The Last Frontier

So, just how cold is Alaska and what exactly is the ‘Minus 40 club’?

A frozen wilderness, the last frontier, land of the midnight sun… that’s just a selection of the slogans used to describe Alaska. In all honesty I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a chance to visit, and I certainly didn’t expect to come in mid-Winter, but with thermals in hand, on foot and just about everywhere else, a trip to the uppermost state of America proves that slogans are created for a reason.

Up until now Iceland had been my most Northerly adventure, and that one happened in mid-Summer, so I wasn’t quite prepared for just how cold these places can get. Let’s just say that -20°C (-4°F) puts icicles on your eyelids. It’s the kind of cold that reaches right down to your very soul. But say ‘it’s cold’ to a local and they’ll laugh in your face. “This? Oh, this is warm.” It turns out they have a special club dedicated to those willing to strip to their underwear and run around practically naked in -40 degrees! I don’t even want to think about the places you could get frostbite.

Needless to say, the students of University of Alaska Fairbanks are always up for a challenge:

So January in Alaska it is, and what a place. I’ve walked on a glacier, I’ve climbed a mountain and I’ve even seen the Northern Lights, that in itself is worth the plane fare alone. It’s not quite the remote outpost I’ve always imagined, and after a few days, I’m even getting used to the cold.

Travel Tips:
  • Thermals, Thermals, Thermals. The investment in moisture-wicking underwear is priceless.
  • Plug in your car. Yes, the cars have power cords. Keep them warm overnight or they’ll die.
  • Eat Thai! Fairbanks has at least 4 decent Thai restaurants and the food is great. Who knew?
  • -40° It’s exactly the same measurement in Celsius and Fahrenheit! Cold.

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