2014 Alaska (1/2): Guiding

Places Alaska. Arctic Tundra, Brooks Range, Wrangell Mountains, Gulkana River
Time & length June – September 2014, 12 weeks
Partners several (clients)
From June 26 to September 13 I guided several wilderness expeditions for Freedom Trips in arctic Alaska and Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Besides my guiding jobs I also engaged in other projects which allowed me to explore my beautiful work place some more.

On June 26 I landed in Deadhorse, close to the Arctic Ocean in northern Alaska. I first spent some time with a group of birders from Wyoming and Utah – we drove the Dalton Highway, hiked on the tundra and rafted the Sag River, always looking for birds. The three of them were particularly interested in gyrfalcons – but hawks, geese, eiders, jaegers and all kinds of other species caught their attention, too. One of the birders was Steve Chindgren, a well-known falconer and author who has been portrayed in the book “Falconer on the edge” by Rachel Dickinson. Steve provided me with a list of birds you can find in northern Alaska and gave me permission to publish it here (we saw most of these birds ourselves this summer):

Tundra Peregrine Falcon
Snowy Owl
Golden Eagle
Rough-legged Hawk
Northern Harrier
Artic Loon
Red Throated Loon
Tundra Swan
Canada Goose
Greater White Fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Barnacle Goose
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Greater Scaup
Galucous Gull
Common Eider
Spectacled Eider
Steller’s Eider
King Eider
Oldsquaw Duck
Semipalmated Plover
Red-necked Phalarope
Artic Tern
Rudd Turnstone
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Long-tailed Jaeger
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Galucous Gull
Yellow Wagtail
Artic Warbler
Water Pipet
Northern Shrike
Yellow Warbler
Hoary Red Poll
Common Red Poll
Savannah Sparrow
Dark-Eyed Junco slate colored races
White Crowned Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Sandhill Crane
Rock & Willow Ptarmigan

On the 8th of July I started a hike with Iwan from Switzerland. It was Iwan’s first time in Alaska; he booked me for an adventurous one-week packrafting trip which the two of us successfully completed. We flew into the upper Ribdon valley, hiked south and then east over a pass into the Ivishak River drainage. From there we packrafted all the way out to the highway. This trip was part of Iwan’s preparation for a long solo ANWR traverse which he started right after we got back to our base camp. He was going to hike from Galbraith Lake to Kaktovik; due to an accident he only made it to Arctic Village and therefore spend some more time in southern Alaska later on.

Anyway, Iwan and I had a great time together; here are some pictures of our trip through the western ANWR.

My next job was guiding three Germans for two weeks in southern Alaska. I flew down to Anchorage, picked them up from their hotel and drove eastbound. The four of us started our hike on the Nabesna Road and hiked into the Mentasta Mountains (northern Wrangell St. Elias National Park). We then rested for two days in the Caribou Creek Cabin where I had spent some time with my Austrian friend Katharina in 2013. Finally we rafted down the Gulkana River before I brought them back to Anchorage.

In the beginning of August I went on a 10-day trip with two Americans in the Brooks Range. With one of our bush planes we flew to the upper Wind River and hiked westbound along the continental divide. The two of them were pretty fit which allowed us a little detour into the Accomplishment Creek valley before our bush plane picked us up again at the South Fork Ribdon River.

After mid-August I was involved in several other projects that we had going on this summer. I shuttled a lot of people and equipment from Deadhorse to Happy Valley (and back) on the scenic Dalton Highway. Also, I helped out at a remote camp in Bullen Point where we supplied a group of workers who took down a former Air Force Radar Station on the very Arctic Ocean. My assignment as a professional guide for this year ended on September 13 – that day I flew down to Anchorage and went on a personal hike in the Eastern Alaska Range with my good friend Keith Early (report is coming soon).

To sum up, I can say that I once again had an amazing summer – I worked a lot and I enjoyed every single day. I feel like there can’t be any better job (for me) than guiding people through places like this! I’m able to give other adventurers the wilderness experience they have been looking for a long time; some of them have been waiting for an experience like this their whole lives. Being out there in the elements is a wonderful thing – and doing it for a living is even better. I’m very lucky that I got that job and I’m going to do my best to keep it.

Click here to learn about the rest of my summer.