Andrew Skurka's planning to come back to AK next year. I think anybody reading this likely already knows that.
So what does it mean?
Well, it looks like he'll be putting athleticism into a trip that scales with a well known effort of 2008 from Seattle to Unimak. He, too, plans on several thousand miles by foot, paddle, and ski, but over, along, and through mountains and big, fast rivers. While the Wild Coast route was mostly coastal plodding -- intentionally, of course -- it was mostly impressive in that a married couple lived in their pyramid for a year as backcountry nomads. Skurka could just as easily live in his mid for a year, too, but he is strong and fast and likes to move that way, and solo, too. So he plans on nearly the same distance in less than half the time.
So, again, what does it mean? It means that he's upping the ante in Alaskan wilderness travel: fast, light, very BIG, and solo. Over 4000 miles in six months, with far more elevation gain and loss, whitewater, and wilderness than Alaska's most recent mega-trip. But more importantly it means that doing a week or two from Hope to Homer, Nabesna to McCarthy, Wonder Lake to Skwenta, or even Coldfoot to Kaktovik is something "normal" folks can do on their vacation time. By pushing the limits, extreme adventurers make what once seemed like a stretch now doable for the rest of us.
"If Andrew Skurka can do 4000 miles of wilderness travel in six months, then me and my buddies should be able to do 100 miles in six days, right?" Right!
I remember when Bachar hit the National spotlight with his incredible soloing. Just knowing what he was doing solo encouraged me do more in my own climbing. Seeing Tim Johnson roll his packraft inspired many of us -- some, like me, who may never be able to role it even if glued into my boat -- to put thighstraps in our boats and get far more control. The extremists in pushing their own extremist limits actually open up everyone else's horizons, too.
He and I have been emailing a bit about his route, which is certainly a reflection of his style: maximize trail-use (his winter route is the Alaskan wilderness equivalent of following a road -- nothing wrong with that!), travel long days, and long distances. He's embraced packrafting rivers and whitewater, and has won a Wilderness Classic, so averaging 20 miles a day for six months is doable (he averaged 30 miles a day for 200 days in his mash-up of Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails). He spent some time up here this past summer, walking and packrafting through south central, and got bit by the Alaska bug and showed that he's strong and smart enough to wander trail-less country effortlessly and efficiently.
His route might not be the route I'd choose, but it is his route and it's beautiful and ambitious and meaningful for the rest of us, too.
I'm excited to see its boldness.