Still Need Memorial Day Plans? Ice-Bike the Northwest Passage – ANITH
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Still Need Memorial Day Plans? Ice-Bike the Northwest Passage

Still Need Memorial Day Plans? Ice-Bike the Northwest Passage

When I first mount the bicycle—a sturdy Rocky Mountain Blizzard with 4.8-inch-wide tires—and push, I barely move. I grit my teeth, throw my weight onto the pedal, and the bike ekes forward. We power our way along Polar Bear Point among glistening, 6-foot-thick ice caps and sunning ringed seals. After a short time, my legs wobble like jelly.

It took five flights to reach the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge on Canada’s Somerset Island, roughly 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The lodge’s eight-week season begins in June, just as the pack ice that blankets the Northwest Passage begins to fissure and melt. But the family that runs the place is at home in the desolation. The patriarch, Richard Weber, is the world’s most traveled North Pole explorer. His wife, Josée Auclair, has led women’s expeditions to both poles. And in 2010, their then 20-year-old son, Tessum, became the youngest person ever to trek to the North Pole. Under their watch last year, I kayaked through glacial canyons, piloted an ATV across the tundra, and (politely) stalked a herd of muskoxen. But nothing compared to the rush of riding a fat bike over a frothy expanse of white snow and meth-blue ice, the cold air bringing tears to my eyes.

This month, the Webers are leading a four-day mountain-bike crossing of the Northwest Passage, the world’s first. The trip will cover 75 miles, navigating shifting pans of sea ice in a fragile, gradually disappearing place.

Getting There
Lay over in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, then catch a charter plane to Arctic Watch.

While in Yellowknife
Eat: Feast on Ethiopian fare at Zehabesha, the only African restaurant in the NWT.
Stay: Lodge at the Floating B&B, a pair of off-grid houseboats.
Do: Hike the 3.1-mile path around Frame Lake. An adjoining trail leads to the Bristol monument, which commemorates the first freight plane to land at the North Pole (in 1967).

This article appears in the June issue. Subscribe now.

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Anith Gopal
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