Hikers will be in awe of the beauty of Ellesmere Island in Canada’s north. (Contributed)

Seniors packing their sleds, snowshoes for the high arctic

Pitt Meadows adventurer leading the group in May

It’s called the Geri-Arctics 2019 tour and it’s an event that won’t let age or Alzheimer’s disease get in the way of a trip of a lifetime for seven seniors to Canada’s high arctic.

Pitt Meadows adventure guide Chris Cooper’s latest venture north comprises a trip to Canada’s high arctic in May, where four men and three women, from 63 to 75 years old, will ski and snowshoe on sea ice around an inlet on Ellesmere Island, Nunavat, at a latitude of 77 degrees, or about 1,100 kilometres from the North Pole. Only two of the group, one of whom is Cooper, have ever been to the arctic before.

The point of the trip, aside from the thrill of an extreme adventure, is to show and inspire others, who are “even remotely thinking of doing something like this,” about what’s possible, Cooper said.

“There is great potential for people in their late 60s and 70s to be able to do this kind of stuff,” said Cooper.

“There’s an upcoming crowd of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and so on who haven’t had the opportunity to do these sorts of things. So, OK, ‘You know what, these guys are doing it, maybe we can do it.’ ”

As an added challenge, one of the participants, at 75 years old, has Alzheimer’s disease which is affecting his short-term memory. He’s an experienced adventurer however and Cooper says that will be manageable.

“The whole group will make sure he’s looked after.”

Cooper said the area is a remote, raw wildnerness which costs thousands of dollars to get there, which few people can afford. Total cost for about each traveller is $10,000. “It’s a huge undertaking. There’s a element of risk involved in taking on these kinds of trips. One of the biggest risks is bears, so we always have to be paying attention.”

Usually, ploar bears still have a healthy respect for humans and take off whenever they see a human. But it’s possible they could run into a mother bear with cubs or a bear that’s simply too curious for its own good.

If the bear gets too close they have bear bangers or bear spray, or as a final resort, a 12-guage shot gun.

“I’ve never used it on all eight journeys up there,” Cooper said of the latter.

Howling winds and just the normal risks of moving in the outdoors are also possible threats.

One of the tasks for the group will be to study the Palisade Glacier to see if it’s receding or advancing. Cooper adds however that he hasn’t noticed effects of climate change during his seven previous trips up north.

The trip requires catching a flight to Ottawa, followed by another to Iqualuit. From there, it’s another flight to Resolute Bay, followed by a jaunt in a Twin Otter airplane to Ellesmere Island, just across from Greenland. The plane will drop them off there after which each of the seniors will either strap on cross-country skis or snowshoes and begin traversing the sea ice that surrounds Mackinson Inlet on the island. Each adventurer will be hauling their own supplies, which in total includes up to 50 litres of white gas to power the stove along with a solar power charger for the satellite phone and cameras. One of the advantages of going in May is the 24-hour daylight and the relatively mild temperatures, between -15 C and 10 C.

Total length of the trip will be about 275 kilometres during the 28 days they’ll actually be on Ellesmere.

“That’s not huge,” admits Cooper. “Keeping in mind, that we’re all getting on a bit.”

If they were younger, they could do more, he added. “Still hard work though, because you’re hauling about 70 kilograms of gear on sleds.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Geri-Arctics 2019 is the slogan of Chris Cooper’s latest tour. (Contributed)

Trip will be on sea ice around Mackinson Inlet. (Contributed)

Just Posted

ALONG THE FRASER: Fish ladder for Alouette dam would boost threatened wild sockeye

In action for more than a century can no longer be ignored: environmentalist

Maple Ridge hosts virtual plant-based eating discussion

Registered dietitian Vesanto Melina discusses pros of vegetarian diet

LETTER: Pitt Meadows woman tired of speeders on Bonson

Speed bumps or increased enforcement are needed to curtail racers through a park zone

LETTER: Lock cats and small dogs away from wily coyotes

If you have a letter you’d like to submit, please email us at editor@mapleridgenews.com.

LETTER: Priority should be given to locals accessing Golden Ears park

Maple Ridge residents should be able to reserve new day passes ahead of out-of-towners: one local

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Fraser Valley Bandits fall to Edmonton in CEBL final

Bandits lose 90-73 to Stingers in Sunday’s Summer Series final

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Most Read