Sheep Shape, I love the term. Sheep shape isn’t how much weight you can carry, the speed in which you can travel or how many vertical feet change in an hour you are capable of, it is simply unexplainable! It is a feeling of strength, how exhilarating you feel after coming out of the mountains on a long sheep hunt. Fresh air, cold water, colors, thoughts, your senses are heightened to a level most people don’t know. You are strong and healthy, ready to endure, sacrifice and conquer. Mentally you are as strong as you are physically and unstoppable.
It is time to prepare for your hunt. Hunting the north side of the Brooks Range can be very challenging physically and mentally. The Brooks is a backpacker’s playground with solid footing; no bush whacking or tree line to get above. There is a lot of fresh water to drink and animals to observe. Glaciers are not an issue like the Chugach, Wrangell and Alaska Range. Due to the lack of large glaciers our valleys are very negotiable with small, clear braided rivers. Across the bottoms we have aufeis (large ice sheets). Between the aufeis and braided rivers, the main valleys have gravelly bottoms with little vegetation allowing for excellent walking. Being in the arctic environment requires you to carry a little bit of extra clothing for insulation and a light spike camp. Your pack will be between 20lbs and 60lbs. and this requires physical training. Hunting in the Arctic is a true wilderness experience that requires being in the best shape possible.
All clients must adopt a goal of being in excellent physical condition by the start of the hunt. Focus on developing stamina over brute strength. Focus on aerobic exercise which will prepare you for days of traveling up valley.
Hiking or walking on irregular terrain, forces you to focus on foot placement and forces you to pick your knees up which is great training. As your exercise routine gets easier, add weight. Ultimately, try to work up to carrying a steady pace with 20lbs of weight, in a pack, uphill. Vary your routine to prevent stress injuries. Exposing yourself before the hunt to similar activities will condition your body and your mind.
The better condition you are in, the more you will enjoy the whole experience, the safer it will be for you, and the better chance for a successful hunt.