Establishing Base Camps
Friday, August 6
The next morning dawns gray and wet, but not exactly raining. Today we split up into our 'north' and 'south' teams. The north team will head off (you guessed it) to the north, around the east side of the mountain, to a base camp on the north side. The south team (which Roland and I are on) are to head a little to the west, and then up into the south trending valley that Dan and Sue made their basecamp at last year. In fact, we plan to camp where they camped.
Our camp amidst the wilderness
I have a morning meal of hot oatmeal and a bit of pita bread, and then set about organizing my things for the backpack. Anything I don't absolutely need will be cached here at the landing strip. Even so, fully packed, my pack is good and heavy.
I've never backpacked for more than 6 days, and so, with 10 days of food this time, plus with all of the climbing gear we've packed for technical aspects of searches, this is probably the heaviest load I've carried.
On the south team with me are Roland, Jack, Mitch, Sue, John, Tom, Billy, and Greg. Francois, the cameraman, will also be joining our south team. He gives a camera to Luc, who is going to be on the north team, and instructs him regarding obtaining footage.
Final combined team meeting
My food for the next 10 days
Roland holds a last team meeting with the entire group, talking about call times, the radios, and what he's learned from the outside word on the Sat phone this morning. The next order of business is the crossing of the Koroc River, which we must get over before we can start hiking up our valley. I take my boots off and strap them to my pack, and put on a pair of synthetic sandals that I like to use when I need to get my feet wet. Turns out the river is not that deep or swift at this point, so, although super-cold, it is a pretty easy crossing.
Roland and Francois hiking
On the other side of the River, we angle up the bank for a bit to follow a relatively level bench that will allow us to follow the river west for a bit and then to curve up and into the valley that we'll be camping in. We settle out into two groups - Jack, Greg, Billie, Sue and Mitch are ahead, and I stay with Roland, John, Tom and Francois. Interesting how we've segregated into the American and Canadian subgroups without even thinking about it.
On the other side of the river we notice a large black bear, searching amongst the low bushes, probably looking for blueberries. I have my bear spear in a holster at my waist, and hope that he takes little interest in us. Most bears don't though, and the bear doesn't appear to even notice us.
We continue to lose ground to Jack and his group. This is mostly due to the fact that Tom is having a mighty hard time with his load. His pack seems enormously heavy, and we wonder what he's got in there. He is struggling up hills, and, coming out of one ravine, he is about to topple backwards when Roland and John catch him at the last moment.
It looks like we'll have to redistribute his load among us. This, plus a needed rest by Tom, takes us quite a long time. I offer to take an entire separate daypack that Tom has brought along, filled with heavy video camera gear, tapes, and what-not. I have it attached off of the end of my pack, and when I manage to stagger to my feet, I can feel the mechanical advantage all that weight way back there has, twisting and pulling against my shoulders. Highly, highly uncomfortable, and also very heavy. I figure I must be pushing a hundred pounds by now (or at least it feels like it!).
Open hkiing terrain
Walking is manageable but uncomfortable, and I am acutely aware of the motions of my hips in their sockets, and I can feel them working to support the weight of everything. So, this is what my hips would feel like if I was 275 pounds! Every so often I have to stop and lean forward on my hiking poles, redistributing the weight between my upper body and my legs, which feels better
After a kilometer of this the torquing effect on my shoulders is too much. I need to redistribute the weight. By moving Tom's heavy daypack into position atop my pack, I create a skyscraper above my head. The weight is much better balanced this way, and so even though I still feel my hip sockets working overtime, at least my shoulders are no longer in agony.
We climb into the main valley that drains the south side of D'Iberville/Caubvick, passing by a beautiful bit of canyon-like narrows and waterfalls where the stream in the middle of the valley drains to the Koroc. The weather of the day has continually improved, with the cloud ceiling getting higher and higher, and brighter and brighter, until at this point we start to see the sun peeking out now and then. We emerge onto the main floor of the valley, admiring the grand vista: A wide, U-Shaped glacial valley, with row upon row of glacial side valleys marching away into the distance. There is actually not that much snow, just patches here and there, making me wonder about the dire reports of the RCMP.
As we move up the valley, we are treated to a distant glimpse of the jagged upper minaret ridge, and of the summit of Caubvick/D'Iberville itself. The sharp summit area looks tiny compared with the large, rounded shoulders all around it. But distances in this vast treeless land is very deceiving, so I make no assumptions about how big or small anything really is.
The lower flanks of Caubvick/D'Iberville
There is evidence of frost action everywhere. Sharp, jagged, boulder fields litter every slope. Down towards the center of the valley, some soil has been formed, and it is there where the easiest walking is to be found. Still, with no trail, and heavy packs, it is tough going, and as the weather warms and the sun comes out, I sweat profusely.
Eventually, and thankfully, we reached the appointed base camp location. It is a beautiful gently sloping area of grassy meadow, shot through with gently bubbling rocky streamlets. What a beautiful place for a camp!
Greg has discovered the remains of Dan and Sue's basecamp. This consists of a River barrel and a somewhat torn up water back-pack. Both are sitting in a small streamlet on their side, water coursing past them.
Dan and Sue's basecamp gear
We find a nice flat spot for our tents and very gratefully set them up. I know now that I won't have to carry that damned load for several days. The concept of carrying the weight of a light daypack seems for the next few days is quite joyful to me. What follows is a bit of luxurious relaxation on the grass in the sun. The weather has now turned quite beautiful. The only thing marring the scene are the presence of mosquitoes - lots of them. Jack had said there had been none when he'd been here last time, but I have a feeling he must have had the benefit of a recent hard frost. There were most definitely mosquitoes here.
After relaxing, and after dinner, we go over to where Dan and Sue's gear is located, and after lots of photographing, start to take them apart and examine the contents. Roland wants to catalog what was there, since that would refine what we knew about what Dan and Sue would have had with them on the mountain. There is lots of food, most of it still good, a water-soaked tent and sleeping bags, the satellite phone, cooking stuff, and lots of little personal paraphernalia.
It is strange and a little sad to be looking through someone's personal belongings - someone you knew was missing somewhere on the mountain above you. Roland goes through the items, recognizing this or that as Dan's or Sue's. I think this hit him pretty hard, because after going through the gear, he just sat by himself on the barrel with his head between his knees, and remained that way for a long time. I could tell he was crying.
Opening up the Riverbarrel
A quiet moment with the gear
Nighttime recording ritual
We were in constant contact with each other and with parks Canada. Roland made little sticky notes attached to all of our notebooks with call-in times and channels and such. We would turn on the phone at 7am, 1pm and 7pm, and if anyone wanted to communicate, that's when they'd do it. Roland had been talking with Parks Canada today, and had been given them weather reports. Based on that data, Parks Canada said they'd be starting their search tomorrow sometime in the morning. They would be on the mountain the same time as us. It almost felt a little like a race. Roland holds a team meeting before we are off to bed, talking about how we'll split up and start searching our side of the mountain tomorrow.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day1 - Backpack to south base camp - click map to view
Day 1 - Landing Zone to South Base Camp - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet