Iqaluit duo's Northwest Passage ski trek nears end

Two siblings from Iqaluit are nearing the end of a 3,000-kilometre kite-ski trek through the Northwest Passage.
Eric, left, and Sarah McNair-Landry adjust their kites near Iqaluit in March, before embarking on a 3,000-kilometre kite-ski trek through the Northwest Passage from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., to Pond Inlet, Nunavut. ((Patricia Bell/CBC))

Two siblings from Iqaluit are nearing the end of a 3,000-kilometre kite-ski trek through the Northwest Passage.

Eric McNair-Landy, 26, and his sister Sarah, 25, have been skiing — and using kites to help move them along — on the route of the Arctic passage since late March, when they departed from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.  and headed east.

Friday was the siblings' 76th day of travel. By Thursday, they had crossed the Fury and Hecla straits and landed on Baffin Island, about 150 kilometres north of Igloolik, Nunavut.

"We were able to do 130 kilometres that first day, which was great. We had perfect winds and we were just able to cover a lot of ground," Sarah McNair-Landry told CBC News on Thursday.

McNair-Landry said she and her brother hope to cross Baffin Island and reach their final destination — Pond Inlet, Nunavut — within the next two weeks.

"If we have good winds, we could make it as fast as possibly seven days. If we have no wind at all we're about, from here, 11 days of skiing," she said.

"So hopefully in the next 11 days we'll get some good winds and make it there in about a week."

Encountered challenges

The McNair-Landrys, who are aiming to become the first to kite-ski the Northwest Passage, said they are excited to be on Baffin Island, the final leg of their trek.

In the past few weeks, the siblings have encountered polar bears, treaded on rocky terrain and navigated around moving ice. On Thursday, they dealt with poor weather conditions that included strong winds.

"The visibility is really bad, so we can hardly see the length of our kite. It's snowing and it's a really wet storm, and it's pretty rocky terrain," Sarah said.

"We decided to wait a couple of hours hopefully the winds will die and … it'll be easier to see."

At one point, they had to take a 600-kilometre detour south of their intended route because of dangerous moving ice in the Gulf of Boothia.

Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry are the children of Matty McNair, a longtime polar guide based in Iqaluit.