Monday, May 30, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
A handfull of us glued in thigh straps last week, huffing glue and MEK while drinking Moose Drool, I think it was, and eating Great Harvest peanut butter chocolate chip mega-cookies at Alaska Raft and Kayak.
Yes, quite a party with Jeff C., Toby S., and Tony P. We had to wait for the glue to dry and so didn't consummate the party the way we should have: with a run down Six Mile's Third Canyon boofing everything in sight with those new, cone-headed, long-tailed, 2011 Alpacka Rafts.
By the time the glue was dry I headed for the Harding Icefield with Amy (my snow algae grad student) and Melissa (my ice-worm student) and Tyler (undergrad assistant). It was an Alaska Pacific University research trip investigating glacier ecology.
The weather was sunny and interesting with some low blowing snow one morning and cooking sun the other. Our main objectives were to drill holes through the snow and into the underlying ice to anchor "ablation cables" for measuring snow melt over the summer using the steam drill:
We had the guys' and gals' tents. The gals' tent looked far more spacious than the guys', and the gals even managed to build a multi-walled wind block from the snow.
Another objective was to install a worm cam to shoot the emergence of ice worms as the season progresses and measure the light and temperatures simultaneously.
Basically we got up at 7 AM, melted snow, ate breakfast and headed out for our drilling project with the steam drill, a pressure cooker-like contraption that forces steam down a hose and so melts a hole in the ice and snow.
The skiing was great.
And the work crew stellar. They called the steam drill, "Hookie".
Tyler Katzmar, Hookie-meister.
We drilled about three dozen holes -- actually they drilled. I was just the supervisor/surveyer.
After we put in the holes, Amy fertilized her experimental plots to see if she can get more snow algae growth by adding nutrients to the snow.
We just worked on a small corner of the enormous icefield. Look closely in lower left to see the skiers.
After two nights on the Icefield we headed out, the gals a few hours ahead of the guys. The icefield was great traveling.
The gals had passed the Harding Icefield emergency shelter a couple hours ahead and would get down so far ahead of the guys that they went into town and got pizza and beer.
Spring had sprung and, boy, was the snow rotten on the trail.
And the bridge slick.
In the three nights we were away, spring had come.
I've written here about the Harding before and even after like my dozenth trip up there I am reminded of how much I like its Pleistocene austerity.
It's just that hike up and down with big loads that keeps me from returning every year instead of every other!
But the real reason for this post is to provoke readers with my fatbike's gearing arangement: a trials size dingle:
Look at the drive train! 16 T chainring and 16/18 T freewheel.
These are my two most-often used gears (1:1 and about 0.8:1) when riding wild. Since I only needed to shift two gears (and would need a chain tensioner anyway) I decided to do rear dingle rather than front dingle.
I tested it today by riding the Brown Bear Trail on Hillside coming and going with ease.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The route is best done during August (3-6 weeks), when bugs are sparse, days are long, and colors intensifying, with food drops at Anaktuvuk Pass (Post Office), Circle/Kutuk Lakes (bear barrels) and Pingo Lake (bear barrels). Bring a sat phone.
Anaktuvuk, Arrigetch, Ambler are three touchstones of the central Brooks Range from east to west, and as a packrafting trip in the Brooks Range it's hard to beat these 400 miles. The route passes through the best mountain sections, including the Doonerak region, Arrigetch Peaks and front range of Igikpak. It floats North Fork of Koyukuk to Ernie Creek, John River to Wolverine Creek, Pingaluk to Alatna, the Noatak to Lake Matcherak, and all of the Ambler River. It follows game trails and excellent creek and river bars and avoids more tussocks and brush than you'd believe.
Drive up the Dalton Highway to a little turn-off to the west, just before the pipeline road leaves the Dietrich valley bottom and just downstream of Nutirwik Creek. It's about sixty miles north of Coldfoot (you could fly to Coldfoot from Fairbanks on Arctic Air for $250). Hike up Koyuktuvuk, Trembley, Blarney Creeks and over Kinnorutin Pass to descend Amawk Creek and paddle N. Fork Koyukuk (PR 3 -- PR 4 at high water). Climb Doonerak via a scramble up its south ridge, if you like heights and broad views.
From the junction of North Fork Koyukuk and Ernie Creek there is a bit of tussocks to the Valley of the Precipices. Unbelievably, this should be one of only two tussock stretches, if you read your landscapes well en route to Ambler. Bar-hop on mature willow bars or follow well-drained tundra ridges and noses to Graylime and Anaktuvuk Creek. If you are travelling light (i.e. have a food cache in Anaktuvuk mailed to the PO there) these creeks are mostly paddleable, except for some braids on the lower Anaktuvuk, where you can pick up an ATV trail and follow to Anaktuvuk Pass, a friendly village IMO. Peggy and I took a week to Anaktuvuk in one boat in 1986; I walked from Anatuvuk to the road in a day and a half in 2006. Plan for four-five days, three days if you have Wilderness Classic experience.
The mystery spot, so named because it seems as if the water is flowing the wrong direction. Several travelers through here have commented on this optical illusion. The views are good, but the rocks to come are bad, if short -- the last ones, really.