North

Hikers use golf cart and stroller to carry gear up Dempster Highway

Two adventurers had to get creative, to continue their epic journey to the Arctic Ocean. Their custom-built carrying cart never arrived in Dawson City.

Two adventurers first had their gear stolen, then their custom-built cart never arrived

After hiking the Chilkoot trail and paddling to Dawson City, Yukon, adventurers Leigh Swansborough and Clarissa Black faced another challenge — the custom-built cart they ordered to pull their supplies up the Dempster Highway never arrived. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Two hikers on an epic journey across the Yukon to the Arctic Ocean have run into a new set of problems, just weeks after a bunch of their gear was stolen in Whitehorse.

Leigh Swansborough of Australia and Clarissa Black of the U.S. don't know how they will get their supplies up the Dempster Highway.

They started their journey earlier this summer in Skagway, Alaska, and hiked the Chilkoot trail, then paddled to Whitehorse, where they were robbed at the Robert Service campground — leaving them without crucial gear to continue.

Swansborough and Black managed to find new equipment in Whitehorse, to paddle on to Dawson City. That's where they ran into their next challenge.

A custom-built cart, made to carry more than 50 kilograms' worth of supplies up the Dempster to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., was to be shipped up to Dawson but it never arrived. 

It was built to be lightweight, with tires that couldn't go flat and a covering to keep equipment dry when it rained. They were counting on using it for their five-week, 917-kilometre hike up the Dempster.

They needed a new plan.

"We are getting creative with our ideas at this point," said Swansborough.

Black's cart is an old golf cart cart ('Bag Boy'), and Swansborough's cart is an old stroller ('Strolee'). They will strap 27-kilogram backpacks to them to push up the Dempster Highway. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Scavenging in Dawson for anything they could make into a cart, they found a vintage stroller missing a seat, and a three-wheeled golf cart.

"At this point, we are desperate," said Black.

"We were hoping maybe there would be an old outhouse chariot that was lying around," said Black, referring to an annual tradition in Dawson — the great Klondike outhouse races. Teams create rickshaw-like structures with outhouses on top and run a five-kilometre race.

"I would push an outhouse to Tuk," said Swansborough.

The supplies they need to carry include winter clothing, tenting gear, and several weeks' worth of food. The N.W.T. visitor centre will be making food drops for them along the way, to help limit their load.

However, at times they will have to carry up to five days' worth of water.

"We have all the gear, we are prepared for the conditions and the terrain, we just need a cart to put it in, to push," said Swansborough.

The women decided to take the golf cart, which they have named 'Bag Boy,' and the stroller, named 'Strolee,' as far as they can before the units break.

"We may get to Tombstone [Park] with Strolee, and anything farther than that would be a blessing," said Swansborough.

Once their makeshift carts break, they hope to flag down cars in hopes they will take their gear about 30 kilometres up the road and drop it for them to walk up to.

"We can play a fun game of leap frog," said Black.

The alternative would be carrying heavy packs up the highway and limiting some of their gear.

"This could put us into some danger along the way," said Black.

However, Swansborough and Black are determined to reach their ultimate goal.

"We are getting to Tuk either way. We have come this far, and we can't stop now," said Swansborough.

The two hikers are on an epic four-month journey from Skagway, Alaska, to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. The hike up the Dempster is the last leg of their journey. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

"Even being robbed has been a blessing ... We got more out of it in the long run, we met more Yukoners, and had a whole town rally around two strangers from another country."

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