As of Sunday, March 21, Andrew Skurka, a 28-year-old long distance hiker and runner was 180 miles into a bold attempt to ski, hike and raft a unprecedented 4,700-mile loop through Yukon and Alaskan wilderness.
Nine days into his trek, which started in Kotzebue, Alaska, Skurak reported skiing quickly along a snowy trail. The temperature peaked at 20 degrees that day, but the sun was shining.
“Raccoon facial tan,” he reported via satellite phone. He was headed for Unalalkeet, a town in western Alaska with a population of 747 people.
Skurka plans to travel the entire distance in 7 months, using ultra-light backpacking techniques he developed on previous expeditions. The route includes long traverses of the Alaska and Brooks Ranges and raft trips on the Copper, Yukon, Peel and Kobuk Rivers. The hazards include mosquitoes and brown bears.
Skurka hopes to cover 1,200 miles on skis by late April or early May. Once the snow clears enough, he’ll switch to hiking and floating with a packraft, a single person, 4.5-pound inflatable raft that fits into a backpack.
He estimated that about 24 percent (1,150 miles) of the expedition will be covered on skis, about 28 percent (1,300 miles) in a packraft and 48 percent (2,250 miles) on foot.
The bulk of the route will cut through untracked wilderness, including 1,850 miles of off-trail trekking, 350 miles of off-track skiing and 1,350 miles on rivers and saltwater bays.
“My ideal finish date is September 15; October 1 is more probable; and I may be able to slug it out as late as October 15 depending on this year’s exact conditions,” Skurka wrote on his website. “I will realistically need to average about 25 miles per day, accounting for unavoidable delays (e.g. due to weather). I will be skinny and hungry when I return to Kotzebue, but no skinnier or hungrier than most adventurers are when they finish epic trips.”
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