Close call for lost adventurer

French traveller Francois Guenot is lucky to be alive. After getting lost on a solo trek in the Ethel Lake area, he arrived in Mayo, soaking wet from a fall in the Stewart River and with no food left in his supplies.

MAYO

French traveller Francois Guenot is lucky to be alive.

After getting lost on a solo trek in the Ethel Lake area, he arrived in Mayo, soaking wet from a fall in the Stewart River and with no food left in his supplies. He climbed the dyke and started knocking on doors looking for help.

Guenot is a 32-year-old ski instructor from Maiche, France who arrived in Canada last summer. Ever since he was a child, he said he dreamed of the world map and the North.

“In Europe, you see the print of man everywhere,” he

said, when interviewed recently in Mayo.

“Here, it’s open land. It’s wild.”

With no wife or children to worry about, and a healthy fear of growing old, Guenot decided to embark on a big adventure.

“I don’t want to stay like a dog on a leash in France,” he said.

He started his journey in Alberta last summer, slowly making his way to the Yukon by canoe, by bike and by foot.

When he first crossed the border into the territory, he found a cabin on private property. Although he waited for awhile to see if the owners would turn up, he finally gave up and went in. It was cold and dark. When the owners of the cabin did show up, they gave him food and a ride to Watson Lake.

There he was given four or five bikes so he could put together one that he could use to travel. He also helped an elderly woman for four days and was rewarded with moose meat.

“That was three days food,” he said.

He made his way to Whitehorse by bike, where he spent four days at the Salvation Army. Then he headed north on the Klondike Highway.

Guenot spent eight days in Pelly Crossing. People in that community gave him mukluks, a hat, a digital camera, a map, $20, long johns, a sweatshirt, moose meat, a headlamp and an antler-handled knife.

The generosity continued when he reached Stewart Crossing. He was given a map and a pair of warm boots before starting off on what would become the worst snowshoe trip of his life.

Leaving the highway just after lunch one December day, he started down the Ethel Lake Road. His goal was to hike up Hungry Mountain. Seventeen hours later, he reached a cabin he’d been told about where he spent the next four days before starting up the mountain.

The deep snow made it hard going. “It was laborious,” he said.

His first camp consisted of a tarp hung over a tree. It was attached with smaller branches through the tarp holes. Underneath, he made a bed of spruce bows.

Once he had a fire going, dried his clothes and made some bannock, he slept for 12 straight hours, Guenot said.

Since he had misread the map on his first attempt up the mountain, he decided to make a second attempt. It was a tough decision, he said. “There is no trail, I’ve tried already, one time. I was lost.”

Finally he climbed high enough to look down over the Stewart River Valley and got his bearings. He found a snowmobile trail and started to follow it to Mayo.

“I like to see that,” said Guenot. “I felt like I was just dreaming.”

So did Mayo resident Blaine Peter when he noticed snowshoe tracks as he drove his snowmobile into Ethel Lake from the highway.

“It was kind of weird because there were no tracks from the highway coming in so they were like out of the blue,” Peter said.

The tracks went right through the gap trail on Hungry Mountain. He couldn’t follow them because his machine broke down, but he returned a few days later. He picked up the trail and eventually found Guenot’s spruce-bow bed and shelter.

Meanwhile Guenot was making his way to Mayo.

Josee Lemieux-Tremblay was surprised when she heard noise outside of her home in Mayo one day. It was Guenot speaking to her and her brother through the door in French. She opened it to find a wet Guenot and a sled filled with his gear and supplies.

She couldn’t believe he had walked to Mayo from Ethel Lake, spending about a week on the trail and running out of food.

“I offered him emergency kind of help,” she said, inviting him in to dry off, take a shower and have a meal.

“He appeared to be a really nice person,” Lemieux-Tremblay said.

At the Na-cho Nyak Dun offices where she works, she said people had been wondering where the mysterious snowshoe tracks came from.

“There’s a Christmas mystery,” she said. “Nobody knew for awhile. We had so much fun talking about this mystery.”

At a cabin in Mayo where Guenot has now taken refuge for a while, he stirs a pot of moose sausage and rice.

“I want to learn about the wild lifestyle,” Guenot said. “I am respectful about the old people and their ancestors.”

A copy of the Jim Robb’s Colourful Five Percent lies by his table. His journal is filling up with writing and abstract drawings.

Soon he’ll have even more to write about. His next destination is Dawson City. And then on to Inuvik which he hopes to reach by the spring.

But his adventures won’t be over yet. Then he plans to go to Russia, to meet some friends, and enjoy a good game of Risk.

Just Posted

Yukoners turn out in droves for Skagway Marathon

More than half the 162-person field at the Alaska race calls the Yukon home

NGC withdraws lane closure application

Shorter period closures may be required

Support coordinator filling in ‘gaps’ in services for Yukon sexual assault victims

Reem Girgrah was hired as victim support coordinator for the Yukon’s SART in April

Cook Street property owners will face LIC

Road work is planned for 2020

Whitehorse fire chief fired

Mike Dine, who was hired in June 2018, was fired by the city on June 14.

Whitehorse fish ladder open for the season

Manager Brittany Key said there are low expectations for chinook salmon numbers

Strong results for Yukoners at B.C. triathlons

Athletes competed at the Subaru Ironman 70.3 Victoria and the Oliver Half Iron and Aquabike

Yukon woman found guilty of selling crack to undercover officer in 2017

Diana Johns’ lawyer says he’s planning on launching an entrapment application

Give Hope Wings fundraiser launches Saturday from Pitt Meadows

Flying marathon will benefit low income Canadians needing flights for medical treatment

Driving with Jens: Keeping pets safe in your vehicle

In my last column I discussed ways to avoid the tragedy which… Continue reading

Yukonomist: Whitehorse Troughbillies

Yukon could take its hot rocks to the bank

ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge spurs mountain bike races in Whitehorse

“I have to remind myself to do that sometimes – just slow down and look around.”

Whitehorse FC Premier U15 boys finish fourth despite injuries and short bench at Slurpee Cup

“They worked super hard and were more hungry for the win than the other team”

Most Read