Latitude Adjustment

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge & Cirque of the Unclimbables


Enchanted pinnacles: fairy meadows in the Cirque of the Unclimbables

There's no time like the present to raft through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Fly from Arctic Village to the headwaters of the Kongakut River and float 50 miles through the 19.8-million-acre reserve, bopping down Class III rapids toward the Beaufort Sea. Bundles of wildflowers bloom in the 24-hour sun. Also be sure to keep an eye out for the 129,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd that migrates through here. You'll camp along the river near places like Caribou Pass, a stopover on the migration route. Ten-day trips from Backcountry Safaris (907-222-1632, cost $3,400 per person (includes flight from Fairbanks). 6. ROCK ON CIRQUE OF THE UNCLIMBABLES, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Deep in the glacier-scoured valleys of the western Northwest Territories stands a crop of sheer granite so formidable that 1950s explorers dubbed it the Cirque of the Unclimbables. But they were wimps. Take, for example, the Lotus Flower Tower, a 2,200-foot wall akin to Yosemite's El Capitan. A floatplane will drop you and your guide off at Glacier Lake, at the base of the Cirque and about 400 miles east of Whitehorse, where a nine-hour hike will take you up to Fairy Meadows, a patch of alpine grass surrounded by a rock amphitheater. Spend two days working your way up the 22 pitches of the Lotus Flower Tower, bivouacking alongside a sea of granite after the first ten pitches. When you reach the top, it takes about four hours to rappel back to earth. For the best shot at a clear weather window, pencil in a two-week block. Gravity Adventures (877-772-5462,, based in Nelson, British Columbia, leads climbers up the Lotus Flower Tower in July and August, starting at $2,320 per person (including flight from Watson Lake in the Yukon).

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