Day 34

Ptarmigan Lake to Deville Lake via Hanbury Portage

Distance: 17 km, portages 3 and lining 1 – [cumulative total 615 km]

InReach: Day 34 Due ice & wind delays Back R now not possible Today took portage to Deville Lk Destination now Baker Lk via Hanbury & Thelon Rivers J&K

Camp: 63.670°N 107.089°W

Blessed be the cairn builders for they win the eternal thanks and respect of lost canoeists.

Yet again, today reminded us that the wind is not our friend. We set out in a moderate crosswind that gradually strengthened. At 9.30 am we reached the point where had we been following our original plan to paddle the Back River to the Arctic Ocean we would have headed north. However, because we are now taking Plan B, down the Hanbury River to Baker Lake we turned east towards the portage which would take us over the height of land and into the headwaters of the Hanbury River. It was a slightly salutatory moment as we were now committed despite the enormous amount of time, pre trip reading and planning that had gone into the Back trip.

Paddling up Ptarmigan Lake we passed through several sections where the current was strong, on the second of these we had to line a short distance around a point. The first portage we reached was only a 100 meters around a shallow boulder strewn stream however finding a suitable put out was a challenge. We did this portage on the right which involved carrying the canoe and gear across a wide mess of boulders. We then had a short hard paddle against the wind to the second portage which was clearly marked at both ends with cairns. It was about 300 meters, flat and dry with the usual rocky put in and take out. Though longer than the previous portage it probably took us half the time to complete. We then had another short paddle into the wind to reach the Hanbury Portage to take us through to Deville Lake and the headwaters of the Hanbury.

The Hanbury portage was about 500 meters and on the north or left side of a boulder choked drainage. The first two thirds was on a dry flat path clearly marked by cairns, the final third was a bit confusing as it crossed a rocky valley with numerous cairns marking various routes. Its put in was the best one we have seen all day but as it was almost 5pm and starting to rain we camped on a bed of spongy moss. The rain set in once we established our camp.

Start of the Hanbury Portage on Ptarmigan Lake. By taking this portage we committed ourselves to our new destination of Baker Lake and abandoned our original plan of descending the Back River

Camp at the Deville Lake end of the Hanbury Portage. The ridge behind is the height of land, beyond it water flows to the Arctic Ocean via Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River. Water in the foreground flows to the Hanbury and ultimately Hudson Bay