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In 1985, a 27 year old, freelance outdoor educator named Dean McLeod set out on an experience of a lifetime. As far as this writer knows, Dean completed the first and only solo winter ski trip along the entire length of Lake Winnipeg. He had always dreamed of going on an arctic expedition to the North Pole so he could get more experience in adverse weather conditions. Since funding was an issue for such a major trip as that, he decided to explore other options such as Lake Winnipeg, a 450 km long lake.

Since he had previously spent numerous nights outdoors in the winter, for recreational and educational purposes, preparing for that aspect of his expedition wasn't an issue. Up until than he and been winter camping, sleeping in quinzees, and spending up to 30 to 50 winter nights a year outside.

He definitely had the skills needed to survive in winter conditions, like pitching a tent and cooking on a stove. Dean and a friend, Dave Goodman, did a few weekend excursions to the lake to experience the violent wind buffeting their tent and the ice cracking beneath them. Dave also supplied him with some clothing and equipment.

Although Dean had 21 days of supplies, he completed this amazing trip in only 13 days. In early January, 1985, Dean flew to Norway House. Then he hitched a snowmobile ride to Playgreen Lake where he commenced his expedition at 2:00 in the afternoon. He skied along the eastern shore, just close enough that he could feel safe if anything were to go wrong, but far enough out that he was never in the bush. He skied south, pulling a 110 lb. sled, finishing at Matlock at around noon on day 13. Dean stopped in at various towns in order to use a telephone to inform his family of his progress.

Dean covered anywhere between 9 to 48 km a day. His best day came after rain had left the lake covered with a smooth, slippery surface that would normally be difficult to ski on. Fortunately, Dean was able to use the dome shaped fly from his tent as a parachute. And, since he had a tail wind, it pulled him and his sled along at great speed allowing him to make an amazing amount of progress in that one day. Dean McLeod is currently a teacher at St. John's Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Although he continues to be involved in adventure activities, it will be difficult to top his impressive achievement in 1985.

Report by Jen Giesbrecht, Grade 11, Linden Christian School.

 



Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht
211 Max Bell Centre
University of Manitoba
R3T 2N2
Ph: 204-474-8646
Fax: 204-261-4802
Email: giesbrec@ms.umanitoba.ca
 
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