Baffin Island is where I am currently self-isolating. So far, there are zero confirmed COVID-19 cases. All non-essential travel is banned, and to enter the territory, residents are required to quarantine for 14 days under watch by a security guard before being allowed to return home. Luckily, social distancing isn’t a new thing for me. In fact, here are five expeditions I’ve been on that are way more isolated than your living room.
#1 – Pole of Inaccessibility, Antarctica (2019 / 2020)
The Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility is literally the most inaccessible point in Antarctica. My partner, Sarah McNair Landry, who is one of the most accomplished Polar guides in the world, invited me to assist-guide a three-month expedition with a single client.
Starting from the coast, the three of us spent 78 days skiing 1,950 kilometers to reach the middle of the Antarctic continent at 12,198 feet (3,718 m) of elevation.
After the first 10 days my music stopped working, and then we lost sight of the mountains. For the next 70 days–in every direction was the endless white snow. We spent 10 to 12 hours a day outside skiing, staring at a never-changing landscape. If there is a landscape that makes you feel alone, it’s the middle of Antarctica!
Fun fact: The Russians made the first expedition to the Pole Of Inaccessibility (by tractor!). They left a bust of Lenin, that still is there today.
Antarctica is also the only continent to have 0 coronavirus cases.
What I missed the most: Coffee. We decided not to bring any coffee with us. Instead, we had two Voke’s (caffeine energy tablets) a day.
#2 Ellesmere Island, Northern Canada (2011)
Imagine 104 days of isolation with someone double your age that you don’t know. In 2011, expedition veteran John Turk invited me on my first long Arctic Expedition—the first-ever circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island (Canada’s farthest north island). John, Tyler Bradt and I were to ski and haul our gear in sea kayaks until the ice melted, then transition to sea kayaking to complete the 1,485 miles. Just before the trip, Tyler broke his back on a waterfall in the Northwest and had to back out of the trip.
One of the first days on the trail I told John that we should have brought some cards. John replied, “I don’t play games.” Luckily, we bonded—though not over card games—and are still good friends today. The wild environment and animals kept us on our toes with over 20 close polar bear encounters, and one “paddle to tusk” fight with a walrus.
Fun fact: Don’t mess with walruses; they are way scarier than polar bears.
What I missed the most: Sarah, she was away kite skiing the Northwest Passage during the same time so we didn’t see each other for six months.
#3 Greenland Ice Cap, Greenland (2016)
The biggest challenge of kayak exploration in the arctic is figuring out how to access the remote rivers. With no roads, and limited transport, options are limited.
After finding an amazing river in Greenland on GoogleMaps, Sarah, Ben Stookesberry and I decided the best access was to kite ski 1,000 kilometers across the Greenland Ice Cap, hauling all our gear and kayaks.
Probably one of the longest portages ever. It took us a month before reaching the start of the river. But it was worth it. We were blown away at the amazing quality of whitewater and waterfalls we were able to paddle. Check out the film Into Twin Galaxies.
Fun fact: if you are careful, you can make two rolls of toilet paper last for 50 days!
What I missed the most: Food. With limited food rations (because we had to pack light), we all ended up skinny and hungry. Our first night back, Ben ate so much he made himself sick!
#4 Baffin Island, Northern Canada (2015)
My longest expedition was 120 days, dogsledding 2,500 miles around Baffin Island (the fifth largest island in the world) with Sarah. Luckily, we are used to isolation and spending months together in a small tent. And we weren’t alone, we had our 16 dogs to keep us company.
Dogs are the best travel companions (or quarantine companions) because they always have a way of bringing the mood up and making you laugh.
Fun Fact: I ate over 25 pounds of chocolate, no kidding.
What I missed the most: Kayaking spring runoff in Idaho.
You don’t always have to go far to find a remote corner of the globe. Kayaking just about any river in Wyoming (especially ones that require a burly hike in), you’re guaranteed to have the river all to yourselves (and most likely have the first decent as well).
The past two summers I’ve been exploring new rivers in the Wind River Range and the Big Horn Mountain Range. I was fortunate that on these adventures I was able to spend time with an awesome crew of friends. One of the best things about being in an isolated place is getting to know your friends better.
And, not only is the kayaking world-class but so is the climbing!
Fun Fact: It’s often said there are more antelope than people in Wyoming and that is what makes it so cool.
What I missed the most: Nothing!