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Doing the Dempster: Arctic Fat Biking

By Mark Hines
13, Feb, 2018

Returning to Canada for the ultimate coast to coast: fat biking from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific down the Dempster Highway

Black and white photo: Mark Hines fat biking on snow towards the camera

Objective: cycle from the top to bottom of Canada, from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific.

Stage 1: The Dempster Highway

Winter would not have been the same without a return to Canada's north.  I fell in love with the Yukon Territory in 2009, it’s a love that has only grown with time.  

 

Black and white photo: the vir fortis leaning against a wooden cabin wall

 

Black and white photo: the yukon aeroplane waiting on snow
Black and white photo: A fat bike at the side of the road leaning on the snow

 

It was the final year of the ice road at the top of the Dempster Highway. That meant it was also my last chance to ride my Sonder Vir Fortis on that fascinating road that picks its way from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, sweeping northwards until the Arctic Ocean.

 

Black and white photo: a fellow traveller on the Dempster Highway
 
Black and white photo: One foot on the frozen arctic ocean
Black and white photo: the Vir Fortis fat bike leaning against a snowy bank next to a sign for Inuvik

 

Inuvik

I do not think there is another place in the world where I have made so many friends so quickly. I experienced the highest level of hospitality, kindness and generosity towards me that I have felt anywhere (India being a notable equivalent).  Had circumstances forced me to return to Inuvik for an extended period, I would not have been disappointed, but quite the contrary.  I would similarly have enjoyed an extended stay in Tsiigehtchic, but everything was good to continue.

 

Black and white photo: The snowy dempster highway stretching out ahead into the distance

 

Black and white photo: The Vir Fortis fat bike leaning against a sign for the Arctic circle

 

Most days I had target locations to reach: small towns, remote cabins, even a highway maintenance compound.  Some nights I slept on open ground and, on another, beneath a spruce tree.  For the most part, the weather was on my side: the coldest mornings were around -35˚C and even the famously brutal Dempster winds abated for my safe passage.

 

Black and white photo: A local stood in front of his cabin
Black and white photo: The fatbike in front of park tombstone sign

 

Black and white photo: the Dempster Highway stretching even further out into the distance

As with Inuvik itself, the Dempster was a place for making friends.  Cars would come to a halt and people would chat, offer supplies, and even make arrangements to meet up for drinks at the end of it all.  Two such friends made arrangements for me to be looked after at Tombstone campground, where I met an old friend I had lost touch with. He gave me details of another mutual friend who I could stay with in a cabin the next night. Serendipity, certainly, but also so simply Canada at its finest.

Black and white photo: Arriving at Dawson city
Black and white photo: The Vir Fortis leaning on a wooden cabin
 
Black and white photo: Arrival at Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon

 

And so it was that I progressed along the Dempster Highway.  There were moments of varying peril, including steep descents on roads cloaked in ice, compacted snow and loose stones.  The Sonder Vir Fortis sailed over it all, taking the terrain comfortably in its stride as I gripped the handlebars with whitening knuckles, contemplating the mess I would make if thrown off. 

Blue skies, low winds, forgiving temperatures, a well-maintained road, and friendly faces made this journey heavenly when it could so easily have been hellish.

For the full story, visit Mark's blog

 

Black and white photo: Mark Hines and the Vir Fortis in front of the Yukon sign

 

Black and white photo: A well-earned Yukon brewery beer
 
Black and white photo: Enjoying a drink on the back of a pickup truck with a fellow traveler
Black and white photo: a selfie by Mark Hines in the snow with a frozen beard
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In pictures

Black and white photo: Mark Hines fat biking on snow towards the camera
Black and white photo: the vir fortis leaning against a wooden cabin wall
Black and white photo: the yukon aeroplane waiting on snow
Black and white photo: A fat bike at the side of the road leaning on the snow
Black and white photo: a fellow traveller on the Dempster Highway
Black and white photo: One foot on the frozen arctic ocean
Black and white photo: the Vir Fortis fat bike leaning against a snowy bank next to a sign for Inuvik
Black and white photo: The snowy dempster highway stretching out ahead into the distance
Black and white photo: The Vir Fortis fat bike leaning against a sign for the Arctic circle
Black and white photo: A local stood in front of his cabin
Black and white photo: The fatbike in front of park tombstone sign
Black and white photo: the Dempster Highway stretching even further out into the distance
Black and white photo: Arriving at Dawson city
Black and white photo: The Vir Fortis leaning on a wooden cabin
Black and white photo: Arrival at Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon
Black and white photo: A well-earned Yukon brewery beer
Black and white photo: a selfie by Mark Hines in the snow with a frozen beard
Black and white photo: A photo with a fellow traveller on the Dempster highway
Black and white photo: Mark Hines and the Vir Fortis in front of the Yukon sign
Black and white photo: Enjoying a drink on the back of a pickup truck with a fellow traveler

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