This was my first trip to the Brooks Range,  and one I had looked forward to for many years, as seeing the Arrigetch Peaks had been a long dream of mine.  Seven of us flew from Fairbanks to Bettles (the ranger station is well outside the Park)  and from there via float plane to Kutek Lake, near the Alatna River at the mouth of Arrigetch Creek.  Unfortunately, due to the melting of the permafrost, Kutek Lake has gotten so small that float planes can no longer land there.

After a night camped on an island in the braided Alatna River, we started the hike up to the peaks.  It is 8 miles and 2000 feet of climbing, which in the Lower 48 would be an easy day.  In Alaska, it takes two hard days, because of tussocks, rock fields, outright bushwhacking, stream fording, and of course concerns about bears.

Once we arrived at a meadow under the Peaks, we had views of them in and out of clouds (mostly in clouds, as I never used my sunglasses the whole time we were up there).  We took three day hikes, one to the headwaters of Arrigetch Creek, where a hanging glacier starts everything.  The second was into Aquarius Valley, but the rocks were too wet and exceedingly slick for us to go all the way in.  The third was up to the base of the polished granite peaks themselves, where we had dinner and got back to the campsite minutes before an all night soaking rain.

Because of the rain, we were unable to ford one of the branches of the Arrigetch, having to hike a mile uphill to find a place to cross and then a mile back down, so that 2 miles of hiking netted us about 50 yards of forward progress.  It took us two days to get back to the Alatna, where we spent a day floating, a day dayhiking and another day floating until we took a nasty quarter mile portage into beautiful Takahula Lake.  While the portage wasn’t long, we were hauling 14-16 foot craft through the brush.  The craft were heavy, bulky and it was hot and a bit buggy.  We were beat when we reached the lake!  The water wasn’t real warm, but it was good enough for swimming, and after 12 days on the trail, it sure felt good to get clean!

We had dinner with a couple who at one time lived off the grid on the lake.  They now come there for the summer.  I had nervously watched a warm front come in all afternoon, and sure enough, the night before pickup, it started to rain.  The next morning, the ceiling was coming down below Takahula Peak.  As we thought we wouldn’t get out of there, two float planes arrived, and we packed quickly and got out of there before the storm hit.  Later that day, a plane had to stay put on Takahula because of weather.  We got ourselves through the clouds and back to Bettles, where we caught the Grand Caravan to Fairbanks.  I took the red eye from there to Seattle and was home in Tucson 24 hours after leaving Takahula.  Strange!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: