American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Alaska Range Traverse. Kevin Armstrong, John Burcham, Jeffrey Ottmers, and Doug Woody began the first continuous foot traverse* of the Alaska Range just south of Tok, Alaska on May 20. They were prepared for an arduous 76-day journey along the spine of the Alaska Range across rivers, swamps, glaciers, and countless mountain passes through some of the most remote and untouched climbing areas in the world. On August 17, exactly 90 days, 27 mountain passes, 29 rivers, and 13 major glaciers later, the team slogged through a swamp to finish the trek on the north shore of Lake Clark, 620 miles from Tok.

The team traveled on foot and by pack raft past innumerable isolated peaks, only some of which have been climbed. They trekked through remote glacial passes between the Black Rapids and Susitna Glaciers, hiked across the entirety of Denali National Park, and floated by the mighty granite towers of the Kichatnas. Wildlife was abundant, but only one grizzly actually charged the group. No one had ever completed a foot traverse of the entire Alaska Range. Traversing the Range with a small team of close friends, using only minimal outside support and minimum impact travel techniques, is a step away from crowds, access fees, and plane flights. It is not simply climbing as a sport; it is mountaineering, pack rafting, and trekking with a great reverence for the ecosystem and the solitude. It is a tribute to the wilderness that makes up some of the most inaccessible country in North America.

Doug Woody, unaffiliated

*In 1981, Scott Woolums, George Beilstein, Steve Eck and Larry Coxen skied across the Alaska Range from Mentasta Lake to the Kichatna Mountains—some 350 or 400 miles—in 45 days. See AAJ 1982, pp. 137-138.

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