For adventurous spirits, the yearning to explore lies deep within. When Alaska crosses their path, many heed it’s call. Two and a half years ago Andrew arrived in Alaska and his passion for the outdoors is mirrored through the lens of his camera. Below is a video of some of his recent work. You can also see Andrew’s photographs of Alaska at http://www.andrewholmanphoto.com
Considered one of the last frontiers of raw and rugged wilderness, the Brooks Range draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the world looking to immerse themselves in nature and connect to a land untouched. Located in the northernmost portion of Alaska, these mountains extend into Canada and are estimated to be up to 126 million years old. To help preserve this remote wilderness, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1960 and is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States.
In the summer of 2016 five of us made plans to explore the Brooks Range over 18 days. Our goal was to packraft the Kongakut river (a class 2-3 river) and bring paragliders to explore flying opportunities. This trip was considered a proof of concept idea as we had never attempted packrafting and paragliding simultaneously for 18 days. Thorough planning and logistics were required as help would potentially not be available for days if something went wrong.
As we began our trip a small “bush” plane flew us to the headwaters of the Kongakut river. These famous Alaskan beaver bush planes are capable of landing on difficult terrain. Our pilot chose a gravel bar along the river as our drop off point. Over the next few weeks we traversed over 40 miles towards the Beaufort sea in the Arctic.
As a precaution we brought an electric fence, bear spray, and bear resistant food bags to protect from curious or aggressive bears. Grizzly and Polar bears are known to roam the northern edges of the Brooks range. With melting sea ice there are reports of polar bears breeding with grizzly bears in an effort to survive a changing climate.
Working our way down the Kongakut river we stopped along several mountains to hike its ridgelines. Joe, Steve, and I paraglided from the top, while Sven and Kim explored the rest of the mountain by foot. An exhilarating feeling overcomes you while flying through the air; an intensity beaming with joy in witnessing such a remote and majestic part of the world.
Throughout our time hiking, packrafting, and paragliding we encountered bears, dall sheep, and wolves. We fished for Arctic Grayling to supplement meals, bathed in tributaries, and photographed beautiful flowers and migrating birds. The indigenous people of this area, the Gwich’in, learned to live in harmony with this sacred land. Their relationship to this landscape has been vital and continue to teach us lessons.
After arriving to the Brooks Range Howard Zahniser once noted “Without the gadgets, the inventions, the contrivances whereby men have seemed to establish among themselves an independence of nature, without these distractions, to know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness, to sense dependence and interdependence, indebtedness and responsibility.”
We are filled with appreciation for the opportunity to live in a land with so much beauty . Take a look at some of our pictures and a video of Joe Mclaughlin flying off one of the ridges.
For many travelers, the moment arrives when your spirit yearns for adventure. It takes courage to leave the comforts and security of home to explore the unknown. Maud Scheid heeded life’s call and took one year off from work in France to ride her bicycle around North and South America. She begins her journey in Alaska and will be bicycling down to San Francisco over the next 5 months. She will then fly to Peru and continue her trip in South America. It was a joy to have Maud stay at our hostel during her travels. Carrying all your possessions on a bike for one year takes organization and endurance. We wish Maud a safe journey filled with friendship and adventure.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Many outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to Alaska’s mountains. During the winter, the backcountry is a skier’s paradise. Luc Mehl has explored hidden gems all over Alaska. Last winter, he and some friends traversed 150 miles from Thompson Pass to Palmer near Anchorage. Below is a video produced with Fairweather Ski Works showing a close look at back country skiing in Alaska. Fair-weather Ski Works harvests and handcrafts their skis in Haines, Alaska.
Neal Brown lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and is passionate about the Aurora Borealis a.k.a “Northern Lights”. On Jan 20th he took an amazing video with his sony camera of the Northern Lights as it looks to the human eye. We send Neal enormous appreciation for capturing and sharing this gorgeous display.
James came to Alaska in the summer of of 2015 with the hope of getting a job salmon fishing. He got his opportunity in Kodiak, a beautiful island off the southern coast of Alaska known for some of the biggest brown bears in the world. For many travelers the soul yearns for adventure. The outer physical journey is often only a vehicle for the spiritual growth of the soul. Thank you James for staying with us at Base Camp Anchorage and becoming part of our family. Below are some of his reflections of his experiences in Alaska.
“… I want you all to know I carry your love with me and it keeps me pushing forward to chase new adventures, to continue to dream out loud. I could tell you about how I do not feel any older, or some other cliche. The truth is I am older, but I have never felt more alive and free. Some of you may know I have been salmon fishing all summer in Kodiak, Alaska. This summer in Alaska has opened up my eyes, my mind, and my heart. I have seen things I have only seen in photos. I have seen the sun shine for 24 hours and the grace and beauty of the northern lights. I have learned that the mind can push the human body farther then you could ever imagine. I have learned another new way of living. I have opened my heart up and let me tell you it feels liberating. Experiencing a love that is body and mind numbing. And that same love to be the source of a pain so fierce it purifies your soul.
If I had to give my past self some brief advice I would say :
Breathe it all in. Dive into your surroundings and appreciate its unique beauty. Let love in. Let it all the way in. Let it burn. Feel it to the depths of your being. Let it take you for a wild ride. And just when you feel the need to hold on for dear life, let go and put your hands in the air. Chase your day dream. The dreamers of the day are dangerous, they act on their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.
I will leave you with this. One of my closest friends, a beautiful human, once said, “Why grow up when you can grow in so many other directions.” “
There is no shortage of beautiful rivers in Alaska. “Six Mile” river is well loved by locals. About an hour drive from Anchorage, Six Mile River is famous for its scenery and glacier fed white water rapids reaching class five intensity.
White water Kayakers and commercial rafters regularly paddle this river to appreciate its beauty and power. Packrafting is also an Alaskan activity gaining popularity on this river. These rafting boats weigh about 6-8 pounds and can handle up to class 5 rapids by skilled packrafters. Packrafts are often taken with hikers on multi day backcountry trips requiring multiple river crossings. It is also an excellent option when it’s raining in Anchorage and other outdoor options are limited.
On a rainy Saturday a few friends and I ventured down six mile River. Appreciation to Eric Chandler for photographing our whitewater rafting trip. We had packrafters, kayakers, and whitewater canoes on this adventure.
Climbing Denali at 20,237 feet can be one of the toughest challenges in a mountaineers career. Over a thousand climbers come to Alaska every year to climb the tallest mountain in North America. The climbing season generally starts from late April to mid July when the weather permits most climbers to summit the peak. Nonetheless, conditions change quickly on the mountain. In rough conditions, temperatures can reach up to -22 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and -75.5 F (-59.7 Celcius) in the winter. It is considered one of the coldest mountains in the world with wind chill temperatures dropping to -148 F. Wind speeds routinely go past 100 mph in the winter. We were privileged to have many of the climbers stay at our hostel this year as they prepared for their climb of Denali (the great one in Athabaskan).
Calvin Harmann stayed with us in the summer of 2014 and summited Denali in 17 days. Here is a video of his ascent and gives a good insiders look of climbing Denali. Thank you Calvin !!!
Oct 2014 As we begin the new year we send our appreciation to the sweet spirits who were part of the Base Camp Anchorage family in 2014. Gus, Hali, and Joan came up to Alaska as backcountry tour guides with Alaska Alpine Adventures, which specialize in more remote backcountry travel in places like Lake Clark, Denali, and Wrangell St Elias. We were fortunate to have them with us as they made our hostel their base in between their trips. Their love for the mountains, glaciers, and people was felt by all when they stayed with us. Much appreciation for their kindness and assistance with the hostel when we needed an extra pair of hands.