Part I opens as London vividly describes the "wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild." Two men, Henry and Bill, struggle to pull the long, narrow coffin of Lord Alfred on a dog sled through the cold, desolate terrain. Dressed in fur and leather, their faces are completely covered in frozen crystals. Making the setting bleaker, the men are being pursued by a pack of hungry wolves. Down to only three cartridges for their guns, the travelers are unable to shoot at the wolves, whose behavior is becoming more brazen. Bill voices concern to Henry about an extra dog at feeding time, who appears out of nowhere and blends in with the six regular sled dogs. The next morning the men find one dog missing, lured away by the wolves. A dog that both men agree is not very smart.
As Bill and Henry travel through the frozen, snow covered territory they notice the wolves following a little closer every day. Building fires at night to keep warm and to keep the wolves at bay, the men sense the animals closing in slowly but surely every day and every night.
The next morning as Bill is feeding the dogs he notices the wolf (a she-wolf) amidst the sled dogs and is able to land a blow with a club. The following morning the men find another sled dog, Frog, gone. Unlike Fatty, the first dog to disappear, Frog was "no fool dog" and also the "strongest of the bunch." The men eat a very gloomy breakfast, harness the sled and repeat another day across the frozen Northland. After dinner, however, they decide to tie the dogs to stakes with leather straps to prevent another dog from running away to certain death. As they settle down for the evening the dogs become agitated and Bill and Henry look up to see the she-wolf wandering through the camp, eyeing the dogs. She is a decoy for the wolf pack, remarks Henry, luring the sled dogs away as food for the pack. After much discussion, the men decide it would be prudent to use some of the remaining ammunition to take care of the troublesome she-wolf.
Left with only three dogs, the men start out the next morning only to meet more catastrophe as the sled overturns on a bad price of trail. Stuck between a tree trunk and a large rock, the men are forced to unleash the dogs to straighten the sled.