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July 11, 2006

Arctic Traverse Completed - 1000 km - No Resupply

Arctic Traverse Completed - 1000 km - No Resupply
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Arctic 1000 Expedition Completes First Unsupported* Traverse of America's Largest and Most Remote Contiguous Wilderness, Visits America's Remotest Spot En Route

Bozeman, Mont. (July 11, 2006) - On July 4, a team of long distance trekkers completed the first and longest ever unsupported* trekking traverse of America's most remote, roadless, uninhabited wilderness, a distance of 1000 km (600 mi) across Alaska's western Arctic region from the Chukchi Sea to the Alaskan Pipeline.

En route, in addition to completing America's longest wilderness traverse, the party became the first to visit the most remote location in the U.S. by fair means - carrying all of their gear, food, and supplies for the entirety of the trek in their backpacks and traveling entirely on foot.

"We crested the final hill, and there it was: the remotest place in America, situated in the mouth of a shallow draw, with a gravel band above, and a cluster of pretty mountains behind it, and a hundred-foot cliff bank below it. It was a beautiful scene." - Expedition Member Roman Dial, from America's Remotest Spot on June 25, 2006

Their route traversed the most remote (westernmost) region of Alaska's Brooks Range, starting at the Chukchi Sea near the Native village of Kivalina and ending at the Alaskan Oil Pipeline Highway ("Haul Road") near Wiseman. This region is notable for two key characteristics: it is the largest contiguous roadless, uninhabited, and unprotected wilderness in America, and it contains America's remotest spot (defined by its distance from the nearest roads or habitations) in an area that is more than 15 times the area of the remotest spot in the contiguous U.S., which lies SE of Yellowstone National Park.

They faced tremendous challenges, including trekking up to forty miles per day in the Alaskan bush and tundra, crossing the Brooks Range, swimming rivers swollen with snowmelt, standing down threatening grizzly bears, managing foot injuries, and trekking quickly to the end in the face of rapidly dwindling food supplies.

Early in the expedition, expedition member Ryan Jordan fell through a shelf of river ice and badly sprained an ankle, requiring the party to adjust their already precarious schedule, travel off their maps, and navigate to a safe location for a bush pilot to land. In another incident, they surprised a grizzly bear protecting a moose kill. On another day, they swam across one of the largest rivers in the Arctic. A few days later, they crossed the crest of the Brooks Range in a storm that threatened them with hypothermia. The closest they came to encountering human presence included occasional benchmarks more than fifty years old, squatter's cabins, and ancient Inpuiat caribou mittens (Photo: Jason geck peers into the remains of an ancient stone Inuksuk built by Inupiat caribou hunters).

The party completed the route in ultralight style, using fragile and lightweight gear considered absurdly inadequate by mainstream outdoor industry manufacturers. They slept under tarps made with the lightest racing sailcloth materials available, carried backpacks that weighed only 24 ounces but carried 55-60 lbs (mostly food), and cooked over bush fires. They wore trail running shoes - and carried no extra footwear. They traveled at night, and slept during the day - minimizing the amount of insulating gear they had to carry. The weight of their trekking gear, not including food and water, was less than seven pounds per person.

During the expedition, readers of the live satellite dispatches sent by the team to their website, Arctic1000.com, expressed controversial opionions about the team's style and strategy, from their choice not to take guns for bear protection, to their use of a satellite phone to ensure safety in an emergency, to their use of running shoes as a means to trek through the Alaskan bush. "Our style, gear, and strategy - it's not for everyone," said Dial.

Expedition member Ryan Jordan, Publisher of Backpacking Light Magazine and the BackpackingLight.com website, says "This expedition was ambitious. There was never a guaranteed outcome of success, even towards the end. It was a serious test of ultralight trekking technique and gear, our own athletic abilities, and sheer power of will. It was the most engaging strategy I've ever used to enjoy a wilderness traverse. I was challenged, humbled, and richly rewarded on a deeply personal level."

The People

Roman Dial is a Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Alaska Pacific University, an expedition adventure racer, and has trekked, skied, biked, and paddled some of the longest wilderness routes ever attempted in Alaska. Ryan Jordan is the publisher of Backpacking Light Magazine, pioneer of some of the longest unsupported long distance routes in the Northern Rockies and Yellowstone Ecosystems, and leading practitioner and educator about ultralight trekking style and technique. Jason Geck is an Instructor of GIS, Mathematics, and Outdoor Studies at Alaska Pacific University, reknowned wilderness athlete, and record-holder and 2005 champion of the Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic, considered to be the toughest adventure race in the world.

Expedition Sponsors

The expedition's title sponsor is Backpacking Light Magazine (www. BackpackingLight.com), the leading source of information and education about ultralight backpacking technique, gear, and style. Backpacking Light publishes both print and online magazines and hosts a gear shop that is home to some of the quirkiest ultralight gear on the plant. Backpacking Light provided the expedition with custom manufactured sleeping, shelter, and clothing systems.

Other key supporters include: National Public Radio (www.npr.org), Alaska Pacific University (www.alaskapacific.edu), Patagonia ( www.patagonia.com), ULA-Equipment (www.ula-equipment.com), Smartwool ( www.smartwool.com), GoLite (www.golite.com), Pacific Outdoor Equipment ( www.pacoutdoor.com), and Cuben Fiber (www.cubenfiber.com).

Visit Arctic1000.com for expedition information, gear notes, photography, route progress, and live dispatches from the Arctic sent via satellite.

MEDIA CONTACT

Ryan Jordan Bozeman, MT USA Email: media@arctic1000.com

July 06, 2006

* Asterisk

This walk, if ever to be considered a "record", likely needs an asterisk, since while not resupplied in Anaktuvuk Pass, I did swamp "camp" food for "fresh food".

And so be it.

No doubt, some Kiwi, or Scandinavian, could have skipped the temptation. But as Jason said, "I'd think there's something wrong with you, Roman, if you didn't eat in Anaktuvuk."

And besides, I did finish with two dinners and a breakfast remaining, although I ate my last chocolate bar an hour before the highway.

In fact, it seems that 600 miles may not actually be at the limits of human endurance.

So, I think I'll walk another mile or so down the road before I start hitchhiking.

I'm going home. I can't wait.

- Roman Dial

Day 24 - The Finish

July 4, 2006: Dalton Highway, Mile Post 226

The cabin at Summit Lake, astride the Arctic Divide, is little more than a hollowed-out framed shell. Both windows were missing all their glass. The door, held shut with a rock, was missing its bottom quarter, eaten through by ground squirrels and bears.

I brushed aside some squirrel turds and settled on a plywood bench, exhausted.

The temperature was in the 20s.

I climbed into my sleeping clothes and got a fitful five hours of cold, uncomfortable sleep.

Nearby were two sets of tents. In the morning, I found that one held a trio of geology graduate students sampling lake cores for a climate change study. The other set of tents was filled by ten Boy Scouts, who didn't get up until after I'd left.

Today was sunny with building clouds. I hurried over tussocks to the far side of the pass. Without Jason, it was hard to judge my speed.

Doonerak, the most prominent peak in the area, loomed its menacing north face over my walk.

I cut a corner and tried to stay high, but was forced into brush and sidehilling.

There were no caribou trails, just thin, multi-use trails used by moose, wolf, bear - fresh bear. It made me nervous. In fact, all day I'd been nervous - criss-crossing streams, stumbling over rocks, charging down bear trails - alone. Alone, even the simplest mistake here is potentially serious. A swim, a trapped foot, a bear.

My feet ached deeply.

My infections healed, but a new problem had arisen in Anaktuvuk Pass - one inch splits on the soles of my feet, making them tender. All day, when faced with walking over fat, hard cobble rocks, or soft, slow sidehilling, I chose sidehilling. Until near the end, when I thought about Jason. During our long walks together, when our destination was near and the walking bad, Jason would fire it up and say, "I just want to get this one over with!" So I shook off my self-pitying limp, and fired it up, strided out.

I reached the Dalton Highway just after midnight, some 600 miles and 23 days, 8 hours, since Kivalina.

- Roman Dial

July 05, 2006

Day 23 - Almost Out

I put Jason the 10:30 AM flight to Fairbanks, then traded out cream of wheat, brown sugar, and butter, for hash browns, two eggs, and blackened reindeer sausage back at the Nunamut.

I left town at noon.

It was soon 75 degrees under a sunny, calm sky.

I hurried along an ATV trail, unburdened of my camera, and my load, only the size of a day pack.

I had my sleep clothes, my cook pot, the pyramid tarp, firestarter, first aid kit, water bottle, satellite phone, and two days of food.

I made 22 miles in 7 hours, and a total of 38 miles in 15 hours, climbing over a 5400 foot pass en route.

The twisted and folded limestone mountains here, cut with gullies, spires, and waterfalls, are the most spectacular mountains on the route. This is the region that early wilderness advocate Bob Marshall named "Gates of the Arctic", and what an apt name it is.

As the alpenlight glowed, I hurried down through frosty meadows with ice on the ponds. I was thinking a lot about my wife, Peggy. Twenty years ago to the week, we spent a romantic month in these mountains, hiking and rafting. She was pregnant with our first child, a pregnancy barely two months old. I miss her, and my two kids.

I'm really glad to be almost out.

- Roman Dial

Day 22 - Monkey See, Monkey Want

Well we pulled into Anaktuvuk Pass today at 2:30 pm. The first person we saw was across the airstrip - a hooded figure pushing a baby stroller.

"That's appropriate for this trip," said Jason, "since we've seen so many babies - caribou, birds, flowers, it only makes sense that the first person we see would be pushing a baby too."

Since Jason's flying out tomorrow, his first order of business was finding a place to stay, and eat, and it wasn't going to be in our pyramid tarp.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, "while I eat my bacon cheeseburger and sleep in a bed, Roman?"

"Monkey see, monkey want," I replied.

So I ate with Jason, trading in the olive oil and noodles I carried from Kivalina for a bacon cheeseburger at the Nunamut Camp restaurant.

Jason's boyish good looks had gone ruggedly hansome with his three-week beard, and soon, every high school girl in Anaktuvuk Pass (pop. 300) was in the place.

The biggest group crowded the table next to ours, giggling.

Jason left to call his girlfriend.

We each got a room, for $160 per person. We took showers and washed our clothes, and were asleep by 7:00 PM.

- Roman Dial

What is Arctic 1000?

    In June 2006, adventurers Roman Dial, Ryan Jordan, and Jason Geck will attempt the first unsupported trekking traverse of America's most remote wilderness - Alaska's western North Slope and Brooks Range - a distance of 1,000 km (600 miles).
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