Journey North Home Page Journey North Home Page Journey North Maps Explore Caribou Resources Report Your Sightings! FAQ's About Caribou About "On Vacation" Species

Arctic Village to Kaktovik Snowshoe Expedition, April 2002
A Trek by Steven Kalinowski

Alaska in winter
Courtesy S. Kalinowski

We are fortunate this spring to be able to "tag along" on the adventure of a lifetime! Biologist Steven Kalinowski will be going to Arctic Village on April 1st to begin a month long snowshoe trip across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He will be alone and self sustained - using a sled to drag along everything he needs for the month. The purpose of the trip (besides having fun) is to photograph the Refuge in winter - especially landscape photographs. This is not Kalinowski's first trip to northern wilderness areas. During the past decade he has hiked, climbed, sea-kayaked, and canoed in many of Alaska's wildest places. These trips have included floating 1000 miles down the Yukon River in a homemade wooden boat and climbing Denali, Alaska's tallest mountain. Of the places he have been, he told us that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is his favorite.

Get out your maps and follow along on the Arctic Village to Kaktovik snowshoe expedition with Steven Kalinowski. In the following paragraphs he shares his trip with Journey North classrooms all across the continent.

Trip Summary

Biologist Steven Kalinowski
Portrait taken on Denali

I am leaving April 1st for a month long solo snowshoe trip across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from Arctic Village to Kaktovik. The purpose of the trip is to photograph a cross section of the Arctic Refuge in winter.

Trip Route - A Long Walk
I will ascend the Chandalar River, cross the continental divide at Guilbeau Pass, descend the Hulahula River, and then walk across the Coastal Plain to Kaktovik. I hope to pass Red Sheep Creek on April 10th and the Kikiktat Mountains on April 20th.

Winter Camping Skills

Camping in the arctic during the winter requires practice. There are two tricks to staying warm when it is extremely cold outside. The first is to stay dry. Pulling a sled all day is hard work. If I am not careful, my sweat will make my clothes wet. On windy days, blowing snow can get inside of my clothes or tent where it will melt. In addition, moisture from my breath can accumulate in my sleeping bag. The second trick to staying warm in cold weather is to eat plenty of food and drink enough fluids. This sounds easy, but melting snow to get water to drink and to cook can take hours each day. Also, eating isn't easy when its really cold outside. At 40 degrees below zero, my dinner will get cold faster than I can eat it. By time I am done, some of it will freeze to my cooking pot.

Food - Packing Lots of Chocolate!

Chandalar in winter
Courtesy S. Kalinowski

Bringing enough food to eat is important, but food is heavy so I don't want to bring too much. I begin my preparations by making a menu for each day of the trip. Then I pack each of my meals (30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners) into a Zip-lock bag so that I know how much food to eat each day. If I eat too much in the beginning of the trip, I will not have enough to eat at the end. I bring 4500 calories to eat each day. For breakfast I usually have soup and a couple of bagels. During the day I eat muffins and sip on hot tea that I keep warm in a thermos. I usually stop twice in the day to eat. Eating a long lunch is difficult because I get too cold. For dinner, I usually have rice or noodles. I also eat lots of chocolate because it has energy that I will need to work and stay warm.

Gear - Warm to Minus 40
Camping in the arctic requires warm clothes, a good tent, and the warmest sleeping bag. My sleeping bag is warm enough so that I can sleep when its -40 degrees. If its colder than that, I will be too cold to sleep. I will be OK, but I will lay away all night waiting for dawn.
Once I begin my trip I won't be able to get any gear that I forget or replace gear that breaks.

Wilderness Engineering sled-duffle
Courtesy W. Engineering

Therefore, I make a long list of everything that I will need and make sure everything is in good condition before I leave. If my clothes rip I will sew them with dental floss - its very strong and I need to carry it anyway. I also have duct tape in case my sleeping bag rips. I carry two stoves with me in case one breaks. I also bring extra socks and mittens.

My gear is carried in an 11,000 cu. in. Duffel Bag of 1,000 denier Dupont Cordura nylon (made by Wilderness Engineering). Two buckles and all your gear comes off the sled at once, together. Wide nylon straps make the whole sled "back-packable" for fording rivers, crossing pressure ridges, or walking through airports.

Try This!
Steven Kalinowski is a real-life arctic explorer. Get a taste for this kind of arctic adventure. Here are a couple of his suggestions for experiencing it.
  • Log on to the internet and get the minimum and maximum temperature for Arctic Village (April 1 to April 15) or Kaktovik / Barter Island (April 16 to May 1). Graph these temperatures for each day of the month.
  • Maybe the greatest encouragement Kalinowski will experience is the lengthening of the days during his journey. He said that it will be cold, but the increasing daylength will keep him energized. Graph the day length in Kaktovik or Arctic Village during the month of April. Compare with your hometown.