In the city, I had blithely convinced myself that my daily cycle commute of 20 km at sea level would make me fit enough for this alpine trip. Maybe—if I wasn’t carrying half my body weight on my back and climbing 1,500 m for the first few days into the trip. Reality set in as quickly as fatigue, and when we happened to run into our friend Wango on location with a film crew, it was all I could do to refrain from smuggling myself onto the ride back to Whistler.
Life became easier, partially when we had a forced stay at a series of hotsprings and huts (and celebrated a birthday) when a Pineapple Express weather cycle descended upon us. When it ended, we continued, and when we arrived on the Bridge Glacier in sunshine, we said adieu to Jeremy and Neil as they continued on their own adventures. Once our Alaskan friends left, we did not see other humans, nor any human signs until I left the group a couple of weeks later. Until that point, we encountered many snowmobile tracks but no signs of wildlife at all. Where was my alluring wolverine?
For this second segment of the traverse, we planned to cover an average of 10 km each day, but Mike, Erica, and Ryan experienced so much stormy weather during the first segment of the traverse from Pitt Lake to Whistler, that they were fired up to “make hay” whenever possible. With our good weather and lovely icefield traveling, we certainly motored along and covered more ground than we planned.
Mornings can be tough, but not with Erica’s motivations. She. Is. A. Powerhouse. Every day without fail, Erica was the first to rise and get us moving, from making breakfast to breaking trail. I was amazed by this person, who speaks candidly of sparkles and unicorns, yet has the mental and physical strength and stamina I have rarely seen before.
As my legs and mind became stronger, I immersed myself in the meditative daily existence of traveling on skis through a landscape that became increasingly impressive. The rhythm of each step, step, step became minutes, then hours, days and weeks. I came to love breaking down of camp each morning into packs and sleds, traveling quietly with intermittent snack breaks and conversation, and eventually setting up a new camp for some well-deserved food, conversation, and rest. Rise. Repeat.
Cresting one of the glaciers of the Homathko Icecap, I felt strong, exuberant and alive as I looked up and saw the Waddington group for the first time. After spending days on an expansive white landscape with island peaks, we had arrived at the heart of the Coast Mountain Range. The contrast in landscapes was astonishing: wild, jagged peaks surrounded us, creating a seemingly impenetrable wall.
Then, my moment came. I noticed a clear line of fresh tracks: they climbed out of the steep valley, across the glacier, bisected our route and continued across and over the mountain. Clearly, these were the tracks of someone on a mission. It was my wolverine, traveling faster, farther, and more efficiently than any of us ever will and carrying neither shelter nor food—she was just doing what she does every single day: living.
Seeing those tracks in that place was humbling: I felt humbled by the magnitude of the landscape, by the strength of my companions, and by the very presence of this solitary animal. The simple realization that such an elusive individual can still find a place wild enough to support her existence is enough to give me hope for our future.
Ian “Cheddar” Watson (guardian angel)
Red Shreds Bike & Board Shed (Williams Lake)
Escape Route (Whistler)
Mike King (White Saddle Air)