Ice Road Bikering: Bechoko to Gameti

Two years ago. March 2018 – 

With the trucks loaded with bikes, food, camping gear, food and extra clothes, we began the one hour drive to Bechoko. A three day, 194km fatbike adventure on winter roads begins. 

Roll ahead two days, Sarah Lake, March 24, 2018.  


The ice on the lake is the most beautiful ice – crystal clear and smoother than most hockey arenas. We are on bikes, on a 25km long lake and heading straight into a 30 to 40km headwind. At times it seems that pushing the bike is less work than trying to peddle. 

I’ve got frostbite on my nose and ears, my body aches from pedaling and my brain is fatigued from concentrating on keeping my bike upright. 

Fortunately, this was the last day – The previous two days were much more …pleasant…

Sarah Lake, March 24, 2018.  

In November 2017 we gathered for the first planning session. Ewan had completed a similar bike trip along the Mackenzie Highways a year earlier – the rest of us – winter bike packing beginners. The maps were unrolled on the kitchen table showing the different winter road options, over portages and frozen lakes.  We settled on the Bechoko to Gameti route, a total of 194 kilometers. With climate change, ice roads are slowly becoming a thing of the past; more and more are being replaced by all-weather roads.    From then on Bob, Amanda and I started depleting our bank accounts to buy winter camping gear including new -40C sleeping bags, winter tents and sleeping mats. 

During the spring we had a couple of practice camping trips and rides with fully loaded bikes. All this gear – how are we going to pack it all on our bikes ?. As time grew closer we decided to have a support/safety vehicle for safety, and for the convenience of being able to bring EVERYTHING needed for any conditions the weather may throw our way. One week before the scheduled departure we were joined by Damian and Bev. By coincidence, they had also selected the same trip on the very same weekend, however at the last minute their logistics support was not available, so now there were six of us.

We had planned for pit stops every 20km, with whom ever was driving in the support vehicle setting up a stove for hot soup or tea. With clear skies, no wind and relatively warm conditions we made good progress.

Pit stop on Marion Lake. Maps laid out to track our progress and best understand the length of the journey.


It took several hours to bike the length of Marion Lake, then over smaller lakes and portages. After obligatory photos at the 50km highway sign to mark my 50th birthday – How better to celebrate that occasion. Our pace was surprisingly fast, and by the time we stopped for the night we had biked 68Km. 

Day One. Cooking Dinner along the road, and a surprise birthday cake.

Day two started with pushing our bikes a few kilometers to get out bodies and muscles warmed up for a day of biking. As we rode, lakes and portages passed by. Each of the bikers traveling at their own speed; ride fast enough to keep warm and slow enough to not break a sweat (sweating can cause hypothermia). Surprisingly, even in -70C rated boots feet still got cold.


Barren Ground Coffee on Mazenod Lake


We traveled over all kinds of road conditions, hard packed snow, bare ice on lakes and portages (the portages are actually flooded to make them last longer as the days get warmer) and rough overflow. With the exception of the odd vehicle – and very curious drivers – no doubt wondering what the heck we were doing, and why we would even think of bicycling this road. Wildlife was also scarce, except for the moose carcass and a wolverine that followed one of the riders for a while. 


Towards the end of the second day, Damien and I were at the back of the group. My rear tire was loosing pressure, and we dreaded the thought of changing a fat bike tire in the middle of a windswept lake. Luck prevailed, and we were able to cycle into camp.

Earlier, Amanda, driving the support vehicle had selected a perfect location to set up camp on Mazenod Lake, and had even donned snowshoes to pack a trail and compact the snow to make setting up the tents so much easier. That evening, as we huddled around our camp stoves, comparing the calorie values of our respective boil-in-the bag meals, and tasting Ewan’s homemade hot water disolvable ‘pucks’ – to me they tasted like hand soap. 

On day 3 light crept through our tents around 7, we woke to the sounds of frosted tent zippers and gas stoves and the aroma of fresh coffee. Amanda had selected a perfect camping spot – lots of morning sun and sheltered from the light wind. Conversation during the morning was centered on how amazing the weather had been, and the relatively few bike crashes. Bob had decided to ride in the support vehicle as his knee was still sore from a crash early on day one. This solved the need to fix my flat tire, as I could use Bob’s bike for the day. 

As the hours went by we started to encounter stronger wind. The stronger gusts wanted to push us backwards, or at least cause our bikes to want to veer into the smooth polished, and super slippery bare ice. At times, despite our best efforts, we were slowed to a crawl and even began walking and pushing our bikes. The wind continued to get stronger and stronger, and our route was directly into the wind. More and more smooth bare ice appeared, the wind blowing away the packed snow that we needed for traction for our tires, and boots when pushing. My speed was anywhere from two to five miles an hour.

Blowing snow collected on the leeward side of the snowbanks – saving a narrow strip of suitable riding track. With each gust, the fine crystalline snow swirled around the trail, blowing past me and over the polished glass surface of the exposed sea ice, in hypnotic patterns. 

This was probably the most beautiful ice that I’d ever seen; crystal clear, completely smooth. A speed skaters dream – a bikers nightmare !. At times, the smooth ice surface combined with the high winds made riding virtually impossible.

In front of me somewhere was Ewan, Bev and the truck.. 

“What the F*** am I doing here – this is worse than Planet Hoth”

“What the F*** am I doing here – this is worse than Planet Hoth”(Star Wars reference). I had unceremoniously dropped the bike into a snowbank and took a few pictures to record the experience.  A few minutes later Damien had caught up and we silently pushed our bikes into the wind. 


Pushing bikes into the wind.

At 2pm we re-grouped at the north end of Sarah Lake. Our progress has slowed to a crawl. Energy reserves had plummeted. We had biked 150km – only about 40km to Gameti. From here on – a short portage then a nearly 40km crossing on Faber Lake to Gameti. 

It was Decision time. We had three choices:

                             Camp here



Occasionally there comes a point in an adventure where circumstances force you to make a decision that will ultimately determine the outcome of the trip. Halfway through day three we had such a decision to make. 


I have already reached deep into my energy reserves. On a calm day, I could have eaten a few power bars and pushed on. 40 km wasn’t that far – under normal circumstances. But this was a 30 to 40km/hr head wind. With the decision made to bail, I packed my gear into the truck for the drive to Gameti. Bitter sweet – I’d have preferred to have continued. Two hours later, the truck returned to check in on Damian and Bev. They had covered 25km. Bev’s words were –  

”You didn’t miss a F*ing thing”


Ewan – cycled in a few hours later. Frostbitten and completely Spent. He had biked the whole length 190km. That evening, after hot showers we celebrated with a bottle of scotch and had a potluck of sorts finishing off our remaining camping food.

The next morning after waking up in warm beds, we had a leisurely bike tour around Gameti and packed up our gear in preparation for the drive home.  Shana and Maggie had driven from Yellowknife to drive us back to our vehicles in Bechoko. They had been delayed as the road we had biked on the previous day had been closed due to snowdrifts.  They had brought beer, fresh fruit and snacks for the drive home. By 9:30pm we had transferred gear and bikes to the other vehicles and were heading back to Yellowknife. Two hours later (total distance of 100km) we were home – Yes – Exhausted and happy.

One of the most memorable moments of the trip, which really touched my heart, was the birthday cake on Day One. In the middle of nowhere and a few close friends. The least enjoyable was biking on Sarah Lake. I remember my thoughts as I took that picture


With frostbite on my nose and ears, my body ached from pedalling and my brain is fatigued from concentrating on keeping my bike upright. 

Fortunately, this was the last day – The previous two days were much more …pleasant…


Thanks to Barren Ground Coffee for their sponsorship !

Footnote: Our planned bike ride in 2019, Bechoko to Whati was cancelled due to a sudden warming and the ice road was closed. 

March 2020 – Our last opportunity to bike the Bechoko – Whati ice road as construction has already started on a all-season road. The end of the ice roads is near. Trip planned and ready to go.


Frostbite 45 – A Northern Ski and Snowshow Event

Selected photos of frosted and frostbitten faces on participants can be seen on my Flickr page

The Frostbite 45 is a ski or snowshoe event held in Yellowknife. The course is 45 kilometers over windblown lakes and narrow skidoo trails between lakes. Participants can compete the entire course, or parts of the course as part of a relay team. This year, the 5th annual Frostbite-45 the weather conditions did not disappoint, with wind chill of -44C.
For the past couple of years I have volunteered at a Check Point; checking participant bib numbers and recording arrival times to help keep track of who is still on the particular section of the course, and when possible also photographing the other volunteers, skiers, runners (snow shoe participants can of often do remove their snow shoes on the hard packed trails). This year, I wanted to see the whole course, not only to get an idea what the participants see, and also to photograph the participants at different parts of the course. To do this – I used a skidoo, and it still took me six hours to compete the course.

The event, it is not called a ‘race’ started at 10am and the Yellowknife Ski Club with a 500 meter loop through the stadium area in front of the chalet (to spread out the group, and for the benefit of the spectators) then down the icy ravine onto Great Slave Lake. On the lake, it is approximately seven kilometers of directly in-you-face -40C something wind chill. I stopped a few times along this section to photograph the long stream of participants with the office towers of Yellowknife on the horizon. Already, at this point in the course, folks were getting cold. Even from a distance, I could recognize the circular motions of arms – trying to warm cold fingers, and hands on faces blocking the wind. There was even a fellow, with his hand in front of that part of the male anatomy. Time to move on.

Following a five kilometer skidoo trail through the forest must have given them some respite from the wind, until Walsh Lake – a long narrow lake perfectly aligned with the wind direction. The first Check Point, at the 15km distance is the one I know well. Shawne and Rauri were hard at work checking bib numbers and faces. By this point, most participants had covered up their faces with ski goggles, scarfs, neoprene face masks and neck warmers. Most were ok, although the strong wind has a nasty way of finding even the small areas of exposed skin such as the tip of the nose that normally pokes out at the bottom of ski goggles. Some were not as lucky, having small patches of white skin on reddened check. Others even less lucky with long stripes of frostbitten skin caused by wrinkles in their face masks, and one fellow who as first was thought to have a pale completion and this turned out to be a face of nasty frostbite. Needless to say, his race was over as the First Aid folks did not let him continue. As participants came through the Check Point I photographed some of them, forever recording those enthusiastic yet frost bitten faces.

The cold was also having an effect on my camera gear, and every few photos the viewfinder would stay black (the mirror had locked in the up position), and the LCD display read ‘err’. I now know what error message means, it is the cameras way of saying it is too darn cold and that the cameras normal operating temperatures range is no lower than 0C. A good time to leave the camera in my coat and let it warm up. By then, it was nearly 12:15, and in the distance back along the course we could see some participants had not yet completed the first section. For safety reasons, the Check Point is scheduled to close at 12:30, and those that had not yet past through the Check Point by that time would not be allowed to continue. It seemed like a good time to move on, as I did not want to be around or photograph the stragglers coming through after 12:30.

The course continues directly upwind to the end of Walsh Lake, then up over a hill and down to Prosperous Lake. From there I could see a long line of skiers and runners enduring a crosswind reroute to Check Point 2. Most of these folks I had already photographed at Check Point 1. Since my plan for the day was to photograph different participants at different parts of the course, I took a short cut and headed down wind towards Check Point 3 at the south end of the lake. On the way, I could see skiers and runners as tiny specks in the distance. Not far from Check Point 3, I noticed some incredibly scenic cliffs perfect to photograph the participants as they past in front. Not wanting to wait in the wind for the next skiers or runners to arrive, I sought shelter and found the perfect spot. There, out of the wind and actually being warmed by the sun were two volunteers from the Yellowknife Skidoo Club. We chatted and every 10 minutes or so I pushed down the visor of the skidoo helmet and peeked up wind to look for and photograph the next skier or runner as they passed by. Without the visor, the wind wanted to instantly freeze my eyes. Fortunately I had brought two cameras. The first was now completely dead. Even with extra batteries (I had bought 5 extra batteries) the LCD screen was blank. By 1:30 the second camera was starting to lock up and show the now all to familiar ‘err’ message on the LCD screen. A few photos later and it also went completely dead. Both cameras were now inside my coat – stone cold, and useless.

My job was to photograph the event, and by this point for most participants were still on the trails and had several hours to go before they completed the course. Without a camera, my contribution to the event was over. Being asked to retire from the event due to frostbite is one thing, as a photographer being forced to retire due to frozen cameras is another. By the time I got home at 4pm, not only were the two cameras still frozen, frost on the inside of my skidoo helmet had frozen my beard. A few tugs, and off came the helmet along with a tuft of beard hairs (just the grey ones right). My neck warmer had also frozen to my beard, tugging on it would have yanked out most of my beard hairs – outch. By 6pm I have thawed, the cameras have thawed (and are now working again), photos have been viewed, and I can’t help think about the folks that are still out there, the participants and volunteers.

Frozen cameras aside, it was again a rewarding experience to be a volunteer at Frostbite 45. This is however my last. Many participants in the Frostbite 45 have taken the time to stop, and say ‘thanks for helping’, then continue the course. Thanks folks. I would also like to thank the crew that organizes and sets up the event year after year; Shawne, Damain, Michael, Elaine (‘Master Tracker’, Tom, the volunteers at the Check Points, and the many clubs (Yk Skidoo Club, Amateur Radio Society), and all companies that provide products, services and people to make the Frostbite 45 a safe and successful event.


Selected photos of frosted and frostbitten faces on participants can be seen on my Flickr page


19th Annual Snowking Winter Festival (2014)

There is only one Snowking, see here wearing his trademark yellow jacket. As usual, Snowking was willing to pose for the camera, and simply walked into to the picture. Five pictures were combined to make this mosaic.

A view of the inside of the Snowking’s Castle, during the 19th annual Snowking Winter Festival.
SCH_4251 Panorama-2-2


To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


The Royal Courtyard. Click on the image for a larger view.SCH_4463 Panorama-2

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


SCH_4478 Panorama-2
The view from the top of the Castle, and the “Deadman’s slide”. Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


SCH_4528 Panorama-2
The Ballroom, or call it what you want. This is where the bands play!!. Click on the image for a larger view.


To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


To view photos and 360 degree animations of the 2013 Snowking Winter Festival – Click Here.

For more info on the Snowking Winter Festival, Click Here

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Five pictures were combined to create the panorama image on this page.

In-Action Photography*

As photographers we are on the sidelines using our cameras to capture the moment and capture the action. As an active person, naturally, we want to participate in sport activities.

However, in my experience, cameras and active sports do not seem to go together very well. I been frustrated with cameras since they were not designed for active participation in sport activities. Large SLR’s require two hands to operate, and most point-n-shoot cameras didn’t have suitable image quality. Neither camera types are rugged and waterproof. Actually, during the past 20 years, I have destroyed (and drowned) a few cameras trying to combine sport and photographing the action.

Until now.

In August 2011 I bought a GoPro camera. It is small (fits in the palm of my hand), waterproof, has an interval timer, and HD video. Additional specifics can be found on the GoPro website ( For a photographer, the GoPro has one setting – On or Off, and does not have any user adjustable exposure settings. Also, it only comes with one lens. Are these limitations ?. No, since they free the photographer to concentrate on the photo, and not be burdened with adjusting exposure or wondering if they are using the right lens for the situation. For an active person wanting to photograph sports events, the GoPro accessories are available for attaching to bicycle handlebars, seat posts, helmets, a head and chest harness, and using the stick-on brackets can be attached to almost anything. The small size of the GoPro and the variety of available (and easily customized) brackets and harness allow a full range of movement for any sport or activity.

Now, the photographer can be in the action, photograph the action, and no longer burdened by a camera*.

In-Action Photography* refers to photography where the photographer is photographing the action while in the action. This differes from Action Photography, which is photography of an action (e.g. sports event) and does not specifically refer to the photographer being part of the action.
All the photos on this page were captured by the photographer.   Downhill skiing photos captured using a GoPro on a chest harness, and kite skiing photos by a GoPro attached on the ski tip using a custom bracket. Click on the photos to make them larger.

Downhill skiing – unburdened by a camera

Check the shadow – try that with a hand held camera !





Cutting the Soft Stuff – kite skiing



Shadow at lower right corner is the GoPro

More kite skiing photos are on this link

Kite Skiing: Tips for Beginners

A few weeks ago and kite skiing friend (Chris – not his real name) mentioned that he was going to sell his kite –
“Why” I asked, “kiting is an awesome sport, what’s up”

Chris, is an emergency room doctor and over the past few months had seen several patients with serious kite skiing related head injuries. For Chris, the thrill of kite skiing was gone, replaced with the fear of a head injury.

As an avid kite skier, I had to know what had caused these injuries, and why were so many people getting seriously injured. Without providing specific details, Chris mentioned that the four casualties were all relatively new to the sport of kite skiing. Thinking back to when I started kite skiing 10 years ago, yes, I did have more accidents. Some of those accidents were due to the sport being new to Yellowknife and the lack of experienced kite skiers, some accidents due to my lack of experience, and other accidents related to doing stunts (e.g. intentionally getting lifted). Also, the kite that I purchased on-line was a whopping 4.9m (square meters). At the time, this was considered ‘far too big, and I would get hurt’. Fortunately, none of my crashes were serious and I quickly gained sills and experience.

Ten years later, I am still using that same kite. The kiting scene in Yellowknife has changed dramatically; more kiters, there is a licensed kite school and the kites are now 12 to 20 meters in area. You can’t even buy a kite as small as mine anymore. Nowadays, the kites are very different in design than my now vintage kite. A suitable analogy would be, my kite as a 1950’s sports car and modern kites akin to a Ford 350; big, powerful and with extra features like cruise control and airbags. Really, those new kites are big and powerful and can actually be flown with one hand !

So, going back to why have there been four serious kite skiing head injuries during the past few months ?. I don’t think we will ever know exactly what happened, and it would not be fair of me to speculate on what happened.

Instead, I’ve created a list of 10 tips to pass on to beginner kite skiers. These are based on personal experience of 10 yeas of kite skiing, and conversations with other, experienced kite skiers.

  1. Always wear a Helmet: Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury when your head comes down hard on the snow.
  2. Watch the Clouds: Fast moving clouds are a warning that a wind pattern is imminent.
  3. Know your Wind Limit: Know your wind comfort zone and if the wind gets too strong, then pack up and go home.
  4. Watch for Obstructions: Keep your eyes on the path in front of you and do no watch only kite. Hitting a snowbank at high speed can be very painful.
  5. Stay Away from Bare Ice: The metal edges of skis (or snowboards) are not designed for ice. In a strong wind, they will slide out from under you.
  6. Use a Safety Harness: If you suddenly are overpowered by the wind and are out of control, a safety harness, connected to your break lines gives you the ability to completely let go of your kite and it will not blow away.
  7. Learn the Rules of Kite Skiing: Although the link refers to kite surfing, the rules and concepts are the same for kite skiing.
  8. Do Not Attempt Stunts until you have mastered the basic techniques.
  9. Icy Snow, epically after a thaw and freeze cycle is unforgiving. Sharp snow can shred your kite and you, and is really fast. I usually wait until the snow has softened. Your knees will than you.
  10. Get a lesson or two from a licensed instructor.

Have fun.