Arctic Village to Kaktovik
Snowshoe Expedition, April 2002
A Trek by Steven Kalinowski
We are fortunate
this spring to be able to "tag along" on
the adventure of a lifetime! Biologist Steven Kalinowski will be going to
Arctic Village on April 1st to begin a month long snowshoe trip across the
National Wildlife Refuge. He will be alone and self sustained - using
a sled to drag along everything he needs for the month. The purpose of the
trip (besides having fun) is to photograph the Refuge in winter - especially
landscape photographs. This is not Kalinowski's first trip to northern
wilderness areas. During the past decade he has hiked, climbed, sea-kayaked,
and canoed in many of Alaska's wildest places. These trips have included
floating 1000 miles down the Yukon River in a homemade wooden boat and
climbing Denali, Alaska's tallest mountain. Of the places he have been,
he told us that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is his favorite.
Alaska in winter
Courtesy S. Kalinowski
Get out your maps and follow along on the Arctic Village to Kaktovik
snowshoe expedition with Steven Kalinowski. In the following paragraphs
he shares his trip with Journey North classrooms all across the continent.
I am leaving April 1st for a month long solo snowshoe trip across the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge from Arctic Village to Kaktovik. The purpose of
the trip is to photograph a cross section of the Arctic Refuge in winter.
Biologist Steven Kalinowski
Portrait taken on Denali
Trip Route - A Long Walk
I will ascend the Chandalar River, cross the continental divide at Guilbeau
Pass, descend the Hulahula River, and then walk across the Coastal Plain to
Kaktovik. I hope to pass Red Sheep Creek on April 10th and the Kikiktat Mountains
on April 20th.
Winter Camping Skills
Camping in the arctic during the winter requires practice. There are two tricks
to staying warm when it is extremely cold outside. The first is to stay dry.
Pulling a sled all day is hard work. If I am not careful, my sweat will make
my clothes wet. On windy days, blowing snow can get inside of my clothes or
tent where it will melt. In addition, moisture from my breath can accumulate
in my sleeping bag. The second trick to staying warm in cold weather is to
eat plenty of food and drink enough fluids. This sounds easy, but melting snow
to get water to drink and to cook can take hours each day. Also, eating isn't
easy when its really cold outside. At 40 degrees below zero, my dinner will
get cold faster than I can eat it. By time I am done, some of it will freeze
to my cooking pot.
Food - Packing Lots
Bringing enough food to eat is important, but food is heavy so I don't
want to bring too much. I begin my preparations by making a menu for each
day of the trip. Then I pack each of my meals (30 breakfasts, 30 lunches,
and 30 dinners) into a Zip-lock bag so that I know how much food to eat
each day. If I eat too much in the beginning of the trip, I will not have
enough to eat at the end. I bring 4500 calories to eat each day. For breakfast
I usually have soup and a couple of bagels. During the day I eat muffins
and sip on hot tea that I keep warm in a thermos. I usually stop twice
in the day to eat. Eating a long lunch is difficult because I get too cold.
For dinner, I usually have rice or noodles. I also eat lots of chocolate
because it has energy that I will need to work and stay warm.
Chandalar in winter
Courtesy S. Kalinowski
Gear - Warm to Minus 40
Camping in the arctic requires warm clothes, a good tent, and the warmest sleeping
bag. My sleeping bag is warm enough so that I can sleep when its -40 degrees.
If its colder than that, I will be too cold to sleep. I will be OK, but I will
lay away all night waiting for dawn.
Once I begin my trip I won't be able to get any gear that I forget or replace
gear that breaks.
Therefore, I make a long list of everything that I will need and make sure everything
is in good condition before I leave. If my clothes rip I will sew them with dental
floss - its very strong and I need to carry it anyway. I also have duct tape
in case my sleeping bag rips. I carry two stoves with me in case one breaks.
I also bring extra socks and mittens.
Wilderness Engineering sled-duffle
Courtesy W. Engineering
My gear is carried in an 11,000 cu. in. Duffel Bag of 1,000 denier
Dupont Cordura nylon (made by Wilderness Engineering). Two buckles
and all your gear comes off
the sled at once, together. Wide nylon straps make the whole sled "back-packable" for
fording rivers, crossing pressure ridges, or walking through airports.
Steven Kalinowski is a real-life arctic explorer. Get a taste for this kind
of arctic adventure. Here are a couple of his suggestions for experiencing
- Log on to the internet and get the minimum and maximum temperature for
Arctic Village (April 1 to April 15) or Kaktovik / Barter Island (April 16
to May 1). Graph these temperatures for each day of the month.
- Maybe the greatest encouragement Kalinowski will experience is the lengthening
of the days during his journey. He said that it will be cold, but the increasing
daylength will keep him energized. Graph the day length in Kaktovik or Arctic
Village during the month of April. Compare with your hometown.