Brook’s Range Traverse
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Jul 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm #1319230
This is post-trip for weenie me, but sort of a pre-trip post about Manfred & Sons' Brooks Range trip.
Months ago, Manfred sent me a few Qs through BPL about Alaskan logistics, which was good because I had some award-mileage tricks that saved about half the airfare. I offered to drive them to the trailhead and invited myself along for the first night.
I woke in North Carolina, flew into Fairbanks a little bit after them, going past Denali on way:
I rented a car, went back and explained a hatchback did have enough luggage room and they gave me a full-on grampa-car Camry:
"No one ever washes a rental car." is sometimes invoked for rhetorical reasons. But an archeologist friends and I know that sometimes it is worth $8 to avoid awkward questions about exactly where one took their car.
And then we drove the 310-mile, half-gravel, "Haul Road" (officially the Dalton Highway) to the Visitor Center (hours: 11 am to 10 pm) and got the safety lecture. I grimaced a little bit when the Ranger asked, "Where else have you beed in Alaska?" and Manfred said, "This is our first time." cause that could sound bad, but Manfred explained all the other treks he's done and showed his highly researched spreadsheet of the route, mileages, bush-plane and USPS food-drops and the Ranger was cool with it. The Ranger also mentioned that a lot of other groups had been delayed, turned around, or rerouted themselves due to many-fold-average rainfall this summer putting many rivers into flood stage.
The highway follows the Alaskan Pipeline (that's why there's a road going to the Arctic Ocean.
We camped at a pullout and started out the next morning:
The first river (the Dietrich River in the background of that photo) is a collection of braided streams. We kept our shoes dry in crossing the first channel, but all of us, but the second or third one had given up. A sign of things to come.
I left my phone in the car so you'll have to wait for their return for more pics.
We proceeded through spruce forest, on gravel bars and through willow thickets paralleling Kuyuktuvuk Creek. That was a little hairy to cross on one's own, so we buddied-up and went across as quadrupeds.
Most of that first day was spent going west up Trembley Creek. It was typically about 12-18 inches deep, 30 feet across, cold(!) and moving fast in the BETTER spots to cross. And we crossed it about 80 times that morning because where its outside-curve met the canyon walls, it was deeper and faster, so we had to cross back to the inside turn, sometimes doing that every 100 meters.
No Name Pass was walk in the park (a soggy, squishy park with numerous low flowers and herbaceous plants) in comparison, but I realized I was more than half-baked at that point and would be really hurting if I went all the way to their first camp (15 miles in), slept, and had to rush the 15 miles out to do the drive and make my plane. So we said our good byes, and they continued west, while I mostly retraced our steps. I avoided about 30 river crossings by going higher and that was good. I never did find a nice place to do the major crossing so I thrashed through alders to get closer to the car before attempting to do it in case I took a swim.
The first couple of steps into the Kuyuktuvuk (2 feet deep, 60 feet wide and moving fast), solo, weren't bad, but once in main flow, WOW! I was able to stay upright by leaning mightily on my hiking stick making a tripod of leg-leg-stick while slowly moving my feet towards the other side. Okay, I can do this. But, Woah!, I'm being pushed backwards! 6 inches of progress at a time coupled with sliding a foot or two backwards. 2/3 of the way across, the stick broke. "$*&#^@!" I said. And somehow managed to maintain an upstream tilt that balanced gravity and the hydrodynamic forces. All while expecting to take a swim and mentally preparing to swim frantically for shore, strip, put dry clothes on, and then do a fast jog to the car. I believe this medical condition is called, in Latin, ballus contractus.
Wet only to my waist, I finished the last mile, hopped in the car, grabbed a shower at a truck stop, drove 310 miles, found a good Thai place in Fairbanks (there are many), and took two flights home.
We saw signs of moose, wolf, mink, Dall Sheep, mountain goat, grizzlies, but the only sign of humans I saw in my 20 miles was our own foot steps as I headed out.
Here's a link to Manfred's proposed route. He's already fallen off that pace, because of some swollen rivers. His wife is watching weather reports that are calling for 3-6 inches of snow in the day, he might use a bush plane to leapfrog the current section, and I'm checking options to rebook them on the jets if they finish early or late.Jul 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm #2122260Jack MMember
It looks like they are following Roman Dial's "Triple A: Across All Gates" route correct?
Cool trip. They should have a great time. Thanks for the post.Jul 24, 2014 at 4:42 pm #2122263
There was a bit of confusion when Manfred whipped out his two-page spreadsheet of every leg of the trip (each turn at a creek or ridge line) in lieu of completing the NPS' much less detail itinerary questionnaire. The Ranger preferred the spreadsheet, but asked what website Manfred had downloaded it from. No, Manfred had developed it on his own, poring over all the options, but with knowledge gleaned from prior trip reports and hiking blogs that address the route.
Take the lower pass instead of the higher pass, pack raft as much as you can, stay in the interesting terrain, but hit the few airstrips / landable lakes for resupplies and maybe one ends up with similar or even identical plans.
Yeah. It'll be epic. One way or another.Jul 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm #2122266
Sub-freezing weather and 3-6 inches of snow suck when you're traveling light and trying to make time.Jul 24, 2014 at 9:22 pm #2122320Andrew FMember
@andrew-fLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
The Triple A was the inspiration for his route. Looks like gnarly conditions, not sure if I'm happy that I decided not to join them or sad that I'm sitting on my couch instead. Definitely sending Manfred and sons positive vibes and watching their inReach progress!Jul 25, 2014 at 1:35 am #2122347
It was good to see progress from the InReach today and to know they aren't pinned down.
I got a message that a zipper failed on a SMD Cuben Haven and Manfred wanted another shipped out ASAP. So I'll make those calls when I land in Albuquerque. But they are little beyond where the FedEx trucks go.
The message truncated, ". . . Please have SMD overnight a cuben" and while we all know what that means, most people would be left thinking, "He wants a cigar?!? A baseball player?!?"Jul 25, 2014 at 1:35 am #2122348
Deleted duplicate post from my phone.Jul 25, 2014 at 9:36 am #2122406IanBPL Member
I remember him talking about this adventure at the GGG. In spite of Alaska going full Alaska on his family, I'm glad they're on their way. Also, dang nice of you to help them out the way you did.Jul 28, 2014 at 11:11 pm #2123096
As Manfred's wife, I'm so excited to see that you posted photos of the intro to this adventure, Dave. Thank you for all your support! You have been very helpful with getting them started, and rerouted through this high adventure!
At this point they are in Bettles, AK, rerouted due to the severe weather and extreme conditions. Apparently they are awaiting a nice tent with a zipper that actually zips, which should arrive in Bettles sometime tomorrow. Many people are sending their concerns regarding the inReach link which does not appear to be updating–the blue dot stays in the same location. Yes, they are fine! We get texts frequently and the men are all enjoying delicious fish roasted over a campfire with good weather conditions! We'll see where their journey takes them next, but I am pretty sure Dave may know more than I do! Hopefully he gets to update us all soon.
Many, many thanks, BPL'rs! You've been a very large part of this epic adventure through supporting to obtain appropriate gear and friends to train with!
~MichelleJul 28, 2014 at 11:19 pm #2123097Jul 29, 2014 at 9:51 am #2123171Richard NisleyBPL Member
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
It would make Manfred’s trip MUCH more interesting to follow if he posted a daily summary (160 char text message) along with his position. Here is an example of yesterday’s InReach status report for another group I am following that started in Bettles but will finish in Noatak today.
Manfred's Latest Report (no summary info)
Rob's Latest Report (summary info)
Jul 29, 2014 at 10:29 am #2123177
More importantly, such text narration of the trip, nightly, would provide some peace of mind to his family.
I guess there'll never be another Lewis&Clark-style expedition in which the trekkers are away for more than 2 years, assumed dead by many, but then return in pretty good shape.Jul 29, 2014 at 1:37 pm #2123225
From Bettles Field:
"Received tent, now we need to see when we can fly out. Boys are fishing at river and I will cook lunch now."
Yesterday, he reported grilling fresh fish over a fire and I know his son Phillip was really hoping to have an Alaskan-wilderness fishing experience so this enforced layover created that opportunity.
And for the record, if anyone in the future is researching such a trip, Brooks Range Aviation (907-692-5444) was amazingly helpful. I tried to charter them for Manfred, but they referred me to a cheaper carrier (3x$150 versus $825 for the plane RT – seat rates always beat charters), they had all the info for shipping the replacement tarp, and they housed the guys for free at a bunkhouse they have.
Edited to add: Now I know what it is like to be "trail wife" and help with the logistics from afar.Jul 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm #2123727
I may have misled the crowd here. The link was not supposed to be a trip report–Manfred typically does a write-up when he returns. I simply thought it would be interesting for anyone who wants to see the present movements of the Kopisch trek to click the link and see where they're going, the rough speed, and location.
I don't think Manfred ever intended to blog about this trip as it can distract from what he's doing in the field, which largely involves enjoying time with the kids. You'll have to wait till he returns to get a trip summary. He is more apt to write daily in a waterproof journal as he moves through the trip.
You can anticipate photos of ample fishing, roasting fish, and (hopefully) smiles in his summary, upon his return.Aug 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm #2124032
SMD finally called me back, yesterday afternoon, 6 days after I called and emailed them, so I'm glad I gave up on them after a few hours and reached out to the BPL community for help on shipping a replacement tent.
The SMD guy started to say, "It's probably just the slider, and if you. . . " and I explained, "I'm hundreds of miles away, communicating only by satellite beacon, the owner is smart, experienced and surely tried everything to field-repair it. He can talk to you after the trip is over."Aug 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm #2128238ManfredBPL Member
we returned yesterday night from our trip. It was absolutely fantastic. The boys and I had a fantastic time out there. Thanks to everyone – especially Dave – who helped out. We are unpacking right now. Once I go thru my notes in my journal and download the photos, I will write a trip report.
ManfredAug 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm #2128491
And to post just two of the fish photos Manfred sent me, here are Daniel and Philipp with some of the many fish that wouldn't fit in the pot. I especially like the neolithic table.
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