Monday, December 28, 2009

"Arctic Circle" -- An Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic

It's that silly season, the one for planning next summer's adventures.

Already, people are asking for info about a packraft trip that Jason Geck, Jay Jay Brooks, and I did back in 2003 we named "Arctic Circle". It's a cool trip, maybe one of the all-time coolest ones that I have done with a packraft. It's also part of an on-again/off-again guidebook idea, so I thought that I'd just post it here.

I'd welcome comments and ideas on the format and presentation. Ultimately the guidebook might just find its home here on the "Roaming Dials", as I don't fancy publishing it myself and doubt anyone out there does either.

Enjoy your own planning and dreaming for next summer.


  1. I think the format of publishing it here is perfect. Maybe make it available as a pdf, so one could just save it and print it out.

    It does look like an awesome trip, by the way. Photos are pretty and the description has me all fired up and ready to go!

  2. Roman - excellent idea. I was wondering when you were going to produce a collection of your trips in a guidebook-type format. At this point I don't want winter to end, but your Arrigetch circuit trip reminds me that we live a playground of endless fun no matter what season. Ed

  3. Roman - it was quite the surprise for me to see this trip posted... I proposed and have been discussing this EXACT same route with a couple friends for the past three months! I had no idea you had completed it in '03. Exceptional documentation. I'm glad to hear it is of the epic scale I imagined it would be. Nice route selection, I have to say! Josh

  4. Sounds like a classic, just need to find somebody to team up with. Couple of questions:
    1) Best month to go in your opinion?
    2) Any recommendations on air charter service?
    Thanks - Scotty

  5. Scotty:

    1) June has light good weather but snow.
    July has light, worse weather, sun and bugs
    August has no bugs, maybe good weather, less sun.
    September is cold.

    IMO Late June.

    2) See if Coyote Air will fly there; otherwise maybe Brooks Range Aviation out of Bettles.

    1. Thank you! I had the exact same question about season.

  6. Hi Roman,

    The presentation style and prose looks/sounds great. Super descriptive and helpful for non-Alaskans to picture the terrain (like me)...I particularly like how you broke up the trip into "bite-sized" pieces showing mileage, elevation chg, etc. And my imagination is going off like fireworks for when I can do it!

    Would you entertain my humble commentary?
    - The labels in the 1:250,000 map are hard to read b/c they are on top of each other (methinks they are intended solely for the 1:63,000 version).
    - A short "legend" for the maps would be awesome. Does the purple line mean a side trip? Blue is water and red land?
    - You mention a rope as unnecessary on Indep. and Decep. pass; is that the worst of the "mountaineering" part?

    As far as publishing goes - that's so 2004 :) - putting together an e-book would probably be just as effective, less cost and hit all us packrafters with more viral intensity. And we could load it on our iPod to save weight in the bush plane. My vote goes for the .pdf!

    Cheers and thanks again for the write-up.

  7. I find July to often have very settled weather in Central Brooks Range. August can be rainy. Always depends on the year, and bugs can come early (early June), and persist until August, so plan on some bugs, no matter when.

  8. Kevin:

    - Does the purple line mean a side trip? It's the route over Ariel to get from Arrigetch Valley into Awilinyak -- it's a typo really

    - Blue is water and red land? Yes

    - You mention a rope as unnecessary on Indep. and Decep. pass; is that the worst of the "mountaineering" part? yes, Independence Pass in particular

  9. Just finished the trip last week. Amazing trip! A friend and I flew out of Fairbanks on the 18th of June into Bettles via Wrights Air service. The cost was $270 for round trip ticket per person. The flight from Bettles was dependent on your load...we did it with the two of us in a cessna...around $800 for both of us, and a little cheaper for the pick up...Julie at Brooks Range Aviation will email you a cost sheet, she was has a slide show, just click on the wolf print. Water was a little low, but weather was great, mosquitos were pretty bad at times...We did the whole trip in about 8 days. That was pretty full on hiking for about 10-11 hours a day. The river days makes up for a lot of time. Portage Pass was hit by a land slide and the bush wack has since turned into a highway straight down to the Alatna...that was a great surprise. To tired to find the hot springs, heard they were quite low at the time. Best to go light on this trip, the park service requires you to take bear barrels. Our packs were around 50ish at the start, most amazing trip I have ever done in my little boat! A true classic.

  10. Do you have any pictures of the west face of Xanadu? I am planning on an expedition there and pictures of that face are elusive. Also how difficult is Independence Pass and Deception Pass- recommended gear?

  11. Looking at doing this this coming summer with some friends. Combining the map images with some USGS US Topo GeoPDF maps, I think I managed to create a Google Earth route of this. In case it's helpful to anyone else, here it is (.kmz file):!Aj4hDxhinTdbq3V5t9XGkV6fIaVO


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