24-Dec-2003 -- Newly exposed to the Confluence Project through a December 2003 Air
Canada magazine article during a flight to Labrador City from Quebec
City for the Christmas Holiday season and the wedding of Wade, my
girlfriend Wanda's brother, I was anxious to locate a topographical map
of the area to determine if 53N67W was reasonably accessible near this
remote Labrador mining town.
As it turns out, the confluence is located approximately 9 km NNW of the
town centre, and although "close" by any standards, accessing it would
require a certain amount of preparation and crossing at least 8km of
inaccessible and snowy terrain as the only local road is indeed part of
the town itself. In the worse case scenario, the confluence would be
smack in the middle of one of the iron ore mines, a rather unsafe place
Unfortunately, the Canadian topographical map grid is juxtaposed
precisely on most confluences, which makes map reading and
interpretation more complicated. 53N67W is located on the seams of two
1:250000 maps and at the corner of four 1:50000 maps, none of which have
been updated since the early 1980s. A quick visit to the local store
revealed that we would have to work with the two 1:250000 maps, from
information compiled between 1950 and 1988. According to the maps, no
trails, surveyed lines or power lines existed in the area so I then
moved on to obtaining a copy of the local snowmobile trails, which
showed that one of the main trails would take us within approximately 6 km of
the confluence itself.
After appropriating two snowmobiles from Wanda's father Winston, the
appropriate winter gear, and an additional snowmobile and GPS unit from
a friend of the family, we left the house at approximately 11h00 to
explore the terrain toward our goal. GPS in hand, Winston, Wade and I
made rapid progress through secondary snowmobile trails in -25 C weather
and roughly 2.5 meters of snow. Within less than two hours, we had
reached a point on a groomed trail less than 950m from the confluence
near Kelly's Swimming Hole. After several attempts back and forth on the
trail through various bogs and lakes, it became obvious that our goal
was not accessible directly from any of the snowmobile trails; instead,
we would have to cut our own trails to 53N67W through trees and deep
After getting the snowmobiles stuck several times in the snow, I
wondered if we would achieve our goal during this first attempt. Even
though still early in the day with plenty of fuel and still feeling
somewhat warm (how do you feel warm at -25C???), the sun was quickly
approaching the horizon and we knew to abort our attempt while some
daylight was still available. Far too many people have been in trouble
in these northern latitudes because of nightfall or exposure. Despite
having been within 280m of our goal, common sense prevailed and we
returned to town with very little daylight left.
The weather didn't cooperate for the next few days but on Christmas Eve,
the outside temperature was very reasonable at -12C with light snow
falling on this beautiful town. Winston and I decided to make our
second attempt: we packed up quickly, and armed with the knowledge from
our previous attempt, we reached our last point on our own snowmobile
trails within an hour of leaving town.
We managed to make our way with the snowmobiles a little further than
during our previous attempt but soon realized that the last few hundred
metres would require us to get to 53N67W by foot--well, by showshoe,
really; it would be impossible to walk in the dense forest without
snowshoes at the risk of sinking in the deep snow.
After approximately 20 minutes of strenuous snowshoeing, we ran into a
cut-line (a cut-line is a straight line of trees that have been cut down
for surveying purposes). This cut-line would have been accessible from
the snowmobile trails although it was rather steep---not sure if the
"machines" (snowmobiles) would have made it up here. The cut-line was
neither shown on the topo maps nor the satellite imagery I had found of
this remote region taken in 2001. Satellite imagery in winter has the
advantage of easily depicting lakes, trails, power lines and cut-lines.
This cut-line one must have been cleared in the last 2 years.
Another 20 minutes into the dense woods, we reached 53N67W: a rather
nondescript piece of land deep in a forest of small coniferous trees.
Despite the cold, we both felt extremely warm and glad to have reached
our goal. Quick pics were taken as light snow was falling and we
proceeded back to the snowmobiles and started our journey back to town
in time for Christmas Supper !
Our thanks go out to Wade Cutler who assisted us during our first
attempt at 53N67W.