'It feels absolutely incredible to be here': 2 hikers complete epic trek to Arctic Ocean

Leigh Swansborough and Clarissa Black spent 4 and a half months paddling and walking from Alaska to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

Leigh Swansborough and Clarissa Black spent almost 5 months travelling from Alaska to Tuktoyaktuk

Leigh Swansborough and Clarissa Black have arrived at the end of an almost five-month epic journey to Tuktoyaktuk. (Submitted by Clarissa Black )

Two hikers on an epic adventure across the Yukon to the Arctic Ocean have finally made it.

Leigh Swansborough from Australia and Clarissa Black from the U.S. arrived in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., on Tuesday afternoon.

The journey took four and half months starting at the Chilkoot Pass in Skagway, Alaska, on June 1. They paddled approximately 965 kilometres in the Yukon and walked more than 900 kilometres from Dawson City to their final destination. 

"It feels absolutely incredible to be here," said Black.

The two were greeted at the visitors centre in Tuktoyaktuk where they were joined by locals to take pictures by the Arctic Ocean.

"We have had to overcome so many challenges and obstacles to be able to get this far," said Black.

The hikers were robbed of crucial gear at Whitehorse's Robert Service campground in July and had to come up with a new cart to carry supplies up the Dempster Highway after a custom cart didn't arrive in Dawson City.

Black also suffered from achilles and knee injuries and even became sick shortly before getting to Tuktoyaktuk. They had to take a few days to rest because of the injuries along the way. 

The cart the hikers used to pull their supplies up the Dempster Highway fell into a ravine. They had to haul the cart out with the help of a passing car. (Submitted by Clarissa Black )

Black and Swansborough relied on the support of many people to complete their trip.

The custom cart was built by an Inuvik resident who drove the Dempster Highway to give it to them. Later in the trip, the cart rolled into a ravine by James Creek when the two stopped to take pictures. They had to flag down a car to help them pull it out.

"We couldn't have been treated kinder," said Swansborough.

Many people stopped along the highway to give them food, a tour bus stopped to take pictures with them, and they even received handwritten cards, said Black.

"The highlight has been all of the people that we have met along the way," she said.  "I think [we made] some lifelong friends, we feel like we are part of the family, like this is home." 

Black and Swansborough said they will hang out and enjoy Tuktoyaktuk for the next few days while they figure out how to make it back to California.

They are hoping to catch a ride down the Dempster Highway but might have to settle for flying back to Whitehorse before heading home.

"I can tell you this unequivocally, we will not be walking home," said Black.

Black and Swansborough started up the Dempster Highway in August and arrived in Tuktoyaktuk on Tuesday, They said one of the hardest challenges they faced was the weather. (Submitted by Clarissa Black )


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the hikers travelled more than 300 kilometres in the Yukon. In fact, the distance was approximately 965 kilometres.
    Oct 18, 2018 7:43 AM CT