Denali Part 1
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We were able to get a direct flight from Denver to Anchorage for just over $400. Screamin' deal and less chance of005-gear.JPG (180737 bytes) getting thousands of dollars worth of gear lost. To avoid paying several "over weight" baggage fee's, we had all our duffels right at 50lbs and loaded one up to 88lbs, therefore only having to pay $25. Rich picked us up along with our 6 duffels, and 3 backpacks and took us back to his place for the first of many rounds of beers, food, and laughs. Saw our first (and only) moose on the way. Apparently the mother had been hit by a car and this was the yearling running along the highway figuring out what to do. 
We can't thank Pam and Rich enough for their hospitality, rides, grub, beer, and general kindness!!!!!! 

010-Talkeetka.JPG (192393 bytes) The following morning we had what we thought would be our last showers, flushing toilets, and breakfast for a long time before the 2.5hr drive to Talkeetna. The drive was cool and it was strange to see 2,000-4,000ft peaks with plenty of snow and glaciers on them. We'd have to dig pretty damn deep to get to this altitude in Colorado! Once in Talkeetna we dropped our gear at Talkeetna Air Taxi (TAT) and went to the Ranger Station to check in, get our "climb this mtn and you will die" speech, and pick up a Clean Mtn Can012-flight.JPG (86051 bytes) (basically a glorified coffee can that we were supposed to shit in). Back at TAT we got on the list to fly to the Kahiltna glacier and packed our gear into a single backpack and duffel each. The skies were 015-Talkeetna.JPG (207779 bytes) overcast and we got rained on briefly during this process. The weather was similar to Colorado how it would go from blue skies to clouds and rain and immediately back to blue skies. Regardless, once our names came up we loaded the small plane and took off wondering why everything had gone so smoothly so far. There was a lot of chatter between pilots regarding the weather and right before we got to One Shot Pass we were turned around and headed back to Talkeetna for the night, apparently a fog had settled over Base Camp and wouldn't leave. So we crashed at the TAT bunk house after beers and food at the West Rib.

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A huge breakfast at the Road House and back to TAT where the skies were shinin' bright and we were already scheduled for the first plane at 8:30am. WooHoo! The plane ride this time was SPECTACULAR without the clouds!! Starting around 400ft we climbed non-stop up through One-Shot Pass with high peaks all around, glaciers everywhere, and vegetation quickly disappearing. I had to pick my jaw off the floor of the plane once we saw how freakin' gigantic Denali is with Mt Foraker and Mt Hunter close by. We were landing at Base Camp on the SE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier in under an hour and the pilot whips the plane around, shuts it off, and says something like "Fire Drill!!! Get you and your shit out of my 025-basecamp.JPG (161130 bytes)plane! Hope ya have enough food and clothes!"
Its hard to explain the beauty of this place and how enormous everything is. Foraker and Denali had giant, but cool looking, lenticular clouds over them already. We did some brief repacking, got some sleds rigged up, picked up a gallon of fuel each, buried a cache, and roped up to leave Base Camp and not see it again for 18 days. We got some strange looks when we were asking each other stuff like, "alright, who has the firewood? Who has the bbq grill and propane? We're supposed to cache our sleeping bags here, right?!" The first mile or so is DOWN Heart Break Hill. Of course we were tripping032-day01.JPG (104659 bytes) over the ropes and stopping to adjust the sleds and packs, working out the kinks to begin with. Still, nobody could wipe the smiles off our faces!! The trail is pretty well packed down and wanded so we didn't need snowshoes and ended up passing several teams. Wayne was so excited to be here he pumped out a dozen push-ups with his pack on at one point! After only 3hrs we were already at Camp 1 around 7,800ft. I was having problems with my harness irritating my hips already and was ready to stop, but we decided to 036-day01.JPG (119313 bytes)push on to Camp 2 since it was such a nice day so far and we were making great time. I switched the sled to my pack and that helped the hips tremendously. Up Ski Hill in the heat of the day! The Rangers suggest avoiding the heat and starting out at night, we soon found out that it can reach over 100degrees on the glacier in the middle of the day! The reflecting sun turns it into a giant convection oven and we044-day01.JPG (67695 bytes) were sweating our asses off. Below the last hill before Camp 2, Bob stopped to talk to a couple guys. I yelled ahead, "Sasquatch? Is that you?" And sure enough!, it was some dude from Montana that we hung out with on Aconcagua last year! Small world! We were all pretty pooped at this point and ended up stopping around 9,600ft, just shy of the normal 9,800ft camp after about 8hrs of hiking. There was a camp that needed only a little work and before long the tents were up, roast beef was cooking away, and it was snowing like a Mo Fo.

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