This weekend I went with a group that climbed to the top of Gates mountain, the tallest mountain in the Northern Brook's range! Gates Mountain peaks at a whopping 7775 ft. We started at about 2000 ft. elevation, mostly slogging through tundra the first day. We intended to leave around noon or 1 pm on Saturday, however science comes first and our departure was delayed till almost 5 pm. (image left, pre-trip packing in the dining overflow tent). After a short drive out to our departure point, we hit the tundra running (well, not exactly) and excited for our big adventure. The fires raging in Alaska have socked the mountains in with smoke this past week, however we woke Saturday morning to a beautiful day. Yet, within an hour of hiking dark clouds rolled in and it began to rain. We kept reassuring ourselves that once we get to the mountain, the clouds will blow over, but as the evening wore on, the clouds became darker and the little blue sky left when the shower initially began, was just a memory.
The goal for the first night was to hike to a large flat region in the ridge we were following to the top of the mountain. There were a few difficult scurries up talus slopes in the lower part of the ridge which increased elevation stepwise. One of the RA's here, Sarah B., keeps what she calls "toolik minutes" where she films a short clip of life at toolik in the lab or the field. We decided to do a series of toolik minutes to document our journey up Gates. The following video was taken after climbing up the first "lump" or rather slope in the ridge.
My apologies for sounding a bit loopey in this video, I think the cold and exhaustion was getting to me!
We made it to our campsite at around 1 AM. Tired and cold, we decided not to summit that night. The hope was to set up camp and then summit, watching the sunset from the top of Gates. However, the late start and the cloudiness/rain dampened our spirits to continue that night. After we set up camp, the clouds began to clear up, and we were greeted with a beautiful sun set/rise (it doesn't actually get dark yet, but it looks dusky for a while).
It was freezing that night and we were a bit concerned that the water we lugged up with us in large containers would freeze overnight. Although we had enough tents, 5 of us decided to squish into a 4 person tent to huddle for warmth. After changing into mostly dry clothes and snuggling down into my super warm sleeping bag, I was almost immediately asleep.
We woke the next morning to another beautiful day and a layer of ice over our tents. We were a bit slow to get going, but after a breakfast of bagels and peanut butter, finally got camp packed up and were ready to go to the top!
The hike to the summit was difficult. We were on a fairly narrow ridge with a fair amount of scrambling and climbing up and over large rock formations. It was fairly technical and there were parts that I was a bit worried about losing footing and careening down the steep slopes on either side of the ridge.
Me posing infront of the glacier before our acent to the top!
Looking down at the glacier! I love the tracks you can see in the ice surface resulting from the debris and the flow of glacial ice.
We had some problems going up and unfortunately part of the group split away before we got to the top, but we still made it! Needless to say, the view was spectacular and we couldn't have asked for a better day. The brooks range makes me think of the title of one of Tracey Kidder's books, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Because it is really just that here, mountains, mountains, and more mountains!