The Brooks Range Trip: Part 2-The Arrigetch Peaks

22 08 2011

We ditched our packrafts and extras down at Arrigetch Creek, and headed up into the mountains for the ten mile hike to the Arrigetch Peaks. The Arrigetch remind me of Hatcher’s Pass on steriods. Huge granite spires, with mounds of boulders & blueberries lining the valley floor it is a climber’s and hiker’s paradise.  The name Arrigetch comes from the Inupiat language meaning “fingers of the outstretched hand.”

Our first good glimpse of the Arrigetch with Arrigetch creek flowing out.

We lucked out and had hot, sunny weather for the hike in.

We made the mistake of not looking for the bear trail that follows the creek up and went high instead, bushwhacking through alders and tussocks for two hours. We then dropped down towards the creek and found the much easier bear trail. It’s 100% worth it to locate this trail sooner than later. We took a leisurely 7 hours to do the hike, stopping for snacks and pictures along the way. It could easily be done in 5-6 hours if the bear trail is found early on and not so many breaks [not the 12 hours we were assured it would take as the portly ranger in Bettles told us 🙂 ]

The Maidens.

Kasey and Boone at one of many creek crossings. Dry feet are not an option.

Kasey’s and my tent up in the Arrigetch. It leaked like a sieve, we would find out in the next two days of pouring rain. We ended up having to sleep with dry bags on top of our down sleeping bags to prevent the rain hitting soaking them (thus rendering them useless) and packing up everything into dry bags while we were gone from the tent.

I’m not sure what these bright pink plants are. They resembled blueberry bushes, but pink and no berries. I found a whole field of these cool plants. As for blueberries, there were tons throughout the Alatna valley and in the Arrigetch. We enjoyed grazing, and they made delicious additions to our oatmeal in the morning.

Boone and Dan scouting out our hike up Mt. Ariel the next day.

The next morning we got shut down on a summit. It was nice at our tents, for a little while.

The rain quickly moved down valley, making talus fields treacherous. Eventually, the whole valley was socked in and the peaks were all hidden from view.

The next day we thought we had a chance. There was actually some blue sky directly overhead.

We got shut down again by rain and the low clouds that moved in. We ended up hiking up to this bench over lots of slippery talus to catch a glimpse of some glaciers for a brief moment.

Looking back down the valley to the low lying clouds.

The rock was covered with brilliant orange lichen.

Interestingly, on the whole hike/packraft from the headwaters of the Alatna to Takahula lake the only time we ran into other people was in the Arrigetch. We met two different groups there, one group of two people doing a similar trip as us. The other group had been there a week, went up in the mountains on the one nice day, and got shut down the rest of time, not being able to make the mountain pass they had hoped for, ending up in the same place as they began.  The Arrigetch Peaks were amazing to see, even though we got shut down from any summits or climbing.

The fourth day in the Arrigetch we woke to sunshine on our tents and down valley, but again, the mountains up from our tent had low lying clouds and rain. We packed it up, and headed back for our boats to continue the rest of our adventure to Takahula Lake.

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12 responses

22 08 2011
Marthy Johnson

The National Geographic has nothing on you.The pictures are magnificent, and I am glasd you egt to enjoy all this.

Love,

Mom

22 08 2011
marshall

we leave on wed to basically the same hike you’ve done. anything you suggest we bring? thanks marshall in NC

22 08 2011
amberejohnson

It’s wetter and colder in the Arrigetch than the Alatna valley from our experience. The weather easily turns on a dime, so be prepared on any day trips. Lots of hot tea/drinks is great to have. We did find a caribou rack up there too, if you go left towards the maidens at the fork, really close to the fork. If you’re attempting Ariel cross the creek sooner than later, its wetter on the right side of the valley, but much easier travel than the boulders/Talus on the left. The rocks did tear up some of our rain gear. I slept with my camera batteries to keep them warm, but didn’t have any problems. Also blueberries are bigger and more plentiful early on in the hike, but we found them everywhere. We left everything we didn’t need down near the river, hung in a tree just in case. Amazing place! Good luck! Also, the people in Bettles are awesome and helpful- we had a pretty epic last night 🙂

23 08 2011
Ike Waits

Hi Amber,

I am enjoying your adventures along the Alatna and in the Arrigetch Peak area. Great images and write up. I feel like I’m there.

Ike

23 08 2011
amberejohnson

Thanks Ike!

1 01 2015
Rob

Hi Amber. I see a date listed as August 22 is that the time of year your trip here was?

Rob

1 01 2015
amberejohnson

Hi Rob,

We went the second week in August-I believe we came out the 16th or 17th.

15 08 2015
Rob Binkley

Hi Amber we arrive at Bettles August 29th and fly out to Circle Lake drop off for 11 days. Do you have any last min suggestions for traveling northwest to Awlinyak Creek (basecamp); gear? bear trails? bug protection? I’d appreciate any advice. (Awlinyak is about 6 miles north of Arrigetch)

Rob
Jacksonville Florida

17 08 2015
amberejohnson

Rob,

We didn’t travel over to Awlinyak creek on our trip. You’ve probably seen these blogs but these guys did- http://beyondthebackyard.com/2010/08/30/at-desperation-pass/
as did these guys-
http://t-dawgspeaks.blogspot.com/2015/06/packrafting-arrigetch-part-2.html

The bear trails we found were up to the Arrigetch. They were pretty easy to find down low, & generally followed the creek on up to the Arrigetch.

Bugs are notoriously bad in that area, however, in southcentral AK this year they have been virtually non-existant, which is incredibly strange. Probably due to the hot, dry summer we’ve had. Usually, I take 100% Deet and a head net.

Given the time of year you’ll be there, bring some warm gear (puffys and warmer sleeping bags). It should be gorgeous with fall colors, but could easily snow on you as well. I was in Denali area over the weekend and it dropped down to 40 overnight, I suspect farther north it’s getting much colder.

Good luck on your adventure!
-Amber

7 03 2016
Hart

Hi Amber,

Great pictures and trip report.

My wife and I are planning on a very similar trip in same area next summer.

Could you please tell me approx. how many miles up river on the Alatna from Arrigetch Creek that Circle Lake is located? I can’t seem to find it anywhere on my maps.

Thanks – Hart

9 03 2016
amberejohnson

Hi,

We didn’t fly in or out of Circle lake. I’ve heard it’s close to Arrigetch creek, but I’m not sure of the exact location. I bet Brooks Range Aviation could point you in the right direction.

-Amber

11 03 2016
Robert Binkley

Hart,
I’d say its about 5 1/2 miles. I just came back from there this past late August. We did hike up to Arrigetch Creek and camped in that area. I’m planning another trip there again late August 2017 (for approx. one week). Email me if you like. -Rob rob.binkley@comcast.net

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