Frank Wolf
Credit: Frank Wolf
Frank Wolf’s adventure career started in a way that’s stereotypically Canadian. In 1995, Wolf and a partner canoed from the Bay of Fundy to Vancouver, a 171-day epic that involved a 400-kilometre portage across the Rocky Mountains. Fresh off that successful mission, Wolf joined a National Geographic team of filmmakers to attempt a west-to-east crossing in 1998. The expedition had barely started when cameras, footage and gear disappeared in a whitewater canyon on the Babine River in north-central British Columbia. “The canoe was split in two; we swam 10 kilometres of whitewater and almost died,” says Wolf. “It was a good learning experience.”

For his next adventures, Wolf looked a little further afield. In 2000, he sea-kayaked the coast of Thailand and made the last kayak descent of Malaysia’s Selangor River before it was dammed. Then he cycled a 1,000-kilometre stretch of Java, climbing six 10,000-foot volcanoes en route, and paddled wild rivers in Laos and Cambodia.

Back in Canada in 2003, Wolf signed a deal to film adventure documentaries for CTV. His first assignment: to cycle a century-old miners’ route from Dawson City, Yukon, to Nome, Alaska, in the dead of winter. His next films saw him kayaking Laos’s Nam Pha River in search of rare Asian water tigers, trekking in the Patagonian Andes and canoeing across Scandinavia.

In 2006, Wolf decided to cut ties with the national broadcaster to focus on environmental documentaries. “An issue gives people a direct talking point,” says the 41-year-old North Vancouver resident. “It makes the story real.”

Since then, Wolf has gone on two summer-long canoe trips to tackle the issues of logging in Ontario’s boreal forest and mining in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. In 2010, he embarked on his On the Line expedition, to get a first-hand, 1,700-kilometre-long glimpse into one of Canada’s biggest controversies: Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast. During that expedition, he cycled from the Tar Sands in Fort McMurray to the Alberta foothills, bushwhacked across the northern Rockies to the central coast town of Kitimat, B.C., and then sea-kayaked the island-pocked Pacific.

When Wolf first mentioned the On the Line expedition to well-known B.C. conservationist Ian McAllister, McAllister was skeptical. “I figured that after he did the math, the idea would die a slow death. But he smiled and simply said, ‘Not a problem.’ That’s Frank. He is one of the most fearless and unassuming hard-core adventurers I know.”

This profile is part of our top adventurer feature, The Elite, from our Spring 2012 issue.