Brookes Mountain Range – Gates of the Arctic – “The Arrigetch” – Bob Marshall
Need I say more? The names mentioned above are legendary, well-respected, and admired in the Alpinist world of exploration. The Gates of the Arctic are truly wild; nestled among some of the gnarliest mountains Alaska has to offer. To begin above the Arctic Circle and end in South West Alaska with nothing but the gear on your back is a daunting task. The challenge set forth by Nat Geo was to embark on this expedition in an “old-school” style, i.e. no fancy technology. This expedition was a throwback to the early days of Alaskan exploration; a journey that traces the pages of history and an ode to the past explorers who came to Alaska and explored the last frontier with minimal gear and technology.
Bob Marshall was an Alaskan explorer who came to the state after exploring a large portion of lower North America. Bob said it best, “I like it among these rugged mountains better than anywhere else in the world.” I relate to the past explorers who came to this state in search of the majestic beasts that roam this fabled land. Traditional archery hunters such as Doctor Arthur Young and Fred Bear will forever be my heroes. Their accomplishments inspired me to follow their footsteps and live and adventurous lifestyle. For the first leg of the expedition the “Elite 8,” which consisted of survivalists, outdoorsmen, climbers, skiers, dog mushers, and mountaineers, began the journey in the Brookes Range. The Nat Geo expedition was the third time I have made my way into the Brookes Range. All three experiences within this epic mountain range were very different, but equally unforgettable.
My first trip to the Brookes Range was several years ago. My brother August and I flew out to hunt dall sheep. The time spent in the north-eastern part of the Brookes was so incredible and also humbling. I cherish the moments my brother and I spent together in field chasing white ghosts with golden horns. We had a close call with a gnarly feature on one particular mountain top. The terrain taught us valuable lessons in survival…always bring rope with you…at some point you will need it. We ended up rappelling off 50-100 foot cliff faces until we ran out of rope. We were faced with a real moment of survival, we had to adapt or die. We ended up climbing down the last 1000 feet in reverse 4-wheel drive with automatic death to the right and instant death to the left. You can read all the survival guides in the world but unless you go outside and experience them first hand, it’s all for nothing.
The wilderness puts an individual’s ability to cope with their surroundings to the test. It was during hunting adventures like these that my brother and I learned to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our goal always being to turn our weaknesses into strengths. Together we learned new ways to solve simple problems. These experiences inspired my survival mantra; “team work makes the dream work.” I was much more prepared for my second and third trip to the Brookes Range.
On my second trip to the Brookes Range, my brother, John Dykes (college rugby buddy), and I set out on a quest called the “Mission Expedition”. This expedition took us from the Acrtic sea above the Brookes Range all the way to the Kenai Peninsula, and several locations in the interior. The mission of this expedition was an attempt to fill the freezer with beautiful, free ranging, no hormonal, wild game meat. Being an Alaskan resident we have the unique opportunity to hunt for the big five game animals that call Alaska home. Hunting these animals every year is a part of our Alaskan culture, not to mention the incredible taste and gratification recieved by filling your freezer on your own terms. This second trip would prove invaluable as I learned the terrain, topography, and easiest methods of travel in the Brookes Range the key being the waterways.
My past experiences in the Brookes Range taught me many valuable lessons to take with on the Ultimate Survival Alaska Expedition with National Geographic. I learned mainly that waterways are your friend, and to follow this path of least resistance. Using rafts to minimize the distance of our caribou pack out on a previous expedition, I understood the advantage of bringing along a pack raft. Bringing along a raft would at least provide us the ability to forge and cross rivers, if not to float the entire river to the landing zone. Being as this was a team mission, having a solo packraft would only let me float to the LZ and leave my partners behind. Understanding their need for river crossings help, I stuck with the mantra of “team work being dreamwork” and stayed with the group to help them forge rivers. That being said, I look forward to future adventures with my team members and would do this leg of the expedition all over again.
Check out the gear list below, with these essential items and a basic knowledge of how to use them an individual would be ready to survive just about anything.
Survival Guide Gear List:
-Magnesium Fire Starter
-Knife -full tang
– Fishing kit: Line with various hooks and spinners.
-Back pack or external pack frame
-Water Bottle or container
-Longbow, rifle, pistol, self defense weapon
-Sleeping bag -0 rating
-Plenty of socks
-Food (coffee, oatmeal, rice, beans, whiskey, ramen noodles) what ever you can carry. If you can pack as much calorie dense food as possible.
Facts Courtesy of Wikipedia: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is a U.S. National Park in Alaska. It is the northernmost national park in the U.S. (the entirety of the park lies north of the Arctic Circle) and the second largest at 13,238 miles (34,287 km²), about the same size as Switzerland. The park consists primarily of portions of the Brooks Range of mountains. It was first protected as a U.S. National Monument on December 1, 1978, before becoming a national park and preserve two years later in 1980 upon passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. A large part of the park is protected in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness which covers 7,167,192 acres (2,900,460 ha). The wilderness area adjoins the Noatak Wilderness Area and together they form the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States.
History Courtesy of Wikipedia:
Nomadic peoples have inhabited the Brooks Range for as many as 12,500 years, living mainly on caribou and other wildlife. The Mesa site at Iteriak Creek has yielded evidence of occupation between 11,500 and 10,300 years before the present. Later sites from around 6,000 years before present have yielded projectile points, stone knives and net sinkers. The Arctic small tool tradition (ASTt) of about 4,500 BP has also been documented.A late phase of the ASTt from between 2500 and 950 BP, the Ipuitak phase, has been documented in the park at the Bateman Site at Itkillik Lake.
The earliest Inupiat people appeared about 1200 AD at the coast and spread to the Brooks Range, becoming the Nunamuit. The Nunamiut people existed essentially unchanged until World War II brought outsiders into Alaska, which was at the time a strategic outpost of the United States. Some of the nomads began to settle in small communities in the mountains, particularly at Anaktuvuk Pass. TheGwich’in people, a Northern Athabaskan group also lived in the area in the last 1000 years, moving south of the park in historic times.
The Alaskan interior was not explored until the late 19th century, shortly before discovery of gold in the Klondike brought prospectors to Alaska. Some encampments of explorers and survey parties have been identified in the park. A few small mining operations were established in the early 20th century, never amounting to much.
The park’s name dates to 1929, when wilderness activist Bob Marshall, exploring the North Fork of the Koyukuk River, encountered a pair of mountains (Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain), one on each side of the river. He christened this portal the “Gates of the Arctic.” Marshall spent time in Wiseman during the early 1930s, publishing an account of the place in his 1933 book Arctic Village. In the 1940s writer and researcher Olaus Murie proposed that Alaskan lands be preserved.
Proposals for a national park in the Brooks Range first emerged in the 1960s, and in 1968 a National Park Service survey team recommended the establishment of a 4,100,000-are (41,000 ha) park in the area. That year, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall recommended to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Johnson use the Antiquities Act to proclaim a national monument in the Brooks Range and other Alaskan locations, but Johnson declined. By the 1970s the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) prompted serious examination of the disposition of lands held by the federal government. A series of bills were proposed to deal with the settlements required by ANCSA, but the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was held up in Congress in the late 1970s. President Jimmy Carter used the Antiquities Act to proclaim the proposed parklands under ANILCA as national monuments, proclaiming Gates of the Arctic National Monument on December 1, 1978. In 1980 Congress passed ANILCA, establishing the monument lands as Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve on December 2, 1980.
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