In 1980, five young men armed with 245 pounds of equipment each set off on a 2,000 kilometre adventure with only their cros- country skis to carry them.   

The team was the first to successfully make the journey across Quebec from North to South on skis.

If you haven’t heard of the trek, now known as the Expedition Quebec 80, you’re not alone.

Little attention has been paid to that record-setting and arduous journey, much of which took place in -40C temperatures.

“It’s not a secret, but it’s been forgotten to time,” said Jacob Racine, an outdoor guide from d'Escuminac in Gaspésie.

“What I am now … is because of those guys who made the path before us. I want to make sure that no one forgets about this expedition.”

Thirty-three years later, Racine is planning his own adventure in the same long-forgotten tracks of the men who blazed that trail.

Project Karibu

After a year of planning, Racine and his three-person team of fellow adventure guides set off from Montreal today on a four-month journey that will take them on the same 2,000 kilometre route to Kuujjuaq.

Their trip, dubbed Project Karibu, will ultimately become a documentary chronicling their experience.

Racine was inspired to take on the challenge after meeting one of those original five from the ’80 expedition while swapping adventure stories with other outdoor guides.

“This guy, Claude Duguay, was alone just listening to these kids fooling around. When one part of the conversation calmed down, he said, ‘You know what? When I was 23, I skied from Mont Tremblant to Kuujjuaq,’” Racine recalled.

The tale floored him. Racine cornered Duguay, avidly pestering him for details of the impressive journey: what equipment did they use? How did they plan it?

Once strangers

Racine’s team, three men and one woman who were previously strangers, have been working for the last year to become a unified group like those five men back in 1980.

Their plan will see them spending the entire winter outdoors. At night, they’ll set up camp in a tent and cozy up in a sleeping bag. They’ll have showers only when they reach towns of significant size, and plan to cook everything on their own on site.

“We’re mostly living outside [already] as a guide, so we’re always doing stuff outside – cooking, sleeping hiking,” said team member Marie-Andrée Fortin  of Thetford Mines.

“ For us, it’s another kind of experience just to live all the time outside. “

It’s a dream that’s coming true for all of the team members, but especially for the project’s creator Racine, who couldn’t contain his excitement this morning as they prepared to set off. However, it’s one that will come at a cost.  

 “I’m going to leave my son for four months, so it’s kind of crazy because I cannot imagine not going on this trip, it’s like a part of me, but it’s heartbreaking leaving my son behind.”

“I cannot imagine just staying here and saying, ‘No, I can’t go,’ because I’m going to regret it.  But at the same time, I feel torn apart to leave my wife and my son here to live my dream.”

Karibu map

The planned route of Project Karibu. (Project Karibu)