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Soft Snow Hills Make for Slow Travel, But Good Teamwork


Traveling out of Umiat yesterday had a slow start. Pulling two loaded sleds per machine up steep river bluffs to the North is always challenging, but this year the snow was particularly soft. That coupled with poor visibility makes it hard to pick the right line going up hill and consequentially we got stuck several times within the first hour. Maneuvering snowmachines, unhitching and rehitching sleds, attaching tow straps works up a tremendous sweat even when your take the time to remove your parka. But we all pitched in and worked through bogged down and rolled machines and run-away sleds.

Tag teaming run-away sled

Dr. Jones checking out the tundra

After crossing our last major drainage conditions changed. The winter winds had been more severe as we traveled North changing soft snow to a harder drifted surface. Bumpy but hard to get stuck. We were also transitioning out of the foothills to the coastal plain. Pingos began to dot the horizon as skies cleared and a spring brown bear contrasted the white landscape.

Scouting river crossing

Blue sky pingos pop up on the white landscape

We arrived at Inigok by around 8pm in good spirits. Shoveled out the entry, got the various power sources going, and set up tents.

Wind swept Inigok camp

Digging out Matthew's dome of echos

Today we’ll do work on around 7 lakes in the area, which mostly run deep due to their setting in the dunes of the sand sea surrounding Inigok. The ice thickness here is yet up for debate as snow cover on lakes subject to wind is unpredictable.