Day 23

Pikes Portage West Half of the Gt Slave – Harry Lake Section

Distance: 2.5km, portaging – [cumulative total 442.5 km]

InReach: Day 23 Portaging all day Now have all our gear at mid point of the 4.6km section to Harry Lake All well J&K

Camp: 62.696°N 108.942°W

Woke during the night to rain then having slept in until 7am we had just packed up when the rain started again. We set off carrying under overcast skies about 10am. The plan was to move everything in four stages till we reached the creek we had walked to yesterday and then camp as it was approximately half of this 4.6 km first stage of Pikes Portage. We set off at a good pace despite it being up hill. On our return we could see another party had arrived on the beach. They were Murray Muir and a party of five, Murray was a friend of Les Willcox, Les had used our Dubawnt notes last year and he and John had been in e-mail contact. For the remainder of the day we kept meeting and passing as we all carried our gear over the portage. We have camped with half the party tonight, the other half made it all the way through to Harry Lake. Good to meet with fellow canoeists but best of all Lorne one of the men has agreed to buy our canoe once it reaches Baker Lake. We just have to see that it gets onto the barge for Montreal, it is a win win situation as he gets a bargain canoe and we make something back on it and have the knowledge that it will go on to have the existence for which it was designed.

The day turned out to be extremely hot [we subsequently found it was the hottest day of our entire trip] and we were only carrying half a litre of water as we are not normally far from drinking water. It seemed that gear that felt fine on the first trip got progressively heavier and heavier so it was not long before we, but particularly me, were struggling. The combination of heat, humidity, bugs, dehydration and gear, [especially the canoe ] that was too heavy now that we are four years older soon took its toll. John was struggling to carry the canoe more than five hundred metres at a time and my back and neck muscles were in agony which didn’t respond to analgesic. John did by far the lions share of the portaging whilst I kept falling over. We finally made it to camp about 7pm, too tired to do any of the usual evening tasks like preparing tomorrows food, annotating the maps and writing the journal. We crawled into bed still covered with dirt, insect repellent and sweat. I considered it my hardest portage ever as it was a constant unrelenting uphill for over two kilometres. I still nominate the Swan River as John’s hardest day but acknowledges this was the hardest carry.

The camp site may have been hard won but it was definitely a superior site. It was open parkland, flat and sandy with moss and lichens, but best of all it opened onto a steep escarpment overlooking Glacier Creek in the valley far below, what a view.

Murray Muir party arrive at Pikes

Pikes Route in English and Denesuline, a section of a larger map in the cabin at Taltheilei Narrows