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North America, United States, Alaska, Climbs in the Kobuk Valley, Arrigetch, Brooks Range

Climbs in the Kobuk Valley, Arrigetch, Brooks Range. Bob Forbes, Rafael Gurvis*, John Lyon*, Petter Millar, Hope Yandell and I* decided that the Kobuk valley would be a suitable place to spend our energies. The Kobuk had been only superficially explored and never climbed in. In July we flew from Fairbanks to Betties and on to a nearby lake and hiked 20 miles into the Kobuk. We received an airdrop shortly after arriving and spent the next three days in our tents enduring an infamous Brooks Range storm. Then our luck with the weather improved. The two largest peaks at the head of the valley were our first objectives. Peter Millar and Bob Forbes set off for “Mount Analogue”, while John Lyon and I started up the 2500-foot face of “The Glenlivet”. The climbing was pleasant on fairly good rock, and we were fortunate enough to enjoy a spectacular bivouac. After 24 hours of climbing, we returned to Base Camp to find that the others had not been successful. They had climbed the north ridge to a false summit only to find another long ridge with innumerable gendarmes between them and the summit. In our absence, Raf Gurvis and Hope Yandell had climbed a smaller peak near camp. The next day Millar and Gurvis hiked back up to the pass we had crossed to get into the Kobuk and climbed a classic prow-like formation that towers above it. Towards the south end of the valley, a peak appeared unclimbable on three sides without a bolt ladder, but after much route-finding difficulties and two precariously unprotected leads, we were on the summit. Meanwhile Millar and Forbes made a second attempt on Analogue and after two days climbed a direct route to the summit up the shorter but more difficult south face. Gurvis had discovered an intriguing corner on a formation similar to the Diamond on Longs Peak. He, Lyon and I set out one afternoon (an advantage of 24-hour daylight). We were caught by a rainstorm after eight pitches and traversed out of the corner to the only overhang on the face. What we thought to be only a brief shower kept us there for 12 hours. Again in the sun after several more pitches, Gurvis led up an awkward chimney to find the quality of the rock deteriorating rapidly. I led the final pitch to the crest of the ridge. While rappelling off, we encountered more rockfall, which cut one of our ropes. We were delighted to get back on the ground after nearly 30 hours on an inhospitable rock. The Kobuk valley and the Arrigetch in general impress one with their extreme fragility. A tent left in one place for any length of time causes irreparable damage to the tundra, and garbage such as we found in Creek 4662 remains for an eternity.

James O’Neill, Reed College

* Recipients of grants from the Boyd Everett Climbing Fellowship.