Frank Wolf has traveled 1800 km trough the Northern wilderness- with his partner Shawn Campell. He answered some questions about his wild adventure in an interesting interview! Also revealing how the new TFormex performed during his trip.
Introduce yourself a little – what’s your background, what should we know about you?
I’m an adventurer, filmmaker and writer. My first big journey was in 1995 when I became the first to canoe across Canada in a season- paddling 8,000 km from the Bay of Fundy to Vancouver in 171 days. Since then, I’ve done dozens of long distance expeditions all over North America and the planet. They’ve mostly been canoe trips, but I’ve also used sea kayak, pack raft, foot, bicycle and rowboat to work my way through various landscapes. As a filmmaker and writer, I try to bring awareness about environmental issues affecting areas I journey through so that they can be preserved for generations to come. (map of my North American expeditions attached below- this year’s trip is the south-north yellow line in the middle). Canadian Geographic named me one of ‘Canada’s Top 100 Explorers’, and Explore Magazine named me one of ‘Canada’s Top Ten Adventurers’.
– What was your journey about, why did you do it, who was with you?
My canoe journey this past summer departed La Ronge, Saskatchewan and travelled 1800 km to Baker Lake, Nunavut in 44 days. The initial reason for doing the trip was that I’d never paddled through that wilderness zone before. I always choose new areas to explore as that’s what adventure is all about- every day on an expedition should be a new, fresh experience in an unfamiliar place. The feature article I wrote on the trip for Explore magazine looks at the indigenous culture and history of the area intertwined with our own experience. My partner for the trip was my good friend Shawn Campbell.
– What were the challenges you encountered?
The trip had anything you can imagine- big volume whitewater, narrow creeky whitewater, grinding bushwhack portages, horrendous mosquitoes and black flies, miles of upstream dragging, and tumultuous windy lakes.
– How did you prepare for it?
Physically I’m always ready for trip- I stay active skiing, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking and trail running here in North Vancouver. I keep the trips simple too- a long-distance expedition is pretty much a weekend trip with more food. The gear is the same, you just have to carry more food. Logistically, Esquif and my paddle sponsor shipped gear to a contact I had in Saskatoon. We flew out there, bought food in Saskatoon and he drove us and our gear the 4 hours up to La Ronge and we were off and paddling north for the summer.
– What gear did you use and why?
I used an Esquif Canyon, a North Water spraydeck, Grey Owl bent shaft and whitewater paddles, and an MSR Fury 2 tent.
– Why did you choose the Esquif Canyon?
T-Formex tripping canoes were just being produced- I’d initially wanted a Prospecteur 17 but the Canyon was the best tripping canoe available so I went with that. It worked out great!
– What properties/capacities does a boat need to have for an expedition like yours?
It has to have the ability to handle any water condition- upstream, whitewater, big wavy lakes etc. Also,it has to be super tough as a canoe gets the hell beat out of it on these wilderness journeys. A fully loaded boat being dragged and slid over rocks for days on end is the ultimate durability test.
– Can you give a little feedback in terms of TFormex vs Royalex?
The materials are very similar in terms of weight and performance, but I think T-Formex is tougher. The material held its form and shape better than Royalex and felt stiffer to me. We didn’t have skid plates on our canoe (to give the material a proper test) but the bow and stern held their shape and form despite constant pounding right to the end. Royalex would not have done as well.
– After your great trip: What do you wish you had known before/any lessons learned? I always learn on any trip I do- education is lifelong. I go in with an open mind and eyes, with no regrets. If you find yourself short on anything, you adapt along the way- all part of the fun 🙂 Generally though, I’ve been doing these lengthy, self-propelled journeys for long enough to be prepared for most eventualities. You always give yourself a bit of a buffer and don’t hang it out there too much when you’re weeks from any sort of community. You have to be self-reliant.
– what did you enjoy about your project?
I really enjoyed the variety of water and landscape we tarvelled through. We spent the first half of our journey in the thick spruce of the boreal forest, then spent the second half in the wide-open tundra of Nunavut. In the tundra along the Kazan River, the wildlife was spectacular- hundreds of caribou, herds of musk ox, a grizzly swam across the river in front of our canoe, amazing grayling and trout fishing. It’s a wilderness that teems with life, unchanged for millennia- and there aren’t many places in the world outside of Canada’s North that are like that anymore.
– any future adventures planned?
I have a ski traverse planned across Bylot Island (north of Baffin) in May, and then a canoe trip across Nunavik in August- should be fun!
– anything else you want to say?
Have fun- and keep on tripping!
follow him on Instagram: @frankwolf70
follow him on twitter: @frankwolf1
Check out links to his films etc on his website at: www.frank-wolf.net
A recent TEDx talk he did about his work can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FVFjrf1OEY