Arrigetch Peaks Climbing Report

The grey granite spires of the Arrigetch Peaks frame a turquoise blue cirque lake.
The Arrigetch Peaks

Carl Johnson Photo

Abstract:

The Arrigetch Peaks offer world class rock climbing and wilderness mountaineering opportunities. Access to this area is expensive and physically challenging. Climbing in the Arrigetch Peaks has been typically confined to 3 drainages: 1) Arrigetch Creek, 2) the Aquarius Valley, and 3) Aiyagomahala Valley. Other drainages in the vicinity may seemore climbing activity in the future. Technical climbing in the Arrigetch Peaks began inthe early 60’s. Although climbing activity has increase in recent years, climbing is still not a common activity in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. From 1997 – 2000, climbers and mountaineers accounted for less than 2% of park visitors. Certain unique aspects of climbing in the Arrigetch Peaks need to be considered when evaluating the impacts of climbers on the environment and on wilderness values of the park. Among these considerations are: 1) the average length of stay in the Arrigetch Peaks area is 21 days, 2) climbing tends to be very gear intensive adding additional weight to already heavy loads, 3) some impacts, such as webbing slings left on a climbing route, may not be viewed negatively by many climbers, and 4) some impactive practices of climbing, such as bolts drilled into rock, are unlikely to become common in the Arrigetch due to a combination of prohibitive weight and remoteness. Although some of the qualities of climbing in the Arrigetch Peaks area may appear to conflict with wilderness considerations in the area, Park managers need to be sensitive to these concerns as opportunities for climbing and mountaineering were specifically mentioned in the enabling legislation for the Park. In this regard, changes in ethics of climbers over time have been positive as modern standards emphasize mobility, non-destructive climbing protection, and cleaning routes of hardware and webbing slings. Modern standards deemphasize the construction of “base-camps”, cairns and summit registers. Future management objectives targeted toward climbers in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve need to balance wilderness values of the Arrigetch Peaks and the specific constraints on mountaineering in a remote location. Care needs to be taken that management activities do not inadvertently eliminate or discourage climbing as a wilderness recreational activity in the Park due to a lack of understanding of the realities of climbing and the climbing culture.

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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