On Thursday Andrew Skurka arrived 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Kotzebue, Alaska, to begin his latest expedition. Similar to his Great Western Loop hike (a feat which made him our 2008 Adventurer of the Year), this is an ambitious, never-before-attempted endeavor. For the next seven months, he'll cover more than 4,720 miles in Alaska and the Yukon by skis, foot, and packraft. Much of the time he will be in true wilderness, without a track or trail to follow. Luckily Andrew will be keeping us posted here, so stay tuned for his weekly dispatches. He'll also be tweeting via twitter.com/andrewskurka.
Andrew's route inspires both awe and envy. He will cross through six U.S. national parks (Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, Glacier Bay, Gates of the Arctic, Klondike Gold Rush, Kobuk Valley) and two Canadian national parks (Vuntut and Ivvavik). He will traverse parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Iditarod Trail, and the Chillkoot Trail. He'll also float some of North America's wildest rivers—the Copper, Yukon, Peel, and Kobuk. He will hike 450 miles in the Alaska Range and a whopping 975 miles in the Brooks Range.
But it is definitely not going to be easy. Andrew will travel solo, covering on average 23.3 miles a day. About every six days or so, he will drop into a town or village where he will resupply (thanks to his mother's carefully coordinated care packages). He anticipates the longest distance he'll travel with human development will be 615 miles.
Andrew reports that the weather in Kotzebue is more bitter than expected, with a windchill tonight expect to dip down to -50F. Not a very warm welcome for his first night. He may depart Sunday or Monday, now, depending on the conditions. We'll keep you posted.
If the numbers above have not sufficiently blown your mind yet, check out the stats below.
Total distance: 4,720 miles
Starting date: Approximately March 13, 2010
Desired finish date: October 1, 2010
Total days: 203
Overall pace, assuming no days off: 23.3 miles per day
Overall pace, assuming 2 weeks off: 25.0 miles per day
Skiing -- on-track -- 790 miles (17 percent)
Skiing -- off-track -- 342 miles (7 percent)
Trekking -- on trails, ATV tracks, or roads -- 427 miles (9 percent)
Trekking -- off-trail -- 1,828 miles (39 percent)
Packrafting -- rivers -- 1,163 miles (25 percent)
Packrafting -- flatwater -- 170 miles (4 percent)
Total skiing -- 1,132 miles (24 percent)
Total Trekking -- 2,255 miles (48 perent)
Total Packrafting -- 1,332 miles (28 percent)
Total on-track, skiing or trekking -- 1,217 miles (26 percent)
Total off-track, skiing or trekking -- 2,170 miles (46 percent)
Total packrafting, river or flatwater -- 1,333 miles (28 percent)
Map and photograph courtesy of Andrew Skurka