great Slave Lake it was just a straight forward trudge on snowshoes around the east shore of Paulette Island and to the confluence. There were several small pressure ridges in the ice which we crossed. Poking down the cracks with a walking stick we could see several feet down into the ice. On the ice there were tracks from coyotes but otherwise it was barren.
We marked the confluence with a walking stick and confirmed it with both the Garmin Extrex Legend & the Magellan Meridian Gold. At the confluence point you can see Fort Resolution 16 miles to the northeast, the mouth of the Little Buffalo River 7 miles to the east and looking west, the low hill is formed by the easternmost waste piles from the abandoned Pine Point open pit mines. Looking north onto Great Slave Lake there are a few small islands in Resolution Bay but beyond that is just 60-70 miles of frozen nothing that is Great Slave Lake in winter. It will remain ice covered until May or June.
We pulled out our Iridium Satellite phone and called a few bewildered friends to report our accomplishment. This area is far from any cellular coverage and a sat phone is a handy addition to the survival pack.
After we left the confluence point our position was besieged by a flock of 20 or so ravens hoping for leftovers. We left them none.