Our staff profile series continues with one of Canada’s foremost explorer-adventurer-authors, recently returned from a four-hundred kilometre snowshoe trek across Labrador.
Jerry Kobalenko has been travelling in and around Labrador for over twenty years. A perennial adventure-seeker, Jerry spends as much time as possible out on the land. He has logged over ten thousand kilometres on some thirty-five skiing, hiking, and kayaking expeditions and typically spends three months of the year in a tent in the north. He has, notably, kayaked the entire coastline of Labrador and modestly notes that he is among the few to have seen each of its bays up close, from the water, under his own power.
His recent snowshoe expedition took Jerry inland with one travel companion, writer James MacKinnon. “Partly, it was just an excuse to see Labrador,” says Jerry—not that he ever needs an excuse—”but it was also a chance for me to stitch closed the circuit I began by travelling the coast.” The two men journeyed from Happy Valley / Goose Bay to St. Augustine in thirty-four days, each hauling a sled containing the nearly two-hundred pounds of gear they would need to survive the elements. Gear like sleeping bags rated to the savage temperatures—as low as -50°C—they would encounter as they trudged through one of the coldest Canadian winters on record.
To maintain their strength, the two men routinely ate more than six thousand calories daily. This amounts to a third of a family-size box of granola for breakfast, and dinners comprising mounds of potatoes, cream, and swiss raclette cheese. “It’s very fatty, that stuff, the perfect expedition food,” says Jerry.
Cooking in the evening is one thing, but finding sustenance mid-day is another kettle of fish. “At the core of our lunch is this massive thousand-calorie peanut butter-and-jam sandwich,” Jerry laughs. “It’s terrific fuel, but peanut butter is rock hard at forty below! It’s like gnawing a baseball.” Even with all this gorging, both men managed to lose about three kilograms over the course of the trip. Laughing, Jerry suggests that Adventure Canada look into snowshoe trips as a weight loss program for their staff after all the fine dining they’ll be doing aboard the Ocean Endeavour this summer. (I’m not sure whether or not we should be insulted! —ed.)
“It was the slowest trip I’ve ever done,” Jerry says, “totally a factor of the snow conditions.” He explains that they travelled a total of a hundred kilometres in their first sixteen days, when they should have been averaging about fifteen daily “We were just killing ourselves, struggling to make a kilometre an hour … further north, where we started, the snow was softer. And that means you sink into it. And you’re just hauling your gear … it’s abrasive as sand and just as hard to walk through.”
Later in the trip, mercifully, they found the colder climate they sought. The snow became harder, denser, easer to walk across instead of through. The two men finished in St. Augustine on schedule, covering their last hundred kilometres in just four days. Just in case it wasn’t apparent by now that this guy really knows his stuff.
Jerry joins Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland & Wild Labrador expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour, July 5–17 2016, where he will be sharing his vast experience with the province’s natural wilds with travellers.