Day 24

Pikes Portage – Glacier Creek to Harry Lake

Distance: 2.0km, portaging – [cumulative total 444.5 km]

InReach: Day 24 Now camped Harry Lk end of Pikes This country badly burnt 4 yr ago so not very pretty Will stay here tomorrow to recover fm Pikes! J&K

Camp: 62.688°N 108.910°W

Here we are at Harry Lake having completed the first stage and hopefully the worst of Pikes portage/route. Pikes portage runs from Great Slave Lake through to Artillery Lake. It is comprised of seven separate portages which together add up to just short of 10 km. This first stage through to Harry Lake is 4.6km long and has taken us two very difficult days. Though heat and bugs contribute to the difficulty it mostly due to the increasing elevation because from Great Slave Lake it rises over 200m to Harry Lake, this includes deep dips into creek valleys where you need to climb a steep hill just to regain the height you lost.

To complete Pikes you then portage between

Harry and French Lakes, a distance of 400 metres,

French and Acres another 350 metres,

Acres to Kipling [can skip the portage and paddle up a creek]

Kipling to Burr 1.6Km

Burr to Toura a further 1.2 Km

Finally, Toura to Artillery Lake another 1.2 Km.

This combination has given Pikes Portage or Pikes Route a fearsome reputation with canoeists.

We were on our way to Harry Lake by 7.30 am in a sprinkling of rain. We did this section in two main carries one of which involved crossing a very boggy area with a deep creek requiring you to balance on a log. As was yesterday it was one long steep hill after another under unrelenting sun accompanied by a billion bugs [yes I counted them]. The track wound through an old burn so there was little shade. I felt much stronger than yesterday but John was exhausted from the start, the canoe is proving a burden for him and I am not much help, he certainly bears the brunt of the carrying. Murray’s party got moving early and were probably off the portage and paddling up Harry Lake by noon. Another couple of canoeists Frank Wolf and Ryan, younger men, arrived on the shore of Great Slave Lake around 9am today and were completely through all 4.6 km with their gear by 3pm. I am in awe. Frank in particular is a machine, running on the return trips and carrying the canoe like it weighed nothing. He generously carried some of our gear on top of his own on the final leg, running all the time. He has done almost every long distance canoe trip in northern Canada and this time they are on route to Gjoa Haven paddling to whole distance including the stretch across the Arctic Ocean, a trip of some 1800 km. They had only left Yellowknife six days ago and Frank intends writing an account of their trip in the magazine “Explore”.

We reached the shore of Harry Lake by 3pm, John was exhausted so despite it not being much of a camp site we decided to take a rest day tomorrow. We were surrounded by thunder storms so put up the tent and John crawled in for a nap despite the tent being like an oven. I washed my sweaty, insect repellent self plus clothes and joined John in a nap. John woke and washed but we both kept falling asleep, so retired early after eating in the tent. The past two days have really knocked the stuffing out of us.

Dinner, evening of Day 23 with Murray’s party overlooking Glacier Creek.