Tasmanians in Alaska.

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Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 2:33 pm

Not a report of a trip in Tasmania, but of Tasmanians having a blast elsewhere. Moderators please delete or relocate it if you deem it to be of insufficient relevance in this forum.

http://mclaine.org/alatna-river-and-arrigetch-peaks-rough-cut-of-first-few-raw-pictures/

Part one only sorry, with the mountain phase yet to be written.

Cheers,

John
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby andrewa » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 3:42 pm

Wonderful. Thanks for posting. Can't imagine having a river like that to paddle. Amazing.

Maybe a "subtopic" about Packrafting on this site...???

I realise there's a pacxkrafting forum, but they lost me when they became/joined/whatever the American Packrafting Association, and gained all their rules and litigation phobic mentality, whilst losing imaginative innovative forum input for fear of litigation.

I look fwd to the follow up entry.

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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 7:05 pm

Thanks Andrew, for your enthusiastic and kind words. I'll complete part 2 ASAP. I can't really comment about your past negative experiences with the American Packrafting Association forums, except to say that I spent some time with members of the APA Executive Committee and other APA members in Montana, the week before going to Alaska, and I can't imagine a more friendly, caring and inspiring group of people. They are genuinely cool. Perhaps you could give the APA forums another try. Cheers, John
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby Travis22 » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 8:10 pm

Great trip report Jmac. Loved it and I look forward to part 2!

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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby doogs » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 8:22 pm

Great stuff, the Brooks Range looks like an amazing part of the world to visit. Looking forward to the next installment.
How did you find the cargo fly?? (I'm hoping to buy a packraft soon and currently weighing up the different options).
Do you want to build a snowman?
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby andrewa » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 8:23 pm

John,

I think the issue was that , for my particular interests, which were largely related to progressive gear design for specific uses, it went from being a really creative innovative forum, with lots of good ideas about alternative uses for gear ( think of Higg and whoevers early trips, using thermarests as PFDs) to one that became so constricted by litigation potential after the affiliation with APA, that that aspect died.

Eg

The early spray deck modifications/thigh straps etc, which were great

and

MYO PFD, using wine bladders.....worked well for us for numerous trips, and still will, but someone pointed out that by posting this on the forum, I could be liable for someone else's tragedy in the US.....really?

Packrafting has evolved a lot since we got into it, but in those early days, there was a lot of innovation and discovery, which was what I found stimulating, and I've certainly enjoyed your early trip reports, but I haven't been on the packrafting forum for 12 months plus...have there been any innovate developments in that time?

But, back to your trip....amazing.....please post lots of piccies.

I was amazed at how exposed your initial campsites were. Big country. No trees. Didn't look like the most inviting image of Alaska to arrive to, but still extraordinary. I have trouble imagining a river with continuous 2/3 rapids like that.....perfection, even though you were cold. Our NZ packrafting has been a lot less relaxing in terms of river flow.......But then Roman came across and showed how easily it was all done....!

Maybe hydroskin socks for next trip for you?

Anyway, as said, thanks for posting on this forum, as I otherwise might have missed it.

Andrew A
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby DanShell » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 8:46 pm

Wow what a great adventure. Thanks very much for sharing, I look forward to the rest of it.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby climberman » Sun 10 Aug, 2014 10:01 pm

Wonderful as ever jmac.

looking forward to the next instalment.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Mon 11 Aug, 2014 4:08 pm

Thanks everyone for your kind words, glad you liked it.

Doogs, the Cargo Fly is excellent because it enables your gear to be more safely stored, and brings your centre of gravity down around your hips for a much more stable craft. I think this also answers Andrew's question regarding recent innovation; the Cargo Fly is a huge step forward.

The story is now complete with parts 2, 3 and 4 rushed into publication. Rough and not proof-read, so please point out any errors, if you have the patience to see it through to the end.

Part 2 starts here: http://mclaine.org/arrigetch-peaks/

Or to start at the beginning, please just go to part 1 linked in the OP above.

Cheers,

John
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby icefest » Mon 11 Aug, 2014 5:50 pm

Yay! Great read and once more, incredible shots!
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby ofuros » Mon 11 Aug, 2014 5:59 pm

Great adventure jmac....my feet are now begining to twitch & itch. :mrgreen:
Trip of a lifetime.

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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby climberman » Tue 12 Aug, 2014 7:30 pm

Wow jmac. Just wow.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby icefest » Tue 12 Aug, 2014 9:30 pm

I especially like the bit about the Killer bears and giant Wombats.

I still am astounded about the giant animal pads.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Wed 13 Aug, 2014 11:35 am

Thanks again everyone; really glad you enjoyed it.

I was really surprised at how small the bear was (in part 4) after seeing the size of the prints it left!
(We did actually see one black bear fleetingly run past us on the final day; but I wasn't quick enough to photograph it. No grizzlies, unfortunately.)

The Gates of the Arctic National Park is a remote and serious destination so the usual cautions apply, however if any highly experienced readers of this forum become seriously inspired to plan a low impact private adventure in this area, I'm happy to help with logistics and gear advice; packrafting in Alaska is an achievable objective for well-prepared, experienced people. Just send me a private message and I'll help if I can.

Cheers, J.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby biggbird » Sun 24 Aug, 2014 2:33 pm

Saw some of the pics on the Irenabyss FB page, have been hanging out to get a bit more of the story, and it was worth the wait! Sounds like an awesome trip, very jealous.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Wed 13 Sep, 2017 10:36 am

Just a follow-up to the original post from 2014: In August 2017 I returned to this part of the Brooks Range with two fellow antipodeans, Dulkara from NZ and Ben from Aus. We successfully traversed from Circle Lake in the Alatna River Valley across 5 alpine passes to the Noatak River Valley, and then paddled the Noatak until reaching Twelve Mile Lake near Portage Pass, from where we arranged urgent extraction via float plane to deal with a potentially life-threatening medical issue, well covered in Dulkara's blog: https://dulkaramartig.co.nz/2017/09/03/ ... he-arctic/

Despite the early extraction, the trip was a wonderful experience and Dulkara has defeated the infection and made a full recovery.

The route is very infrequently traveled and for 8 days we saw not so much as a boot print to indicate other human passage. There is a substantial quantity of loose talus and boulderfield to negotiate, so parties need to be skilled and confident on loose and somewhat unstable rock. The five passes were quite challenging and took nine days to complete. The first two passes require reasonable weather and dry, snow-free rock to safely cross without mountaineering equipment. An analogy for Australian bushwalkers would be the steeper more exposed sections on peaks like Federation and Geryon South.

John GOTA (183 of 324) tweaked.jpg
Deception Pass, Brooks Range


The valleys between the passes contained some light alder scrub and sections of easier tundra complete with game trails (bear/moose/wolf/caribou etc.)

The Noatak when we finally reached it, was awesome! It was such a delight to inflate and paddle after ten days of hard mountain travel. We met three grizzly bears, of which one encounter was an extended and very satisfying meeting. I haven't had time to write at length about the trip, but thought these notes and a few pics might interest a few participants on this site.
Attachments
John GOTA (20 of 324) tweaked.jpg
Aiyagomahala Valley
Ben GOTA (104 of 195) tweaked.jpg
Deception Pass
John GOTA (312 of 324) tweaked.jpg
Noatak River
Ben GOTA (145 of 195) tweaked.jpg
The wombats over there are quite big!
John GOTA (142 of 324) tweaked.jpg
Separate cooking shelter so food smells don't attract bears to sleeping tent. When pitching in bad weather it is tempting to put the shelter close to the tent; not ideal practice.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby Lizzy » Wed 13 Sep, 2017 3:21 pm

Great effort! Not too sure about those wombats though.....
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby Nuts » Wed 13 Sep, 2017 4:13 pm

Agreed. Long lens or er underpants, of steel?
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Thu 14 Sep, 2017 12:28 pm

Thanks for your comments. Yes the bears can be seriously adrenaline-pumping to meet, but they are just one more factor when committing to undertake a route in this region, if you're comfortable with the risks and dangers of such a difficult and remote region, you'll likely be comfortable with the additional risk that the bears pose. In this region they mostly eat vegetable matter, fish and ground squirrels. Very few become predatory towards humans. Most grizzly bear attacks in Alaska are territorial or protective encounters. These inland grizzly bears do not grow quite as large as the coastal brown bears, resident in places like Kodiak and Katmai. Those have a richer diet of fish and therefore grow significantly larger than the bears in the Brooks Range which are apparently approximately 90% vegetarian. In August a lot of the grizzly bear poo that you see is comprised largely of semi-digested blueberries, which grow wild in stunted ankle-high bushes in the tundra. We would periodically stop and graze on the blueberries too, they're pretty good! (I'll post a pic.)

When planning to travel in this area one undertakes a fair bit of research and reading to prepare for the bear risk; there are a lot of web resources and blogs about bear encounters and they mostly end safely. You carry a canister of pepper bear spray which is intended to hurt their feelings and divert their attention if they approach within aerosol range.

There was only one bear on this trip by which I was genuinely concerned for a minute, as he didn't seem to be interested in following the text-book procedure of running away from us. We were paddling down a gentle grade 1 rapid towards a bend in the river; he was walking down the bank towards the water's edge as the current pushed us to within maybe 15 metres of the bear. As soon as you see a bear so close you immediately introduce yourself to the bear vocally, because you don't want to startle them up close. He actually glanced at us and kept slowly approaching. We quickly got off the river on the opposite bank. Standing side by side with paddles you offer the bear as much physical presence as you can, talking in a loud and confident voice to it. If he'd wanted to, this one could have been upon us from his position within maybe three seconds; they can move incredibly fast! My friend Dulkara has more bear experience than me, and I took my cue from her; she was more relaxed than me initially, and I began to notice that although the bear hadn't run away as normal, nor was he interested in us. He just came down to the water's edge, had a quick dip, looked about and then slowly wandered off, allowing us time to take a few photographs. A nice furry bloke just doing his own thing.
Attachments
Ben's bathing bear.jpg
Beary bloke, just doing his own thing on the other side of the Noatak River.
IMG_1772.JPG
Wild blueberries in the Arctic.
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby jmac » Thu 14 Sep, 2017 3:03 pm

If readers are interested in reading more about bear encounters, here are two more told by Roman Dial. Roman is one of the most experienced travelers in the northern Alaskan wilderness. Incidentally Roman's friend Brad in this story is our mutual friend and was our kind host in Alaska when not in the wilderness:

http://packrafting.blogspot.com.au/2017 ... kongo.html

"We saw 13 bears in six days, four of which I'd call "aggressively curious." The aggressive curiosity is cause for concern, maybe indicative of hunger in that region at that early time in the summer.

The second one is heart-pumping but they were able to stare the curious bear down in this instance:

http://packrafting.blogspot.com.au/2011 ... unter.html
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Re: Tasmanians in Alaska.

Postby climberman » Thu 14 Sep, 2017 8:20 pm

wonderful notes and pictures as ever John. Thanks for posting.
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