2013 Alaska (1/3): Work & Play

Places Alaska. Brooks Range and Arctic
Time & length July – September 2013, 9 ½ weeks
Partners several
This is a photo report of the time I spent working with Freedom Trips, a guiding company in Arctic Alaska. I won’t give detailed descriptions here but only summarize the trips and projects in which I played an active part, and present a selection of pictures.
I arrived in Deadhorse on the 30th of June and started working the very next day. Besides some camp work, website editing and planning for Freedom Trips’ future, I prepared for a 3-day packrafting trip in the Brooks Range. Together with my two co-workers Becky Moman and John-Henry Fischer I was soon flown out into the Ribdon River Valley where we hiked and packrafted our way back to Happy Valley Camp.

Here is a collection of photos I took while working on various projects in Happy Valley Camp (130 km south of Deadhorse).

During my time in Alaska’s North Slope I was working on several field operations and at locations that allowed access by bush plane only. Here are some aerial shots that I took while one of the two pilots I worked for flew me around.

In mid-August I guided a film crew from Los Angeles; the videographers were shooting coastal erosion for the new documentary “Cosmos”. We flew up to Drew Point, a place on Alaska’s north coast between Prudhoe Bay and Barrow where daily massive blocks of frozen soil dip into the Bering Sea, documenting climate change at one of its most obvious forms.
Although the shooting only took two days the whole operation lasted almost two weeks due to “marginal weather” that didn’t permit safe flying. First I set up camp at the Ikpikpuk River and later, when the weather allowed access to the coast, I set it up again at Drew Point after our pilot Bob Gill had moved everything to the new location.
My job was to keep the three LA guys safe from any kind of danger, especially from polar bears. While they only spent three days in the field, I was there for twelve days, mostly waiting for the weather to improve. That’s nine days of loneliness – thinking, dreaming, sleeping… hibernation mode.

The last project I want to present here is the search for landing spots in the Upper Ribdon River Valley. For our Camp to Camp Excursions we need several places to land at in the same valley, all a day hike apart from each other. So I spent seven days hiking along the Ribdon River and into side valleys, always looking for level and solid places. As soon as I found one, I saved the coordinates on my GPS device and marked the spot with rocks that are visible from the air. This might have been the most enjoyable week I’ve ever been paid for.

I left the North Slope on the 3rd of September and flew down to Anchorage where I met my friends Keith and Bev Earley as well as my new hiking partner Katharina Sungler from Austria, who accompanied me on a couple of hikes in September. Next year I will be back in the Brooks Range, working for Freedom Trips and hopefully seeing the company grow and thrive.