My name is Ryan Fuller and I’m a 25 year old Australian living and working in South Texas. Months ago, a good friend of mine, John, proposed the idea of doing a backcountry trip in North America. He was interested in doing a paddle trip on the Yukon River, one of the largest rivers in North America and I was very intrigued.
We started talking and researching and making plans. We wanted to do a trip that involved some rafting or canoeing, camping, breathing fresh air and being in the mountains, but most importantly we wanted to get a taste of the wild. We wanted to do something big that would be a major milestone of our mid-twenties.
The Yukon is a grand river, and we looked very seriously at doing a two week paddling trip from Dawson to Whitehorse, but eventually both John and I came to the conclusion that the Yukon wasn’t the trip that we wanted. It was remote but we both wanted something more remote. It was hidden away but we wanted something completely off the grid. Something hard to find, and even harder to accomplish (which was completely at odds with our level of experience with backcountry Alaska/Canada – which was nil).
More weeks of digging and extensive googling eventually led us to the discovery of the Alatna River and the awe-inspiring Arrigetch Peaks.
When we saw photos of the Alatna we were sold right away. Unlike the Yukon which lies mostly in open Alaskan country, the Alatna River is nestled right in the heart of the Brooks Range, the Northernmost mountain range in North America. The river is born at the Continental Divide and from its humble beginnings it slowly grows as it flows South through the mountains. Once it reaches the extent of its 184 miles of length, it joins the Kuyokuk river in the foothills of the brooks, which in turn contributes to the Yukon river and finally makes its way to the Bering Sea.
The river has some challenging stretches in the mountains but eventually becomes very mellow and windy as it makes its way through the foothills. We knew we were on to a winner.
The Arrigetch peaks are the real draw of this trip. Part of the Endicott Mountains, the Arrigetch Peaks are a cluster of granite spires that stand out from the surrounding mountains with their sheer size and unique appearance. They were both alien and beautiful and we knew immediately that we had to see them up close.
John and I spent around 5 months planning this trip, from inception to execution and while a lot of the steps were not challenging individually, the logistics of organising the trip as a whole were pretty intimidating in the beginning. This was a very new type of adventure for us, but we were determined to do it on our own, without purchasing a one-stop vacation package.
We had a lot of help from some great individuals, including:
- Judy and Jay of Brooks Range Aviation
- Nick Janssen of Northern Alaska Packrafts
- Justin Powell of Fairbanks Satellite Phone Rental
- John Gaedeke of the Iniakuk Lodge
- Teddy Nolan from the Bettles National Park Service office
I’ve put together this site to help other people who may be interested in this trip, or one similar, to figure out how to organise it and what exactly it entails. We hope that our unique perspective as complete beginners will bridge a few knowledge gaps for Alatna hopefuls, as we struggled through some of the details that just didn’t seem to be covered.
We hope that you enjoy reading through the site, and please drop us a line if you have any comments or stories of your own.
Ryan and John