Leg #6: Bettles to Anaktuvuk Pass, through the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Distance 73 nm, flight time 46 minutes. Conditions: death-defying. Temps -26 celsius. Cruising altitude: none, because the entire route was a manual effort to keep from crashing into mountains.
The Cessna 172 has no anti-ice equipment. Given that plus the horrendous weather I’ve flown in to get this far, it’s basically miraculous that I haven’t crashed. About 20 nm from destination, the plane began suffering quite a bit from icing problems, forcing it at first to fly no higher than 5,000 feet (5,000 feet was the lowest safe altitude for this route), and then as low as 4,000 feet. I really thought I was doomed and would crash and have to start over another day. I survived partly by luck, and partly by my old mountain-simming strategy of finding river valleys to navigate my way home. In this case, this route, the river valley happened to lead to the airport.
This is the atrocious visual I took off with:
Maybe the best illustration of how tough this segment was is my planned route direction versus the actual flight path:
The Garmin was also essentially screaming at me to turn around, stop, land, try another day, etc.
Flying over a national park in clear skies in summer would obviously be unbeatable. But doing so in death-defying conditions has its own beauty…
Anaktuvuk Pass pleasantly surprised me with a lighted runway, but I still almost died trying to find it in the fog and barely landed.
Distance remaining to Barrow is about 265 nm. Although my current plotted route is below, I’m considering changing it to a different route such that I reach the Arctic Ocean earlier and fly along its coast to reach Barrow. It may depend on weather conditions.