In Clyde River, Nunavut, dog teams are bred for speed

About one-third of the way through their 120-day dogsledding trip, Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry are feeling the strain. But, the team says they've been energized by the dogsledding culture in Clyde River, Nunavut.

'Dogsledding culture is alive and well,' says Iqaluit adventurer Erik Boomer

A drone-mounted camera captured this image of Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer's dog team as it reached Clyde River, Nunavut. Two local dogsledders travelled to meet the pair while they were still a few days from the community. (Erik Boomer)

More than 40 days into their 120-day trip around Baffin Island, Iqaluit's Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry gave themselves and their dogteam a well-deserved rest. 

The pair are retracing a route McNair-Landry's parents took 25 years ago that has taken them through Pangnirtung, Qikiqtarjuaq and, now, Clyde River. 

"The coolest thing about coming into Clyde [River] is just how much of the dogsledding culture is alive and well," said Boomer.

"We were learning so many cool tidbits and tricks and things that are very particular to this community's dogsledding culture."

Three days before Boomer and McNair-Landry arrived in Clyde River, population 983, two local dogsledders came out to meet them and gave them some information about an incoming blizzard and routes they could take into the community. 

Boomer said one dogsledder spent a day in their tent waiting for a blizzard to pass and discussing the differences between teams that are bred for a race, like the Nunavut Quest, and teams that are trained for expeditions.

"These guys really breed their dogs for speed," he said."We feel really slow compared to these guys."

The Clyde River dog teams frequently run for 80 kilometres per day while training, said Boomer; during the fastest days of their journey Boomer and McNair-Landry cover 50 kilometres.

'I've lost a lot of weight'

After the long trek from Qikiqtarjuaq to Clyde River, Boomer said he and the dogs are feeling the physical and mental strain of continuous travel. 

"I've lost a lot of weight and obviously the dogs have too," he said. 

"We're at the point where the dogs are losing muscle mass, where we're really trying to conserve energy here."

In an effort to ease the strain pulling a heavy qamutik (sled) can have on the dogs, Boomer and McNair-Landry gave dog food to people in Clyde River who will store it in cabins further along the route. 

But while Boomer said it can be difficult to keep a dog team focused and energized on such a long journey, he never forgets how amazing it is to have this experience.

"Once you're getting into that groove of working hard, I'll look up and just think of how I must be one of the luckiest people on earth to be able to do this and it just makes it all worth it."


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