Words and photographs by Haley Johnston
2015 was my sixth year of guiding for Alaska Alpine Adventures. After almost 50 trips and well over 400 days in the field, there were very few trips on AAA's menu of adventures that I had not yet guided. Our combination Noatak River & Great Kobuk Dunes trip was one of these few and I lobbied pretty hard to get the opportunity to guide it.
We are having a wonderful winter up here in Alaska. But the snow piling up and the cold temperatures have us dreaming of warmer and sunnier times, like the scorching, arctic afternoon featured in our Photo of the Month!
Aaron Fetter crosses a glacial stream in the Alaska Range, with Mark and Joan Strobel.
Welcome to the last photo from our June, 2009 adventure into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! On this trip we climbed the highest peak in the Brooks Range - Mt. Chamberlin - and rafted out the Hulahula River to the village of Kaktovik.
This shot was taken by adventure photographer Corey Rich in August of 2008 on the Chilikadrotna River in Lake Clark National Park. It appears in the March issue of Men's Journal Magazine. And for those of you who haven't met me, at least with this photo you'll have the chance to put the name with the face! Click here to see more of Corey's spectacular images from the trip.
This is a shot taken in July of 2007 along the Charley River in northeastern Alaska. As we rounded a bend in the river, just upstream from it's confluence with the Yukon, we spotted this grizzly bear digging for Bank Swallows - a feeding behavior that few have ever witnessed.
Gates of the Arctic National Park, despite being the recipient of frequent media attention over the past 45 years, remains one of the most remote and unspoiled places on earth. Its 8.4 million acres cover an area twice the size of Connecticut and only slightly smaller than Switzerland. The park is essentially a road-less wilderness area and, except for limited and difficult access along the Dalton highway, Most recreational visitors choose to enter the park via chartered airplane. The park is home to the Arrigetch Mountains, which means, “fingers of the hand extended”, and is a mountainous area comprised of a tilted intrusion of granite that has been hailed as the hallmark of Gates of the Arctic. Perhaps Bob Marshall described the area best when he called Arrigetch “…a series of sensational needlelike peaks extending in a horseshoe around a gushing creek which rose in the glacier.” Traversing the landscape below these giants alters our sense of scale as well as our definition of true wilderness. Rafting, hiking, backpacking in Gates of the Arctic are the activities that Alaska Alpine Adventures specializes in and we have been operating in Gates of the Arctic National Park since 2005.`
To this day, Lake Clark National Park represents the roots of our enterprise. Not only is it where we guided our first trip and the base of summertime operations, it is also the backdrop for most of our itineraries and, quite simply, our favorite place on earth to explore. From white summits of glacier-clad volcanoes, laced ribbons of wild and scenic rivers, endless expanses of verdant tundra, to salmon choked waters of azure lakes, Lake Clark is without equal. Since its creation in 1980 to protect the amazing scenery, abundant wildlife and traditional lifestyles of its residents, it has been hailed as Alaska’s epitome and for Alaska Alpine Adventures it remains home. Lake Clark National Park is situated where the mighty Alaska range collides with the expansive Aleutian Range. It contains roughly 80 miles of rugged coastline, countless rivers, glaciers, and unnamed peaks. At just over 4 million acres, Lake Clark is roughly twice the size of Yellowstone National Park and larger than the state of Connecticut.
Dan Oberlatz, owner of Alaska Alpine Adventures, has been exploring Lake Clark National Park since 1992, and thinks it is the finest, yet most under-appreciated wilderness area in the entire national park system. Not only does Lake Clark National Park offer the rare opportunity to truly explore wilderness that has never seen a human foot print, it is also home to some of Alaska’s most spectacular backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and rafting trips – a few of which are now considered Alaska classics and originally pioneered by founders Dan Oberlatz and Derek Nelson.
In August of 2008, Dan Oberlatz was joined by writer Daniel Duane, an editor from Men's Journal Magazine, and renowned adventure photo journalist Corey Rich, to write a feature article on threat of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region (See our Pebble Mine page for details). Corey was so impressed with the area, and with Lake Clark National Park in particular, that he is now regards it as "...one of the wildest places on the planet!"