Taking advantage of a downtime during the Marathon des Sables (250 km) to plan a ten-day polar expedition is still good crazy stuff, isn’t it? But we shouldn’t really be surprised when it comes to a challenge bringing together ultra-trailer Mathieu Blanchard and his adventurer friend Loury Lag. “It was inhuman in October in Morocco, we went up to 58°C, remembers Mathieu Blanchard. The only thing that brought us a breath of fresh air was the story of Loury crossing one of the largest glaciers in Europe in Iceland. The polar adventure has always fascinated me so we agreed to block a slot in February in Canada. »
This is how the two thirty-somethings left this Tuesday from Montreal, where Mathieu Blanchard has lived for eight years, for 20 hours of road trip towards the north of the country. After a whale watching session in Tadoussac, and a visit to the Innu reserve of Pessamit, Mathieu and Loury will get down to (very) serious things on Friday from the Uapishka station.
A unique challenge in winter skiing at the level of the Œil du Québec
They will then be in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Manicouagan-Uapishka, also called the eye of Quebec, and created by the impact of a meteorite 214 million years ago. They will try to cross the crater of Lake Manicouagan by covering nearly 240 km over 30 cm of snow. For this joyous journey entirely on expedition skis, the two Frenchmen will each have to pull a pulka containing nearly 100 kg of equipment.
It contains a polar expedition tent, a special -40°C feather duvet, freeze-dried food and a stove to obtain water by melting snow. While kayaking enthusiasts take on the crater of Lake Manicouagan every summer, this challenge will be unprecedented in skiing. Former candidate of 4 Earths at Koh Lanta in 2020, Mathieu Blanchard (34 years old) climbed to the podium (3rd) on August 28 of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB, 171 km, 10,000 m of elevation gain), absolute world reference in his extreme discipline.
“In the skin of a total novice”
While waiting to return with ambition to Chamonix next summer, for the summit of his ultra season, he will therefore completely change his universe by rubbing shoulders with Quebec. “In the ultra-trail, I always have a feeling of control, he admits. But this is the first time in my life that I embark on such an adventure in the shoes of a total novice. I have never spent a single night in my life in a tent at -20°C. »
He will have to go the distance for ten days, with 25 km traveled daily. Much more familiar with this type of survival operation, Loury Lag (35) will this time be the captain of the pair, unlike their previous outdoor adventures for a year, from the mountains of Andorra to the Sahara desert.
A film in preparation on this adventure
This polar expedition called Uapapunan has taken on “an enormous dimension”, enthuses Mathieu Blanchard, since the Alliance of the tourist industry of Quebec, seduced by his film Confinedrecounting his challenge off in Gaspésie in the midst of Covid-19, joined the project. The Bonjour Québec brand will make it possible to follow the progress of our two Frenchies until March 7 on its networks. At the same time, the filmmaker Jérôme Binette will make a film on this Uapapunan expedition, which will face extreme conditions.
What encourage brave people to discover this ancestral land also called Nitassinan, fundamental in Innu culture? “Rather than escaping to the Caribbean, people will perhaps be tickled by a polar eco-adventure,” smiles Mathieu Blanchard. So, cap?