By J James McTigue
The Baffin Babes are four rad chics with whom it would be fun to have a beer, go dancing, or ski tour 1200 kilometers in the Canadian Arctic over 80 days. Except you weren’t invited on the ski trip; they chose to do it all on their own.
Swedish sisters Vera and Emma Simonson, along with Norwegian friends Inga Tollefson and Kristin F. Olsen spent 80 days traveling along the eastern coast of Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world.
At Mountainfilm in Telluride they will be presenting their trip, the glacial scenery, and remote Inuit villages they visited, as well as the fun they had, in a multimedia presentation at 6:45 Friday night at the Sheridan Opera House and 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Palm. (Palm showing is free to the public).
The team endured –45 degree weather at times, the threat of polar bears and dangerous glacial crossings. It’s easy to think they did the trip to raise awareness about the glacial ice melt, or the living conditions of the Inuit.
But when asked, “Why?” the Babes shrug and admit that it was impossible not to learn about these things and that it would be good if, through their trip, people became aware of these issues. But they unabashedly and honestly admit they didn’t do the trip to save the world; they did it because they thought it would be fun.
I thought to myself, “How did these girls (young women) gain enough ski experience for such an ambitious undertaking?” And, when I asked, there was an awkward pause, but their faces said it all, “We’re Scandinavian……duh?”
Finally, Tollefson answered, “We’ve all skied since…well, always.”
“We’ve all done long trips before,” E. Simonson said, “and we wanted to stay out longer.”
“We wanted to explore somewhere we haven’t been,” V. Simonson added.
I asked a few other probing questions that got similarly, obvious responses:
Me: “What did you do about the polar bears?”
V. Simonson: “They were no problem really, but something you had to think about. We had two rifles in any case.”
Me: “What did you do when glacial travel got tough?”
Oh, if only gnarly, arctic exploration was this easy! But to the Baffin Babes it is. They do it because they love it and they share it because they want to inspire. Mountainfilm is a way for them to inspire people to get in the outdoors and accomplish their goals, no matter what those goals may be.
“Everyone can fulfill their dreams, and this was a dream for us,” V. Simonson said. She continued to explain that a lot of mountaineering presentations are about how hard it is and rough it is. “We don’t want to give the impression this stuff is just for hard-core boys,” she added.
Not only did they do it — prepare and train to survive in an extremely remote area, depending only on themselves and each other for survival –but they loved it. They giggled, skinny-dipped, focused, overcame extreme obstacles and thrived…for 80 days. There was also some alluding to dancing.
“We’re just four ordinary girls,” E. Simonson added.
And, that may be the only untruth they spoke.