[Part 1] [Part
We were able to get a direct flight from Denver to Anchorage for just over $400.
Screamin' deal and less chance of 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.
can't thank Pam and Rich enough for their hospitality, rides, grub, beer, and
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 Can (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 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.
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 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 tripping
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 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 we
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.