Operation Whiteout: A grueling 5-day trek through Cape Breton

If you like the great outdoors, this might be the adventure for you.

It’s the middle of February, and it's freezing cold and winds are howling.

The snow squalls are relentless.

With those types of conditions, most people settle down with a blanket and turn on the TV -- but Lee Fraser takes a different approach.

He's at the helm of a unique adventure tourism company called “Live Life InTents," and he spoke with us about one of his most ambitious adventure excursions to date: Operation Whiteout.

1) What exactly is a cross-highland trip?

It’s coined Operation Whiteout: a 5-day, 4-night, 70km+ snowshoe trip across Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We departed Ingonish and headed west over White Hill, which is the highest elevation in Nova Scotia. We ended in Cheticamp at the park entrance.

2) When did you leave and when did you finish?

We left Ingonish on February 11 and originally planned to end in Cheticamp on February 15, but we made a call based on -30°C weather conditions to do two days at once and ended up finishing at 8 p.m. on Valentine's Day.

Content continues below

3) What kind of weather did you encounter along the way?

The weather was beautiful on the first day but after that, we hit a plateau and experienced with 70-100km/hr winds, snow, and frigid temperatures.

4) Were there any challenges due to the weather?

There are always challenges with the weather but you can mitigate them by bringing proper gear. However, the challenges were more so with gear rather than weather on this trip.

5) Do you plan on doing this again?

Yes, this year was the first time we’ve done this trip commercially. We expanded to winter operations this year to test out routes for 2021 when we will be offering this trip along with others. All will be listed on our website in the fall of 2020.

6) What makes the route unique compared to other hiking experiences around the world?

You start your trip along the mountainous coastline and within hours you’re hiking across white-out barrens that you would find in the arctic. The next day you’ll be in vast hardwood stands like you would get in B.C. Then, you're back into coastal woodlands and next to world-class fishing rivers. You really get to experience a lot of Cape Breton Island in one trip.

7) What kind of gear do you need to stay warm?

The biggest thing is to pack properly. That means light clothes for the day journey that will wick moisture and keep you warm. At camp, you'll need a dry change of clothes, proper down puffers, and base camp booties to stay warm. If you pack the proper gear, merino wool base layers and socks, gore-tex shells and of course a proper sleeping bag, it can go a long way.

Tents are optional!

Content continues below

I, along with a few others, stayed in a hole in the ground.

8) Did you see any wildlife?

On this trip, we saw about six moose.

On my last trip in 2011, we saw coyotes and tons of birds -- but mostly a lot of white ... and wind. You know, all the fun stuff.

Answers have been edited for clarity and grammar.