Runaway Photo: The Atigun Pass and Brooks Range

Atigun Pass and the Brooks Range

To the Arctic Desert

Our Arctic expedition didn’t end at the Arctic Circle. I rode the Aurora Winter Train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and drove to Coldfood Camp, 10 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We visited Jack in Wiseman, a small Arctic village near the Koyukuk River. Now, it was time to drive into the Brooks Range. 

The Books Range is a mountain range in northern Alaska stretching from west to east Alaska to Yukon Territory in Canada. The Atigun Pass is a high mountain pass across the Brooks Range. It is where the Dalton Highway crosses the Continental Divide (at mile marker 244), and is the highest pass in Alaska that is maintained throughout the year.

We started the five-hour day slowly when the sun was still hiding behind the mountains. It was a clear day, without a cloud in the sky. Soon after departure, the sun started shining across the mountainsides. The golden rays, so precious because they are only visible for a few hours in the winter days, are what make the Arctic so charming and mysterious.

There are still several important landmarks, even this far north. As we drove further north, I could see that we were reaching the tree line. And soon after we passed the northern most spruce tree, with a sign and everything. After that, it was mountains covered with snow and frozen rivers. We crossed the Great Continental Divide, the northernmost reaches of the Divide. The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline continued, and we kept on moving.

Our driver Nikolai, my temporary Arctic expedition companion  Davidssun,  and I talked a lot about life, philosophy, and nature. We all had similar background stories – worked in difficult environments and realized there was something more to life than work. I mean, is there a more perfect place to talk about this? I’ve always been fascinated by deserted areas, such as deserts and glaciers. That’s why I love off-season, and winter travels. There’s something romantic about winter scenery. Surrounded by this great nature, I realized once again, the precious meaning of life.

 

Farthest North Spruce Tree of the Alaskan Pipeline: Trees grow north to the south facing slopes of the Brooks Range. The mountains block cold air coming off of the Arctic Ocean.

Farthest North Spruce Tree of the Alaskan Pipeline: Trees grow north to the south facing slopes of the Brooks Range. The mountains block cold air coming off of the Arctic Ocean.

Unique marble mountain in the Brooks Range

Unique marble mountain in the Brooks Range

Sun is rising slowly in the Arctic

Sun is rising slowly in the Arctic

Where the Dalton Highway crosses the Continental Divide (at mile marker 244):  the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.

Where the Dalton Highway crosses the Continental Divide (at mile marker 244): the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.

The view of Brooks Range from Atigun Pass

The view of Brooks Range from Atigun Pass

There's no tree growing after the treeline

There’s no tree growing after the treeline

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs parallel to the Dalton Highway

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs parallel to the Dalton Highway

Sun is setting early, and slowly in the Arctic

Sun is setting early, and slowly in the Arctic

Jagged peaks of Brooks Range

Jagged peaks of Brooks Range

Early sunset in the Arctic

Early sunset in the Arctic

The Dalton Highway between Coldfoot and Atigun Pass

The Dalton Highway between Coldfoot and Atigun Pass

Snow covered mountains

Snow covered mountains

Early afternoon sunset in the Arctic

Early afternoon sunset in the Arctic

A rare scene in the Arctic - airplane in the sky

A rare scene in the Arctic – airplane in the sky

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11 Responses to “Runaway Photo: The Atigun Pass and Brooks Range”

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  1. Looks like a great adventure. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, but it just looks so damn cold! :)

  2. I love Alaska, and these pics make me love it even more. I was there twice — both times in the summer. I’d love to go back in the winter!!

  3. Jen says:

    Incredible photos of phenomenally beautiful place Juno. I really looks like you had the time of your time. Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

  4. Adam says:

    Well – it looks beautiful but COLD! I hope the food you had was at least warm :-P

  5. Alex says:

    I’ve just returned to the US and while it’s not quite cold enough for snow, I am pretty traumatized by the weather! So all I can focus on is how FREEZING this looks!!

  6. Catherine says:

    Such beautiful photos! Looks like there isn’t another person in sight :)

  7. Meghan says:

    Simply gorgeous … I need to go to Alaska NOW!

  8. Take me there Juno! It’s beautiful!

  9. Your photos are stunning and unearthly beautiful! I am dying to go to the Arctic circle!

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