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Aquarius Valley

Tasmanian Packrafters in the Brooks Range, Alaska; Alatna River and Arrigetch Peaks

John McLaine

Matt Brain

Pete Culhane

July 2014

Part 3: The Aquarius Valley.

(For Part 1, please visit this page.)

After two nights camped in a beautiful meadow at the junction of the Arrigetch and Aquarius Valleys, we packed up the tent and pushed up the Aquarius Valley, to explore its numerous small lakes and tarns.

Day 8


The main branch of the Aquarius Valley is the gully to the right of this picture.


A sweet little waterfall en-route to the Aquarius Lakes.


The Aquarius Lakes have a beautiful colour, thanks to a small amount of suspended glacial flour reflecting the skies, which were clearing nicely as the weather improved during the second week of our trip.


The valley is quite nicely sheltered from prevailing winds, enabling an almost mirror-smooth surface to develop at times.


Looking towards the head of the Aquarius Valley.


The steep arête to the right divides the Aquarius Valley from that of the upper Arrigetch tributaries.


Phalangeal tendinitis was beginning to develop in Matt’s shutter finger (but his pictures will be superb).


This was the second and largest of a string of textbook paternoster lakes.


Just another perspective of this magic place.


At the head of the Aquarius Valley stand the peaks that separate this valley from the upper Aiyagomahala Valley.


Matt taking pictures


Reflection in an alpine tarn.


Improbable peaks abound.


The orange lichen and blue water made an appealing contrast.


Another retreating glacier. If one was to walk over the col at the head of this glacier, it would take one to the upper Aiyagomahala Valley.


I had a good slurp from this tarn. It was a bit floury, but seemingly free from pathogens.


A magic little side spot that Pete lead us to. I shall think of it as Pete’s Perch.


Heading back towards our campsite. Matt had more energy than Pete and me on this late afternoon, and found an achievable scrambly route up onto a crag of one of the higher arêtes, at about 1725m altitude.


One of the most magical tent sites on Earth. There was a decent flat and hardy site for one tent only. Further up on the alpine meadows it would be possible to camp, but not without more impact upon the fragile alpine vegetation.


A simply stunning spot to camp.


Taken for the curious; this is a picture of the bear spray that people usually carry in bear habitat. You generally hang it from your hip belt. In the operating instructions it says at trigger fully open, the can will spray an intense blast of excruciating pepper for 7 seconds. It advises to spray an approaching bear for 3 seconds and then review its movement. If it continues approaching, give another 3 second blast and review again. We postulated that if the bear is still approaching then you could turn the can and apply the final 1 second to your own face as you go down the gullet of the grizzly.


Pete using the Sawyer water filter. Water treatment is a novelty to us Tasmanians as we have historically been able to drink straight from the ground and streams in the Tasmanian wilderness. This is changing as parts of our wilderness receive more visitation. In USA water treatment is a sensible precaution against Giardia and other pathogens. Towards the end of our time in the Arrigetch I began to sneakily drink straight from some streams and tarns and had no adverse reaction.

Day 9.

On Day 9, our mission was to walk back down to the Arrigetch Valley and then pass via a col to the lower Aiyagomahala Valley. It was a magnificent day of mountain walking.


Sad to leave the beautiful Aquarius Valley.


This hole is about 1m deep and 2m across. Bears like to dig up nesting ground squirrels and marmots to eat. There were several of these holes across the alpine meadows as we departed the Aquarius Valley.


If you were a ground squirrel, you’d be nervous.


Our final glimpses upstream as we walked back down the Arrigetch Creek.




We left the Arrigetch Creek and ascended to a high mountain col through an easy trackless slope covered in Spruce and Alder woodland. It was a real scenic treat.


The notorious Alder. I can imagine that in places it could become bothersome, but the thickets that we pushed through were quite easy.


We climbed above the tree line again, and these views are back up the Alatna Valley, from whence we came a week earlier.


We were always excited by the sight of bear poo, because we were really hoping for a (safe) encounter with a bear. We read an estimate that in this sparse environment each individual bear needs approximately 100 square miles to support its dietary needs, so the chances of meeting one were quite slim.


Matt approaching the col to the Aiyagomahala Valley, in the central left of the picture.


Such an insignificant peak that it didn’t even warrant a name.


In the col between the Arrigetch and Aiyagomahala Valleys lies this small tarn.


On the descent to the Aiyagomahala Valley. When Matt looks tired, you know you have all worked hard.


The descent to the Aiyagomahala Valley is quite steep but enjoyable.


Pete on the descent.


First views up the length of the Aiyagomahala Valley. Would it prove to be as beautiful as the Arrigetch?



Yet another magic campsite, perched on a shelf above the Aiyagomahala Creek.


The end of another beautiful day of mountain walking. Although the sun went down behind a ridge, it remained daylight 24 hours a day.

If you have managed to make it to the end of this section, check out the fourth and final part; The Aiyagomahala Valley and paddle to pick-up.

Part 4: The Aiyagomahala Valley and Pick-up.




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