Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 05, 2014 - 12:33 pm

Trekking, unassisted, from Kugaaruk to Greenland

"This particular journey is one he’s been planning for several years"

DAVID MURPHY
Vincent Cochin is now on day 3 of an anticipated 80-day trek from Kugaaruk to Qaanaaq, Greenland. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSEPHINE ANDERSON)
Vincent Cochin is now on day 3 of an anticipated 80-day trek from Kugaaruk to Qaanaaq, Greenland. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSEPHINE ANDERSON)

Fancy a walk to Greenland?

Vincent Cochin does.

The 29-year-old French adventurer began an 80-day trek from Kugaaruk, Nunavut to Qaanaaq, Greenland on March 3.

Cochin is trying to break the record for the longest unassisted, unsupported polar journey — that means no resupplies, no dog sled, snowmobile or assistance of any kind.

The current record is held by British outdoorsman Alex Hibbert, who trekked 2,211 kilometres across Greenland in 2008.

That’s further than walking to Mexico from Vancouver, B.C. 

“He’s hoping to beat that by 100 km or so,” said Josephine Anderson, director of the documentary about Cochin’s journey, called Into The Midnight Sun.

Anderson will direct the documentary with co-director Tavi Parusel of production company Moosestash Films.

“For Vincent, this is where he’s at in terms of development as an adventurer,” Anderson said from her headquarters in Vancouver.

Cochin has been preparing for the daring trip for most of his life.

While living in Yellowknife for many years, he undertook major long-distance trips, involving canoeing down the Snare River, dog sledding near Great Slave Lake and sea kayaking in Alaska.

Cochin also canoed from Yellowknife to Kugaaruk, and recently harboured a lofty ambition to trek to the North Pole from Qaanaaq, which he had to cancel due to bad ice conditions.

But “this trip is the big whammy for him right now,” Anderson said.

“This particular journey is one he’s been planning for several years.”

In the lead-up to his big trek, Cochin worked at odd jobs in landscaping or security to fund the trip.

Cochin bought all-new equipment which he took out on the land for day trips outside of Yellowknife.

“He’s very passionate about adventuring. The thing is, it’s hard to make a living out of adventuring,” Anderson said.

Cochin is bringing about 150 kilograms — or 330 pounds — of equipment and supplies on the trek.

That includes food, two sleeping bags, a tent, rifle, and specialized clothing such as a polar fleece balaclava and polypropylene gloves to stave off the cold.

The cold is just one of many dangers that could jeopardize Cochin’s journey.

He must also contend with thin ice, polar bears, and snow blindness.

“I think it is pretty dangerous,” Anderson said.

“Besides being alone and having no one there to help you if you get into a jam, obviously the weather in the Arctic is unpredictable and extreme,” she said.

Cochin’s route will take him from Kugaaruk to Taloyoak, Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord and then North to Qaanaaq — Greenland’s most northerly settlement and the second most northern town in the world next to Longyearbyen, Norway.

Cochin can’t actually visit any communities — visiting a community puts him at risk of being assisted or supported in some way.

But Cochin can activate a beacon with GPS capability that will alert rescue crews if he needs someone to help save him.

The spot GPS messenger system also sends out his coordinates whenever he presses a button — that will be the only form of technology he has on the trek.

What he doesn’t have, however, is company. The documentary crew isn’t even allowed to join him on the trip.

“The world record is not that it has to be solo. But it definitely would take away from the integrity of Vincent’s trip because he thrives off of doing this kind of thing,” Anderson said.

That isolation is one of the reasons for the documentary.

“The extreme of being alone, going out into the wilderness and facing your own inner self at a very deep level” is one of the themes Anderson wants to explore.

“As well as obviously facing the world and facing the unknown of what you’re going to walk into,” she said.

“There’s that element of the inner journey. And we’re really interested in exploring the way that the land Vincent travels through is connected with Inuit myths and stories that are kind of part of that landscape.”

Before setting off, Cochin wrote in a blog that he was “very impatient to explore that part of the Arctic and following the foot steps of explorers like Sverdrup, Franklin, Greely or Ross.”

Anderson’s co-director has been filming Cochin for the past week in Kugaaruk.

The film will make its way around the International film circuit in 2015, she said.

To keep up with the latest news on Cochin’s trip, go to Into The Midnight Sun’s Facebook page here.

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