Weekend Warm-Up: Alone Across the Canadian North by Canoe

When an author, Ph.D, and man called one of the “greatest living explorers” by Canadian Geographic drops an hour-plus canoe video on YouTube, it’s time to brew a pot of coffee, wrap up in your favorite comfy blanket, and tag along for the ride.

Adam Shoalts is the man, and the video is called 2 Month Solo Canoe Journey in the Canadian Wilderness. It chronicles Shoalts’ journey across the Hudson Bay Lowlands, the third-largest wetland area in the world. Other than a 20-second shot of Shoalts waving to his bank-bound brother as he departs, the adventurer filmed the entire thing himself.

For Shoalts, solo means solo. 

a man paddles a canoe

Photo: Screenshot

“This immense wetland is a true labyrinth,” Shoalts narrates in the video’s opening moments. “Satellite images reveal a complicated maze of swampy passageways, snakey rivers, and countless log-jammed creeks. I set off into the heart of this landscape in an attempt to cross the lowlands from south to north, and to explore as much of its priceless wild while it still exists in a natural state.”

aerial of swamp

An overhead view of the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Complex! Photo: Screenshot

North America is a big place, but looking at a map of the Hudson Bay Lowlands in relation to the rest of the continent really brings home their scale. By the end of his two-month journey, Shoalts traveled 1,300km. And to say it wasn’t easy is putting it mildly.

The Hudson Bay Lowlands in green. Map: Wikimedia Commons

One early scene showcases Shoalts’ canoe skills as he navigates rapids choked with strainers, logs, and other obstacles. Shoalts is cool as a cucumber through it all, even as he hits a wave at the wrong angle and tips his canoe (briefly) into the drink. His recovery is swift and seamless.

man paddling canoe in rapids

Navigating whitewater. Photo: Screenshot

Portage hell, horsefly heaven

And when he isn’t navigating whitewater, Shoalts is engaging in a series of endless portages over the kind of terrain very few human beings would like to drag a canoe over. And dragging is the operative word here. Often, the strips of land Shoalts has to cross are too choked with low-hanging branches and thick underbrush for an over-the-head carry.

a man drags a canoe through a dense forest

It’s hard to believe, but this is a shot of a canoe portage. Looks fun, huh? Photo: Screenshot

Where there are huge amounts of water combined with untrammeled wilderness, there are the kind of insects that just sit around daydreaming for something soft and pink and delicious to float by. The Hudson Bay Lowlands are no exception. Almost every single shot in the 80-minute video has a fly or mosquito buzzing through the frame, and close-ups of horseflies congregating at Shoalts’ tent entrance like Greeks at the gates of Troy are enough to make the skin crawl.

a horsefly on the outside of a tent

Bloodsuckers and biters. Photo: Screenshot

“When they bite you, it feels more like a bee sting because they’re pretty big suckers. And all day long I had several dozen of these guys just swarming around my head, following me downriver,” Shoalts notes as he zooms in with masochistic glee for a close-up of one of his tormenters.

“Then, when I come inside my tent, they just swarm the tent.”

Eventually, Shoalts stops counting his bug bites, bruises, scrapes, rashes, cuts, and abrasions.

But it isn’t all hardship. The Hudson Bay Lowlands continuously offer up the kind of sunsets only a wetland can provide, all soft purples and reflected pinks. Sometimes, Shoalts will catch a peaceful stretch of water and coast along in silent reflection. There’s fishing and wildlife observation. The blowing wind and the soft slap of the paddle in still water. And, of course, berry collection.

Photo: Screenshot

Balsam balm

Shoalts is a science communicator at his core, which means he often takes time to stop and give lessons. One standout is when he uses sap from a balsam fir to seal and heal an open wound on his wrist. Not long after, the cut is barely even visible. No bandage required.

Shoalts’ balsam fir sap treatment sealed his wrist wound perfectly. Photo: Screenshot

Source: https://explorersweb.com/weekend-warmup-canoe-hudson-bay-lowlands/

Learn more: https://www.adventurefilm.academy/


Pakistanis Take to the Slopes in ‘A Journey About Sharing’

Two hundred and thirty million people live in Pakistan, in the shadow of some of the world’s tallest, most celebrated peaks. But only around 3,000 Pakistanis participate in winter sports.

This astonishing fact opens A Journey About Sharing, a film by European-based non-profit Zom Connection. The organization is committed to equipping the inhabitants of northern Pakistan with the skills and gear they need to get out and enjoy winter.

“When I go snowboarding, I feel independent. It’s like giving yourself a chance to test yourself. How good are you? And everywhere you go, you get respect from it. And while riding a snowboard, you feel free,” says one young man early in the film, over shots of Pakistani children riding and skiing on crude boards and homemade bindings.

a young girl rides a snowboard

Shred the gnar. Photo: Screenshot

The film is a whirlwind tour, delivering vignettes from all over the country as it seeks to describe Pakistan’s burgeoning winter sports culture. In one isolated valley, school lets out for two months every winter, and snowsports are an excellent way to keep children occupied in positive ways.

In another, a man named Hasham created The Hindukush Winter Sports Club. Hasham is the descendent of the area’s former rulers, from before the region became a part of Pakistan in the 1970s. With deep ties to his native soil, Hasham is committed to tapping into Pakistan’s incredible natural resources to bring economic wealth to the area.

a wide, birds eye view shot of children skiing and snowboarding

Children in one of Pakistan’s isolated valleys enjoy downhill snowsports over their long winter break. Photo: Screenshot

Skinning up is hard without skins

“So when we talk about the potential of skiing and winter sports in the Hindu Kush, we’re only talking about beautiful mountains to ski on,” Hasham says in an interview midway through the film. “There’s no lifts. In the next 10 years, if we can develop winter tourism and winter sports activities, then I’d say our goal should be to develop all this without disturbing and destroying nature. We will need lifts. But all of this needs to happen at a gradual and natural pace, without destroying the environment. It’s going to take a very long time.”

a helmet cam POV shot of a snowboarder with mountains in the background

Riding in Pakistan. Not bad! Photo: Screenshot

In the meantime, if you want to take some turns, you’ve got to do it the hard way: by skinning up first. But skinning is pretty hard without, you know, skins.

When British military officers first brought downhill winter sports to the region in the 1920s, the equipment of the day was long slabs of heavy wood. While the downhill tech has changed considerably since then, many rural Pakistanis are still using skis that would be recognizable to those long-ago officers.

a young boy walks out of his house holding a snowboard

Having the right gear makes everything more fun. Photo: Screenshot

A meandering journey

That’s why Hasham started looking for a way to modernize some of the equipment used by his fellow downhill enthusiasts. He reached out to a group of winter athletes in France’s Chamonix Valley, and Zom Connection was born.

There’s no doubt that “A Journey About Sharing” functions first and foremost as a 50-minute commercial for Zom Connection. Lacking a through-line or characters to follow for more than a few minutes, it’s best viewed as a meandering journey through a country many Europeans and North Americans know precious little about, especially when it comes to its winter sports.

But that doesn’t mean it’s short on adrenaline. Between interview scenes and shots of French athletes hand-delivering recycled outdoor equipment, there’s plenty of stunning footage of adventurous Pakistanis ripping up and down some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.

a wide shot of someone skiing down a mountain

Hard to beat these turns. Photo: Screenshot

Source: https://explorersweb.com/weekend-warmup-a-journey-about-sharing/


Learn more: https://www.adventurefilm.academy/