The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  WINTER 2004










In this issue

Front Page



Winter Packet


From the Editor





Some Big Tribe Observations

Our coverage of the tragic disappearance of Daniel Pauzé and Susan Barnes in Labrador last summer produced the most thoughtful reactions we have ever had to an article. Here are some of those comments leading off with the words of an incomparable northern traveller – Garrett Conover.

Susan Barnes and Daniel Pauzé pick up their HACC Tripper in Toronto.               MICHAEL PEAKE


Although I didn’t know either Susan or Daniel, they are “our tribe” of travelers and thus the whole thing is very compelling and close. Those of us who favour ambitious trips in the better remnants of remaining wild lands are so very cognizant of the wild-card called luck. “We spend our careers honing physical and judgment skills and accruing more and more empirically gained expertise, but always knowing that the wild-card in the deck exists with undiminished power no matter how skilled we become. The fact is, good and bad luck can emerge for any of us at any time. At times, and for some, that can happen in an overpowering war, whether we are crossing a street or crossing Ungava.

“Because we are alive we get to accept this bargain, or deal, or fact because we have no choice. We do it all the time and usually fairly unconsciously. Within the “Big Trip Tribe” this is so acceptable and a natural part of the package we usually don’t even mention it among ourselves, it is simply understood.

“This is where perception and care, so eloquently identified in the final paragraphs of your essay, emerges as a point of relativity, and takes on a form that questions responsibility. Anyone with a passion for engagement with the wilds in serious long-term ways is always struggling to find a language to describe the interest and drive and passion for those who regard such travel as “adventure”, “fringe”, “dangerous”, “crazy”, or “odd”. We are forced into “defense of thesis” mode by the puzzlement of ambient culture with no interest in such voluntary difficulty and no means of understanding what fuels the passion that makes such outings “fun” and “rewarding” for the practitioners.

“When tragedy strikes, we are all forced to re-evaluate our thoughts on this and answer to those who just don’t get it. It’s a good exercise. And sobering to be reminded with no holds barred how thin the margin is between good luck - and bad.

“My personal thinking is always rocking and shifting with new tides of data and ideas, and an event like this causes a bit of a surge and heightened awareness. So thank you, for your thought-provoking article

“Since 1991 I have carried a signed typed card in my wallet laminated to be waterproof.

‘In the event of death in the wilds I wish to be left near or at the site or hidden in accordance to the best judgment of my companions. In the event of traumatic accident resulting in hospital care, the physicians, law, and all authorities should be aware that I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial support systems if a return to consciousness is unlikely.’

“I realize that the current maze of legality, the maze of investigations and all that stuff would probably preclude any such wishes being realized. And that the likelihood of cancer, disease, accidents or violence are far more likely scenarios than being lucky enough to be in the wilds at the end; but at least anyone involved with my remains would know what I thought about it.

“On a much more upbeat note, we had a fabulous 59-day snowshoe and toboggan trip on the De Pas and George rivers from February 16 through April 15 last winter. Splendid beyond belief and so fun and uneventful that I’m not even going to type up my trip notes.”

— Garrett Conover

I was just checking out and read your articles on the disappearance of Daniel and Susan.

“Daniel was a friend of mine and a fellow Canadian highpointer. He contacted me after reading about my climb of Ishpatina Ridge (which was featured on 2 years ago). Since then, I've met with him many times to discuss his trip to Labrador and we even planned on doing some western highpoints together in the near future.

“I had originally planned to climb Mt. D'Iberville/Caubvick last year with 3 other group members but my plans fell through when the coastal ice prevented our longliner from getting through to Nachvak Fjord. Daniel asked me to come along this year, but I decided not to go since I was moving to Calgary... where I am now. (In case you're wondering, I'm not the "other" partner Susan replaced. That was someone else.)

“He sent me many emails including his acquisition of one of your canoes and seemed incredibly excited. His last words to me were, "This will be the toughest trip I've ever done... If I survive." Those words came immediately to mind when I received some e-mail from his brother Michel in late August regarding the RCMP search which had begun for his brother and girlfriend. He even made up a ‘rough’ webpage which you may have seen already  at It's sad to hear about their disappearance and I'm very sad for their parents. Having a pair of worrisome parents myself, I can only imagine what they're going through right now... especially with the Christmas season rolling in.

“Well, in any event, I guess I just wanted to thank you for writing up those excellent articles and bringing back some fond memories of my friend.”

— Ken Takabe

 The discussion of the Labrador Tragedy and your Essay has caused me to reflect on the profound influence northern trips have on who I am and the risk that I accept while traveling there.

I was struck by the comment that you made in your Essay. "Did we portray the trip as we should have"? Over the years I have often been asked for advice by folks planning trips in the North and more and more I have been thinking about the way in which I describe my own northern experiences.  It is easy to become complacent when you return to the same rivers over and over. As you did, we all have a responsibility to give an accurate portrayal  of the inherent risk of northern travel.

In August I had just returned from my 13th trip on the George River when I received an e-mail saying that Susan and Daniel where missing.  As most folks I too thought that initially they had just been delayed by weather but as the days passed it was clear that something more serious had happened.  I searched the web for new information daily.

This one hit close to home, perhaps because I had just returned from the George or maybe it is because lately there seem to be more and more accidents happening in places in which I travel.  A couple years ago I had just returned from a trip on the Soper River to find that soon after we visited a paddler was attacked by a polar bear at Soper Falls. I wish I had some profound conclusion to draw from all this.  I can only say that  I am even more drawn to the north as the years pass.  Perhaps it is because it is one of the few times when life is at its most primitive and the consequences of our actions can mean the difference between life and death”. 

Greg Shute

I have just read your report of the tragedy suffered by Ms. Barnes and Mr. Pauzé. Your treatment of this sad duty is appropriate, respectful and realistic. The event certainly underscores the hard reality that can be wilderness travel.

“In this regard, we must all be aware of the responsibility trip leaders bear toward their fellow travellers.  On the other hand, each person who ventures out into the bush assumes the risk for themselves. Frankly, I followed your LO 2001 avidly.  It was quite clear from all of the HACC reports that this was an extremely arduous undertaking.  So much so that in our little canoe circle, the Torngat Mountains became a euphemism for any particularly tough passage we encountered. 

“It is why the HACC is held in such high regard: very difficult trips accomplished safely and on schedule. Or, as Amundsen might say, without ‘adventures’. Anyone who has done even modest trips can see from the HACC accounts the amount of planning, preparation and solid effort needed to pull even one of these trips off.

“In your essay, you wrestle with the question of responsibility.  For my part, you and the HACC bear none. At least none more than any of us do who promote and encourage wilderness travel.

As you say, the wilderness draws us in part with its raw power. It is not malevolent, neither is it benign, it just is.”

— Ken Grafton.

 Winter 2004         Outfit 115 

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