American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Central Brooks Range, 1985-1988

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

Central Brooks Range, 1985-1988. During the summers of 1985 through 1988, I and others have made several easy to moderate routes in the central Brooks Range. All routes were done in free time from work on a biological research project. The routes reported here are all one-day excursions from the only road presently traversing the Brooks Range, the pipeline haul road. Originating in Fairbanks, the relatively well maintained gravel road covers about 300 miles of classic Alaskan taiga to cross the Brooks Range at Atigun Pass. From Atigun Pass the often rutted road descends through the Atigun River gorge. Routes mentioned here, listed from south to north from the pass on both sides of the Atigun River, are reached by side canyons. The USGS Philip Smith Mountains quadrangle (1:250,000) covers the entire region. Approaches are straightforward, involving the normal arctic Alaska factors such as mosquitoes, tussock tundra and occasional grizzlies. Rock ranges from solid quartzite and conglomerate to terrible limestone and very foul shale. The snow and ice are most solid at “night,” and the glaciers appear to be in active recession. May and June are the best summer months, while in the winter it is normally very clear. The haul road also provides a starting point for the day- or-so journey to Mount Doonerak (south of the pass at Trembly Creek) in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Currently, a pass obtainable from the Bureau of Land Management is required to pass north of Atigun Pass. From Atigun Pass, the routes done so far include the following: Left Leg Gully: the best looking snow-and-ice gully above the glacier on the north side of P 7087 (three or four rope-lengths from the glacier); Dan Peak (7050 feet) is essentially a glacier slog but the upper part of the glacier is steep enough to make a good glisade; Castle Mountain (7410 feet) is ascended up the crumbly southwest ridge to the extremely crumbly limestone of the turreted summit area; Wellsung Mountain (7610 feet) is climbed up the north-northeast ridge from the obvious notch on the ridge. It is pleasant mixed climbing on rock and ice with short rock steps to the notch. From there it is class-4 rock to the top; Kiev (7600 + feet) on the border of the Gates of the Arctic Park, is a long haul from Galbraith Lake to the glacier under the north face. From the glacier, I ascended the ice headwall to a point on the snowy north ridge just below the summit rocks. There was 50° ice with class-3 rock at the top. The north ridge can also be reached from the glacier to the west; Bunny Ears (6200 + feet, 3.2 miles northwest of Castle Mountain) were both climbed from the notch between them. There is good rock on the west side of the north ear.

Kevin J. Murray

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