. E-mail This Article

Arctic adventure

Norwegian crossing Canada's North

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Tulita (Dec 11/00) - Time is about the only luxury Lars Monsen will have the next two years.

The Norwegian adventurer will see more of Canada's North than most Northerners during a cross-Canada dog-mushing journey.

Now in the Sahtu, the 37 year-old began his trip April 2 on Kaktovik, an island off the North coast of Alaska.

It was a 20-day trip from there to Inuvik. Monsen and his dogs held up, the sled did not. Both of the runners broke on rough sea ice early on and he was forced to jog much of the way.

"I was forced to sweat and get wet, which is not good in cold," said the veteran wilderness traveller. "I had to tie up my brake with a wire, so I had somewhere to put my feet."

Wilderness traveller

Though this is Monsen's first time in Canada, it is far from his first wilderness adventure.

Well known in his native country, he has hiked across Alaska, Norway, Alaska's Admiralty and Kodiak Islands, canoed extensively in Alaska and spent, by his count, a total of 2,600 nights camped out in the wilderness.

This will be by far the longest wilderness journey Monsen has undertaken and the first he has done by dogteam.

"I'm a below-average musher," Monsen said. He has been mushing for only three years, but has been instructed by two of Norway's top mushers. All but one of his dogs has run the Iditarod.

Bear encounter

Monsen spent the summer camped on the shores of Trout Lake, 110 kilometres southeast of Inuvik near Traviallant Lake.

The idyllic setting was marred by an encounter that ended with the shooting of a black bear that threatened his camp for 14 hours.

"It was the most bothersome bear I've encountered, maybe with a couple of exceptions," said Monsen. "In the end there were only two choices, either I had to shoot it, shoot to kill, or I had to move camp. The bear was just laying in the bushes 25 metres away and could have attacked any time."

Monsen said he fired many warning shots but the bear always returned. The barking of his dogs served to provoke the bear more than scare it away.

"It ran into my camp to my dogs, and stood with its snarling teeth one inch above the head of one of my huskies," recalled Monsen. "That dog just fell to the ground and shook for 30 minutes. It could have killed him just like that, but it didn't."

The entire team is still feeling the effects of the fake attack, the yelling Monsen did and the shotgun blasts he fired off in an attempt to scare away, then kill, the bear. Monsen said the dogs still get scared by sound of him loading his shotgun.

Journey's the thing

Monsen's schedule is a work in progress.

"A very important part for me is not rushing, taking your time. It's not just getting from A to B, its what's in between that's really important," he said.

"If you really love nature, you take your time. And that's the only way to live a safe life out there, because if you rush, you take chances. The best safety comes from time and patience. My three most important words on this expedition are 'patience, patience and patience.'"

Monsen said another part of the journey is getting to know Canadian culture, particularly native culture.

Its something he has an opportunity to do during stops in each village. He relies on advice of locals in developing his travel plans for each leg of the journey.