Dan and Susan's Journey
The following is, to the best of my knowledge, the fairly complete chronology of Dan and Sue's Trip:
Dan and Sue depart Roland's place
Friday, August 1
Dan and Susan leave the Mississauga in their green Toyota RAV-4.
They drive to Brampton and pick up an Old Town Tripper canoe. They
then leave for Oshawa, stopping by at a friend's place to borrow
a rifle they will use as protection up north. They leave for Roland's
house in Ottawa, where they stay the night.
Roland giving a helping hand
Saturday, August 2
Roland, Dan and Susan go to a local Canadian Tire store and purchase
various sundry items they still need for their trip. Roland sees
them off on the first major travel leg of their trip. They drive
roughly 900km, as far as Baie Comeau on the north shore of the Saint
Lawrence (about 400 km northeast of Quebec City), and camp somewhere
in that vicinity.
Sunday, August 3
Dan and Sue travel north on highway 389 out of Baie Comeau. They
leave populated southern Canada and truly enter the north country.
Highway 389 is a long and lonely highway, in places paved and in
places gravel. 550 km north of Baie Comeau, they enter Labrador,
and, shortly thereafter, Labrador City, where they stay at the Two
Sue and Dan at Goose Bay
Monday, August 4
Sue and Dan leave Labrador City, traveling along the scenic
Trans-Labrador highway for another 500 km, reaching the end of the
road, literally, at Happy Valley-Goose Bay. There, they stay at
the Royal Inn and Suites hotel.
Tuesday, August 5
Sue and Dan rent a Satellite phone from Labrador specialty services.
There are no further roadways north of Goose bay, so the RAV-4 is
left behind, and they board an air Labrador plane and fly to the
remote community of Nain on the Atlantic Coast, about 300km north
of Goose bay. Nain is a mainly Inuit community of about a thousand
people. They stay the night at the Atsanik Lodge.
Dan and Sue plan to hire a boat to bring them from Nain to Navchak
Fjord. The Fjord cuts deep into the heart of the Torngat mountains
and is one of the main ways these mountains can be reached. Even
though they've booked this boat trip well in advance, they are unable
to locate the boat's operator. They remain in Nain for another night
at the lodge.
Thursday, August 7
Dan and Sue work hard to try and secure the boat trip north,
but to no avail. The day passes, and they stay in the lodge for
yet another night.
Flying into the Koroc
Frustrated by the failure to get a boat ride, Dan and Sue turn to
an alternative - chartering a Twin Otter aircraft to fly them into
the Torngats. They balk, however, at the cost involved in chartering
the aircraft (well in excess of ten thousand dollars). While investigating
this option, they become acquainted with a recently-married Colorado
couple, Katherine and Jim Rickard. Katherine and Jim are avid outdoorspeople,
and are planning on visiting the Torngats as part of their honeymoon.
The two couples become fast friends, and they agree to jointly charter
Dan, Sue, Jim and Katherine at Koroc River
The Air Inuit Twin Otter flight leaves Nain with Sue, Dan, Katherine and Jim, and flies to the headwaters of the Koroc river, landing on a flat section of gravel near the river. The Koroc river is a major northern river, draining westward from its headwaters in the Torngats to Ungava bay. It is this large and challenging river than Dan and Sue plan to canoe down after their summit of Mount D'Iberville/Caubvick.
Both Sue and Dan and Katherine and Jim camp for the night at the Koroc River landing site. The weather is calm, sunny and beautiful.
Dan at Koroc River camp
It is another beautiful and warm sunny day in the Torngat mountains.
The two couples part ways. Katherine and Jim are heading north,
planning an itinerary which allows them to summit Caubvick/D'Iberville
from the North and then hike to the Navchak Fjord, where an already-chartered
boat will take them back to Nain. Dan and Sue plan to cache their
canoe gear at the Koroc river, and then approach and summit Caubvick/D'Iberville
from the south, and then afterwards continue their canoe journey
down the Koroc. Even though they know it is a long shot, they part
ways, hoping that they'll manage to meet somewhere on the summit
the next day.
Dan and Sue paddle a little ways down the Koroc River and stash
their canoe and river gear. Dan and Sue likely camp at the river
Meanwhile, Katherine and Jim do not make it all the way to the campsite from which they intend to climb the mountain, due to the roughness of the terrain. They instead stop for the night partway.
Sunday, August 10
Sue and Dan hike up a wide, unnamed valley south of the mountain
and camp in a beautiful grassy area not far from its base. Katherine
and Jim finally make it to their own 'base' camp on the North side
of the mountain. The day is soggy and wet.
Dan climbing lower Koroc
Monday, August 11
Morning: The day starts out with cloud and overcast, but no rain, and it is quite windy. Dan and Sue start their climb of what is known as the Koroc Ridge. They have a single daypack, some water, food, GPS, camera, and climbing gear. Dan carries the pack, and sue has the climbing rope tied around her back. They leave behind most of their backpacking gear and the satellite phone. It is about a 7 kilometer hike and climb from their camp to the summit. The first six kilometers is mostly boulder-hopping and hiking. Visibility underneath the cloud ceiling is ok until about 4000 feet, where visibility is then reduced drastically; Meanwhile, Katherine and Jim start out from their camp on the north, and climb what is known as the Minaret spur, a narrow ridge of rock that allows access from the north side.
Mid-Day: the weather continues to worsen. Katherine, who is climbing with Jim on the other [north] side of the mountain, describes: "snowing above 4000 feet; below freezing; wind began and never quit, gusts got much worse after noon, coming from all directions and could literally blow you over. At 4,800 feet, the snow began sticking to the rocks."
Dan and Sue reach the exposed and semi-technical part of the Koroc Ridge, which is the last 700m or so of distance to the summit. The ridge is knife-edged, with massive drop-offs on either side and lots of loose rock. In climbing parlance, this terrain is classified as "Class 4", which means that it is usually climbed un-roped, but any fall that does occur has the potential to be fatal. They would have had to have moved slowly and carefully here - any slip and fall would have big consequences.
Sue at the start of the knife-edge
Susan on Knife Edge
Rapelling over the Koroc Step
Sue and Dan reach the "Koroc Step". The Koroc step is a notch in the ridge that cannot be hiked over. Instead, they are obliged to set up a climbing rappel station and use the rope to lower themselves down into the notch, which they do. Although we can't be sure, it appears likely that they leave the rope in place to allow them to reclimb the step on their way back down the mountain later.
Sometime during the afternoon, Dan and Sue triumphantly reach the summit of Mount D'Iberville / Caubvick. The weather is indeed quite nasty, as evidenced by the summit log entry they leave:
2003. Daniel Pauze and Susan Barnes, In a wicked snowstorm"
Dan on Summit
Dan and Sue on Summit
The newfie flag
Having managed to reach the summit in such nasty conditions, Dan and Sue take some well-earned summit photos, and then head back down the way they came up. It would have been slow and treacherous going on steep, slippery, snow-plastered rocks in extremely high winds.
They make it back to the Koroc Step. Although this is conjecture, it appears that Dan is the first to climb up the step, using the rope that is still attached from above it, and with Sue belaying him. What appears to have happened is that some mishap occurred here; the most plausible being that the rappel anchor above pulled out while Dan was climbing, causing him to fall back to the base of the step along with the rope (there was nothing left subsequently at the top of the step). Dan probably suffered some sort of sprain or tear to a leg or ankle as a result, and was unable to continue hiking.
At some point after this Dan and Sue realize that she has to go for help - the weather is bad and they have only dayhiking gear. They have two options: one is to make it back down to their camp, where the Satellite phone is located, and the other is to try and find Katherine and Jim, who they know are camped on the north side.
Aerial View, Annotated
Sue could now not descend the Koroc ridge; they were still at the base of the vertical step of rock that they were about to climb. With the rope now not on the step anymore, there was no way for her to climb up, and it would have been far too difficult and treacherous for her to climb free solo. The only alternative was to reclimb to the summit and then down a different ridge (called the Minaret Ridge). So, this she did, re-reaching the summit, and then traversing eastwards along another knife-edged ridge of rock. How long it took her to do all of this is unknown. What is known is that this must have taken great courage and determination, given the weather, terrain, and situation.
Sue eventually finishes the climbing portion of the Minaret Ridge, and reaches an area sometimes referred to as "the upper football field". This is a square, flat section of the mountain, and is bordered on 3 sides by sheer cliffs and on the fourth side by a gently sloping boulder field (this sloping side is the easy non-technical way off the mountain). Next to a cairn of rock, Sue takes off her climbing harness and leaves it on the ground. Perhaps, as she collects her thoughts after the scary and treacherous traverse, she realizes that there really is no point in wearing it anymore, especially since she's by herself. At this point, she has traveled almost a kilometer from Dan.
Annotated view of the Koroc Step
Meanwhile, Katherine and Jim have climbed up to just below where the Minaret spur reaches the very same "upper football field". The weather is so bad, though, that they decide it best to turn around. And so, at just over 5000 feet and a kilometer away from the summit, they head back down. They must have been very close, distance-wise, from where Susan was (maybe less than a few hundred metres). What is not possible to know is how far away they were separated in time. In all likelihood they would have turned back many hours before Susan arrived there.
It is unclear whether Susan was looking specifically for the way down to where Katherine and Jim were, or if she was trying to find the easy south-side slope that would lead back down to their camp. What is known, however, is that Susan somehow ended up partway down a huge cliff that forms the eastern side of the upper football field. The spot, which is in Labrador, was partway between the ridge leading down to Katherine and Jim, and the more gentle slope down to their own camp.
Side view of Minaret Headwall Cliff
Sue was found on a ledge about 50 metres down from the top of the cliff. She had not broken anything, so, if she fell, she was lucky not to do so. If she climbed, then she managed a pretty treacherous mess of loose rock cliff to get where she was. She may have been injured in a similar manner to Dan, hurting her knee or twisting her ankle, or she may have been injured more severely in the fall.
Looking down cliff
It looks as if Dan tried to find a way off of the ridge crest, which would have likely been blasted by the weather continuously. The climbing rope, which had been pulled off of the step, was now tied again, permanently, around a pillar of rock on the ridgetop. Dan's pack was then attached to the end of the rope, and the whole affair was arranged dangling down the southeast side of the ridge. Perhaps Dan was trying to find a more sheltered area to weather the storm? Or perhaps, after help failed to arrive, he had started to contrive a way to get off the ridge himself without having to climb the step.
It isn't known whether Dan actually tried to climb down this rope, and then returned later, or whether he stayed on the ridgecrest the whole time. However, in the end, Dan was found lying on the ridgecrest right next to where the rope had been tied around the pillar of rock. He was partially in Quebec and partially in Labrador (the ridgecrest marks the provincial boundary).
Tuesday, August 12
he weather moderates somewhat, revealing the snow that has coated
the upper mountains. Katherine and Jim's tent has been partially
wrecked from the extreme winds at their campsite. Katherine and
Jim pack up and hike north towards Navchak Fjord and their boat
Katherine and Jim reach Navchak Fjord and are picked up by boat.
The weather continues to improve.
Sue's Harness location
Weather acceptable enough for flying in the area. Nunavik Rotors
Helicopter pilot Christophe Vany, ferrying a Parks Quebec team to
the upper football field, gets out of his helicopter and wanders
about. He discovers Sue's discarded climbing harness. He does not
think anything is amiss, and takes the harness with him. Dan and
Sue have not yet been reported as overdue or thought missing at
While searching for a downed aircraft, a search and rescue helicopter
spots Sue and Dan's campsite. The land and check out the site, noting
the contents (rifle, sat phone, gear), and depart, leaving a note
for the occupants to get in touch when they return. Dan and Sue
are still not considered missing at this point, more than a week
after they climbed the peak. A bit of investigation at this point
would have definitely revealed something was amiss, since Dan and
Sue were long ago supposed to be away from this area, canoeing down
Sunday, August 24
When Sue and Dan fail to show up in George's River (at the lower
end of the Koroc River), their families in Ontario report them as
overdue and missing to their local police agencies. The information
is passed on to the RCMP in Nain. A search and rescue operations
are then planned and a Griffin helicopter is sent into the area.
Monday, August 25
and Tuesday, August 26
Helicopter is unable to get to the mountain because of unfavourable
Helicopter is able to fly in and locate and confirm that Dan and
Sue's basecamp is still in place and untouched. They confirm that
the satellite phone is functioning. They are unable to land high
up on the mountain due to high winds, and so are unable to check
the summit register.
Thursday, August 28
Helicopter searches some more, does not locate any traces of Dan
and Sue. Pilot does not feel that anything more can be done from
the air. Not sure if they check the Koroc step, where Dan is in
a very obvious and visible spot.
A local Quebec police force team goes in on foot; they consolidate
Dan and Sue's gear in one spot at their base camp near the mountain.
After some searching (they actually searched the base camp area,
lower football field, and around cirque on south side of summit).
The Quebec Police then reports that they are 99.9% sure that they
are not on the Quebec side of the mountain. There is also a claim
that the summit register has been searched, and that it does not
contain any entry from Dan and Sue.
Over the next few days, much back-and-forth beauraucracy ensues. The local authorities try to enlist a Parks Canada rescue team from Banff, but by the time everything is worked out, it is too late in the season and the mountain has been blanketed by snow. The searching is ended for the year. There are no firm commitments made to any further searching.
Roland and brother Rudy meet with the RCMP in Goose Bay, and pick
up Dan and Sue's RAV-4 and drive it back to Ontario.
While the investigation continues, Roland eventually decides to conduct (and starts planning for) a private search expedition
for the following summer.
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