Photos: crossing Baffin Island by ski and kayak

Ever wondered what a trip across the Arctic by ski and kayak was like? Let these photos show you.
By Sarah McNair-Landry

Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry, whose parents are well-known polar explorers Paul Landry and Matty McNair, set off on an incredible expedition on their own. With friends Katherine Breen and photographer Erik Boomer, they skied and kayaked 1,000-kilometres above the Arctic Circle, crossing Baffin Island, the fifth-largest island in the world. Sarah McNair-Landry explains what it was like: 

“Baffin Island. Home to polar bears, fjords, and the world’s highest uninterrupted cliff face. Kite-skiers and base jumpers long to go there. Inuit have made it their home for centuries. An untouched land of glaciers, tundra, and Arctic Ocean. A breathtaking backdrop for four modern paddlers, following a traditional route in traditional kayaks. Last summer Erik Boomer, Katherine Breen, along with Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry (myself) crossed Baffin Island in kayaks that we built ourselves. Along the way we crossed an icecap, made a first descent of a river, and learned a lot more about the land that we call home.”

Pro tip: use your keyboard to jump between photos
Skiing and sledding
Skiing and sledding It’s one thing to traverse a crevasse-laden ice cap. Imagine doing it while tied to the same sled as your partner. © Erik Boomer
No sleep for the weary
No sleep for the weary The team is into the 23rd straight hour of skiing, pushing to stay on schedule despite deep snow and slow conditions. Mt. Asgard looks on. © Katharine Breen
Hidden dangers
Hidden dangers Descending a highly crevassed section of the Turner glacier, the team stays roped up and moves cautiously, probing the snow to detect any hidden crevasses. © Erik Boomer
In the Shadow of Giants
In the Shadow of Giants In the shadows of some of the tallest cliff faces in the world, Erik Boomer beholds the thousands of liters of melting ice cap that makes up the Class V Weasel River as he prepares to be the first one to descend it. © Sarah McNair-Landry
Ice Cream Headache
Ice Cream Headache Erik Boomer in the midst of the frigid Weasel River. Four major rapids, howling winds, cold temperatures, all north of the Arctic Circle provided ample action. © Eric McNair-Landry
Calm kayaking
Calm kayaking With the Weasel River behind them, Expedition Q moved into the traditional sea kayaks that would serve as transport during the next 51 days and 900km of the expedition. © Eric McNair-Landry
Fractures and Frustration
Fractures and Frustration All of the kayaks were built by their riders. The process wasn’t always as smooth as the final ride was. © Erik Boomer
Following in the footsteps
Following in the footsteps “We were not the first ones to travel Baffin Island. Throughout the expedition we found 'Inukshuks' (stone landmarks) built by the Inuit to mark traditional routes,” says Sarah. © Erik Boomer
Not-so-nice ice
Not-so-nice ice When the winds shifted, ice blew into Cumberland Sound, jeopardizing the team's ability to paddle. Shifting ice can make short work of even the strongest modern kayaks. © Erik Boomer
Spring flowers
Spring flowers Spring comes even to Baffin Island. Just in time for a grueling portage to link the patchwork of lakes and rivers. © Sarah McNair-Landry
Upstream battle
Upstream battle With the Amadjuak River flowing against them, Expedition Q was left with no option other than to walk, paddle and portage the kayaks 60 km upstream. © Sarah McNair-Landry
Kayak carry
Kayak carry 6m of kayak and a boulder field make for an interesting portage. Kate and Sarah make progress on the expedition's longest haul. Two days were needed to shuttle all the gear and boats just 8km. © Erik Boomer
August in the arctic
August in the arctic The unrelenting snowstorms started in late August. To break the cold the team would do 20 minute warm ups just to thaw out their neoprene. © Eric McNair-Landry
Sleeping in the snow
Sleeping in the snow On this trip we were looking for Inuit advice wherever we could find it. Often, the rocks of an old tent ring and remains of a successful caribou hunt would do the talking on their behalf. © Erik Boomer
Home run
Home run The last stretch. “Our food was running out, we were cold, but we could feel Cape Dorset calling to us from just over the horizon.” © Erik Boomer
Coming into Cape Dorset
Coming into Cape Dorset Two hundred people from Cape Dorset welcomed us with fireworks, cheers and honking horns. Many were impressed to see our traditional style kayaks and the route we had travelled. © Erik Boomer
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