28-Jun-2005 -- Deep inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 69N x 146W can be found on a scree field above the Canning River valley under the midnight sun. I noticed the opportunity to visit this one while preparing for a rafting trip with the Treasure America team (a group promoting sustainable development of ANWR). The trip was a spectacular 10 day journey from the Marsh Fork of the Canning, down across the coastal plain to a spot near the river's mouth at the Arctic Ocean.
The confluence lies less than 2 miles from the river, and the night before our attempt, we were lucky enough to camp a mere 2.11 miles from it. After a good night's sleep, Andrew Smith and I embarked upon what we thought was going to be a 90 minute pre-breakfast scamper up to the confluence. The rest of the crew wasn't interested in the hike, so the plan was for us to be back by the time they finished packing up the boats for a day of paddling.
2.11 miles is pretty darn close as the crow flies, but in the Brooks Range it makes for one heck of a mission. I've no idea exactly how long it took, because one of my favorite things to do while in the wilderness is put my watch away, and with 24-hours of daylight, I assume with only marginal confidence that the mission indeed took place on the 28th of June. Anyway, it was a heck of a lot more than 90 minutes, and a heck of a lot harder than we'd imagined. x000 feet of nearly vertical slogging awaited us as we began our ascent. We both sustained injuries that drew blood, sending large rocks tumbling into the ravine below. The GPS teased us over and over again, and as I slowed down, quite literally to a crawl, every few yards closer seemed to take minutes, not the seconds we expected.
Finally, we arrived at the top of a spectacular, serrated ridge only to realize that the confluence lay beyond, on the other side! Fortunatetly, it was less than 100 feet away, and we slid delicately down the scree till we found it dead-on.
The hike back down was actually worse than the slog up, mainly because we were in a hurry to meet our fellow travelers, no doubt impatiently wondering what was taking so long. Special thanks to the crew of our rafts who patiently waited for our mission to be over: Emily, Karl, Holly, Lawrence & Ciaran
This was only my second confluence visit, but I have to suspect it ranks as one of the more challenging!