the constant fight to stabilize the heavy loads as we crossed uneven terrain. Worst of all were our feet, flattened like pancakes. With every step I could imagine a painful blister forming underneath the thick callous of my footpad, running from toe to heel. Although none ever appeared, my soles remained sore to the touch. While discomfort was to be expected, it was my Achilles tendons that began to give me serious concern. For days they had been painfully sore. Every night I would stand ankle deep in frigid streams in an effort to reduce their swelling, but I continued to feel them grating within their sheath. I worried that if they got much worse I would have to consider abandoning the journey. I thought of our satellite phone, and Stan Simpson’s claim that he could land almost anywhere along the trail. As disappointing as it would be to quit, it was far preferable to doing permanent damage.
Ferg was also in rough shape. One of his feet had developed a throbbing soreness in the ball, and swollen to almost double its normal thickness. Despite large, daily doses of anti-inflammatories, swaths of duct tape covering his heels, and a habit of generally ignoring pain, I could tell he was suffering too. We had made good progress so far, and were ahead of schedule, so I raised the possibility of taking a days rest. Although initially leery, but after more discussion agreed it would do us both good.
Ferg and I had known relatively little of each other before starting our hike on the Canol. Although we climbed together on Mt. McKinley, and had spent many fine days exploring the peaks and ice fields of the Canadian Rockies, our friendship had been largely an expeditionary one. We were drastically different in character; my extroverted, gregarious nature in stark contrast to Ferg, the quiet, reserved, purist. Our partnership in the mountains had grown because we enjoyed similar type of trips, typically long, grinding affairs that often involved copious amounts of suffering. We both liked to cover a lot of ground, and our physical abilities were well matched. From the beginning we had operated as a quick and efficient team.
There had always been others along on our previous adventures, so on the Canol we were alone for the first time. Before starting the journey I had wondered if our days together would be nothing more than long, silent marches. Ferg, I suspect, harbored similar fears. But the trip had been a wonderful opportunity to