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Race revives life before snowmobiles

Qimualaniq Quest seeks to revitalize South Baffin dogsledding

By -none-

JOHN THOMPSON

Paul Crowley is busy building a qamotik light enough to race, but sturdy enough to survive any unexpected collisions with rocks when he descends Mount Joy.

He’s one of about a half dozen dogsled racers from Iqaluit preparing for the Qimualaniq Quest, a race to Kimmirut and back, which takes place from March 26 to 31.

Organizers, from l’Asso­ciation des Francophone du Nunavut, the Kimmirut Hunters and Trappers Organization, and other volunteers, hope the race will become an annual event that will eventually draw racers from surrounding communities in Nunavut and Nunavik, and revitalize dogsledding in South Baffin.

In other words, the race is meant to be for the region what the Nunavut Quest is for North Baffin, and Ivvakkak is for Nunavik.

Crowley’s heard of how interest in dogsledding took off in some communities because of these other races, and hopes to see a similar ripple effect from the Qimualaniq Quest.

Crowley, who has trained sled dogs since 1995, says the route is about as challenging as it gets: racers will climb up to 2,000 feet above sea level, up Mount Joy, and back down again.

There’s not much snow on Mt. Joy this year, and plenty of exposed rock.

Along the route, racers will also need to watch out for “wind wells,” where the wind has carved out ten-foot drops in snow drifts.

Racers will be later rewarded by the beauty of the Soper valley, where Crowley recalls travelling through several years ago and seeing northern lights stretched from mountain range to mountain range, across the valley.

Then there’s another challenge: each racer will be expected to pull with them three bags of flour, weighing a total of 120 pounds. The extra baggage is meant to remind racers that traditionally, dogsled drivers didn’t have the luxury of travelling light – they had to carry everything they might need.

The flour will be raffled away in Kimmirut during a community feast. Racers are also expected to carry enough gear to survive two nights, in case a storm hits.

The race’s name, qimualaniq, refers to when sled dogs are eager to pull the sled and go fast.

Dogsled racers have talked about organizing such a race for years, but it finally came together this year, largely due to organizing done by the francophone association.

The race is to take three days and two nights in each direction, with one night spent in Kimmirut. To keep up, racers will need to cover about 50 kilometres each day.

Racers will camp together each night. “We wanted it to be a community event where everyone comes together,” Crowley said.

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