Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spring Camp 14 - Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post, the middle school grades (7, 8, 9) spent all of Tuesday (June 3) at the camp site.  Following the approved schedule, kindergarten students were at the camp for Tuesday afternoon, the elementary grades (4, 5, 6) had all of Wednesday (June 4), and the primary grades (1, 2, 3) were assigned Thursday morning (June 5).  Friday, June 6, was the last day of Spring Camp and set aside for the staff of Inuujaq School.  It was a nice way for us to finish another successful year of teaching.
I left my duffle bag at home and only brought my backpack for the day trip.  I also left my Canada Goose attire behind because the weather was sunny and warm, with clear blue skies.  In its place, I wore my "southern" skiing parka, which would be considered a spring jacket in the north.  I only carried the essentials, such as: walkie-talkies, camera, binoculars, SPOT Device, compass, utensils, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a thermos full of hot chocolate!

The convoy left Arctic Bay at 9:30am.  The ice was still thick enough for skidoos & qamutiks to travel on, but cracks were beginning to form way out in Admiralty Inlet.  One of the Inuit teachers told me that by July 1st, all the ice would be gone.  We arrived at the camp site at 10am.  I was surprised to see a team of sled dogs eyeing us as we stepped off the qamutiks.  I was told that a local had been taking the younger children for rides during the week. 
The mountain I climbed last year.
I sat on the edge of a qamutik and poured myself a cup of hot chocolate.  People were also sitting around and munching on snacks.  While I drank, I gazed at the tall mountain I climbed last year.  It was time to pay an "old friend" a visit.  Dane, a Grade 4 teacher from the south, noticed me eyeing the mountain intently.
"Are you going to climb your mountain again?" he asked.
"Of course," I answered with a grin.  "It's been a year."
"Mind if I tag along?"
"No, of course not.  The views are great from up there."
"How long does it take to get up there?"
"About an hour and a half.  Two hours if you take your time."
The climbing path Dane & I chose.
I left a walkie-talkie behind so that the people in camp could communicate with us and inform us of any changes or emergencies.  We also began our hike right away rather than waiting after lunch.  These two important decisions were the result of my hiking experience last year.  I was nearly left behind because I began my trek after lunch and didn't bring walkie-talkies.  As a result, there was no way for anyone to tell me that they had come back from seal hunting much earlier and thus, were heading back to town in advance.  This time, things would be different.

Dane led the way and I followed his footsteps.  After clearing the first two small hills, I removed my jacket because I had worked up a sweat.  Upon reaching the base of the mountain, we were informed that all the other teachers were going seal hunting.  We bid them good luck and observed all the skidoos and qamutiks leaving the camp site.  They looked like small black dots but the sounds of their engines were still loud and clear.  We took a short 15-minute break halfway up the mountain.
The last hurdle to clear was the left side of the mountain that was covered with a smooth layer of snow.  Dane slowly climbed up the face on all fours, punching and kicking a path into the snow.  I followed his path.  We did this next to a line of protruding rocks in case we slipped and needed to grab on to something.  We made it to the rocky summit at around 11:40am.  The 360-degree views waiting for us were picturesque.                          
We moved to the back to get a good look at a long u-shaped corridor that was carved by snow and runoff water over many years.  The 2km corridor begins behind a mountain peak to the south of where we were standing.  You can see the peak when you fly in from Iqaluit, but you can't see what's behind it.
"It would be really interesting to explore what's behind that mountain over there," commented Dane, pointing to where the corridor begins.
"Yes it would," I agreed.  "But unfortunately, we don't have the time to make it there and back.  Some other time."
Seal hunters
In the distance, we could barely make out the little black dots on the ice that were the seal hunting parties.  It was easier to watch them using my binoculars.  They had been travelling from seal hole to seal hole.  We couldn't hear any gunshots so we didn't know if they caught anything or they were using harpoons.  After taking pictures of the rocks and mountains, we headed back the way we came.  

Dane descends.
Dane & I descended the mountain using different methods.  Dane played it safe and came down on all fours, taking it one limb at a time, following the path he created during the ascent.  I, on the other hand, just walked down the centre of the steep slope using my feet.  I had discovered that the snow was tightly packed and strong enough to support my weight.  I made sure my boots sunk deep into the snow with every step.  I photographed my man-made "staircase" when I got to the bottom of the slope.  The rest of the way down was mostly uneventful except for when we slid down the two hills in between the camp and large mountain we climbed.  We arrived in camp just as the seal hunters came back.
The staircase I created.
Hiking up & down the tall mountain behind the camp (dubbed 'Mount Adrian' last year) was a good form of exercise and a nice way to see the surrounding area.  Next year, I think I'll make a bilingual sign (English/Inuktitut) and place it on the mountain's peak and formally name it Mount Adrian.  I wonder if that will go over well with the local community?

Lunch began at 1:30pm.  Animal skins and tarps were laid out all around the camping area for people to sit and eat.  There was raw Arctic char, bannock, soup, juice, water, NutriGrain bars, and hot dogs.  I grabbed a freshly cut piece of raw char and consumed it without any difficulty.  It was like eating sushi without the roll of rice.  Then I moved on to the other selections.  Everyone chatted about the past year, the highs and lows, an what they were planning for the summer months.

At the conclusion of lunch, we took down the tents, collected all the garbage, and packed everything into the qamutiks.  After one final sweep of the camping area, everyone hopped onto a skidoo or qamutik.  The ride back to Arctic Bay was a fun experience, as always, and I managed to get a few good shots of the travelling convoy.  Overall, the day trip was a great success.  I can't wait until next year's spring camp.   

End of Spring Camp 14 Mini-series.

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