It took him over four days to do it, but Gwich’in runner Brad Firth has completed a ‘one of a kind’ run across a frozen Great Slave Lake.
Firth, also known as Caribou Legs, departed from Hay River on Saturday morning around 8:00 a.m. and arrived in Dettah on Tuesday around 5:30 p.m.
He was accompanied by a team of five Canadian Rangers on snowmobiles throughout the 200-kilometer journey. On a typical day, Firth would run anywhere from 40 to 60 kilometers.
While a group of two Rangers escorted him, a second group of three Rangers scouted ahead and set up camp for the night.
Caribou Legs is no stranger to running long distances, having previously run across Canada in support of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
But that doesn’t mean this run wasn’t special.
“I’ve never experienced any kind of run like this in my life,” Firth said. “I’ve run the Beaufort Sea in -60 C, -50 C but nothing like these kinds of temperatures with severe winds and lots of ice cracks.
“It’s a one of a kind run and I’m just glad it’s done. I’m glad I arrived on the shores here in Yellowknife safe and sound.
“The whole run was challenging. There were lots of ice crevices, lots of deep snow. It was a really slow run some days but on others we made up for it.”
Run went ‘very well overall’
On most days, Firth would begin running as early as 8:30 a.m. and cover as much ground as possible until dusk.
Before nightfall, a team of Rangers would set up canvass wall tents equipped with oil heaters so that everyone could stay warm and enjoy a hot meal at the end of the day.
Master Cpl. Robert Wilkins is with the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Hay River. He was one of the five Rangers who escorted Caribou Legs across the lake.
He told Moose FM the trip went ‘very well overall’ despite whiteout conditions and high winds at times on Monday.
“It was an interesting expedition,” he said. “It’s always helpful anytime we have an opportunity to use the skills that we’ve been trained to use.
“Anytime on the land is valuable time when we’re functioning as a patrol. We’re perfecting skills for navigation, we’re exercising our ice evaluation skills and general land-based activities.”
But the weather didn’t seem to throw Firth off his game. The most stressful moment for him came when he temporarily misplaced his drum.
“The thing that concerned me the most was when I lost my drum,” he said. “It got buried in like four feet of snow out there so I had to wake up in the morning and dig it out.
“It took me about half an hour but I found it. It was stressful.”
Firth says he’s grateful to the five Rangers who stayed with him for every step of his run.
“I’m really happy and grateful that the Canadian Rangers took part in [the run] and ensured my safety every day, every moment,” he said.
“I had the best support team, the best equipment and strong positive attitudes out there.”
So what’s next for Caribou Legs?
He’ll spend the next couple of days in Yellowknife before embarking on another lengthy run from the NWT capital to Behchoko – some 110 kilometers.
“It’s just another run, right?” he joked.