Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Treeline Traverse

Over the last five years or so, I've been studying treeline advance in the Brooks Range, leading me to assemble a route that I call "Walking Treeline" that pieces together a series of interesting segments between Canada and the Chukchi Sea. It's not a "through hike", but rather where my last several years of scientific research using very high resolution satellite imagery and ecological modeling, experiences hiking and packrafting in the Brooks Range spanning portions of six decades (70s, 80s, 90s, 00's, 10s, 20s), and airstrip locations have suggested where my companions, field workers, students, and I best see the advance of treeline in America's northernmost mountains. 

This summer, rather than connect the Arrigetch Peaks with the upper Noatak drainage via the Triple A ( or Arctic Circle ( routes, which cross some sketchy passes (in my opinion), and because I wanted to see how treeline was advancing in an area that seems very climate responsive, I checked out a new route shown here.

Also I'm sensitive now more than ever to giving route advice to people who take it---see "No Place for Novices" in the print quarterly Adventure Journal 21.

Along those lines, the creek/river crossings of Arrigetch Creek (slimey granite boulders), Awlinyak (wide, potentially high volume but not bouldery), the unnamed creek leading to Akabluak Pass (potentially high volume) and the unnamed stream leading up to the pass just south of Gull Pass (a lot of criss-cross, re-cross, cross and an un-hikeable gorge but with a great bear trail along its river left rim), as well as the hillside route-finding at the lower end of Lucky Six Creek are all difficult enough that this is not a route for novices. That is, if you think that hiking from Circle Lake to Arrigetch Valley is one of your more challenging days of hiking you have mustered, then this route may not yet be comfortably/safely within your ability. 

Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and this summer found it to be one of my favorite segments between the Hunt Fork of John River and Kivalina on the Chukchi Sea.


  1. Hi Roman,

    Appreciate all your posts. Quick question for you. I have a group that’s planning a trip to Gates of the Arctic for the first time. Could you provide your recommendation of which location would provide a better experience for a first-time visit to the park? Right now the options we’re looking at are (I) the Arrigetch Valley area, and (II) the Weyahok Valley area (from the Noatak up to around Gaedeke Lake).

    Any insight you have on these areas would be appreciated! Thanks!

    1. Thanks and glad the posts are appreciated. I'd say that the Arrigetch is a good first time visit. The trail in is relatively easy to follow and the conditions give you a taste of what the more remote sections are like without the commitment.


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