Sunday, August 15
Almost an Irish sunrise, no?
The morning dawns cloudy with a 3500' ceiling, but shafts of sunlight are slanting in. To me, looks ok for flying (certainly better than the crud they landed in when delivering us). We check with Sylvain at Air Inuit and we are still on; I partially pack up and start to ferry my stuff down to the end of the landing strip. I repack everything there into a duffel bag and my pack.
Group awaits departure
There are some delays, but eventually the planes come buzzing in at around 10:50 am. The STOL capabilities of the twin otter are truly amazing to behold. In short order we are loaded on board and are off, leaving the Koroc river. I get a final view of the land we had come to know so well over the past 10 days. We get a few nice views but then climb up into the cloud, eventually topping out above the clouds at 10,500' unpressurized.
We arrive in Kuujjuaq an hour and a bit later. The weather is actually pretty nice. We have a 3 hour stopover until our First Air flight leaves for Montreal. So, I first retrieve my stored stuff from the hangar, repack everything I have into my two duffel bags, and check them in at the counter. I then join the other for a walk around Kuujjuaq.
The flight back to Kuujjuaq
Visiting Kuujjuuaq is my first northern community experience. My observations: Lots of brightly colored fairly simple houses; everybody riding around on 4 wheelers, often with 2 or 3 kids piled on back, and often in laps around the town; definitely kinda run down looking in places; most vehicles have no license plates, and most vehicles have busted up bumpers (snow, maybe?). Even a local police car has no license plate. An interesting little details is that the street signs are in English/inuktituk, rather than English/French.
Americans fascinated by poutine
It is Sunday, and not much is open. Eventually, we find an open grocery store, and we all go in and partake of the niceties of modern society... chocolate milk, ball caps, sandwiches, some poutine... (many of the Americans among us did not now what that was!) The prices of goods are inflated, but not by as much as I would have thought. Luc and Francois and I share a Ben&Jerrie's ice cream and eat it outside at a stop sign, much to the amusement of some of the locals.
We eventually wander back to the airport. Our FirstAir flight to Montreal leaves on time at 4:45pm, and in two hours, we transition from the far north to busy populated southern Canada...
There are many good-byes around the baggage carousel. However, many decide to reconvene at the hotel for a last drink. Roland is on the phone, getting the latest news on the funeral and about Dan and Sue. Tired and dirty-feeling (11 days, no shower- a record for me!), we meet at the bar at the hotel. Roland recounts what he now knows. Apparently Sue was found curled up in a fetus position where she was found on the cliff, and had no broken bones. Very strange. Their recovered camera had had its film developed, and shows them standing victoriously on the summit. So, we know they made it to the summit, then, without incident. Later on, I correlate some of these pictures to my own Koroc ridge pictures. There is no doubt no that Sue and Dan climbing the Koroc ridge. Something must have happened on the way back at the Koroc step....
We say our final goodbyes now, and it is tough, because I've come to like this bunch of guys a lot. I hope I get a chance to hang out with them again sometime. Roland, Luc and I then hop into the car and drive back to Ottawa, and the end of an interesting adventure. Here's a few portait images of some of the team, captured before heading back to Montreal:
Post Note: The following Friday, I attend the funeral in Brampton with Roland, Francois and Kim. Jack, Tom, John, and Andy also attend. I meet all of the family members properly now, and the service is tasteful. It is strange seeing the two coffins, knowing that both they and the rest of us were up in the wild Torngat mountains just days before, and now here we were back in the thick of modern, civilized society. There are many heartfelt speeches made by friends and family members.
Jack discussing his thoughts
Afterwards, we are invited over to Susan's parent's place, and we give a short but detailed slideshow of the area and of the events. Roland and I hope that we are not being too impersonal in our slide show, recounting facts and events, but I feel that in the end it gives the families real "feel" for what the mountain was like, which is important. I think that up until that point, they really didn't have that.
Later, in the garage, we bring out the items of Dan and Sue's that we've recovered, and we go through them all. Gaston, Dan's father, recognizes some of the hunting and preparing knives found in Dan's stuff. Must be strange to finally see all of this personal gear after so long and after knowing what happened.
Sorting through the gear
We thank the Pauzes and the Barnes families for their great generosity, and then we speed off through the night, back to Ottawa.
an excellent account of our journey, as told by Greg Slayden, can
be found by clicking
on this link to his peakbagger.com website).