The mountain known in Alaska as "Denali" is the highest mountain in all of North America and it is a full on mountain climb by any standards. A three week endeavour from start to finish, the climb begins with a flight into base camp from Talkeetna Alaska onto the glacier where you are still an eight mile hike along the glacier to the actual base of the mountain. Denali is regarded as the second most difficult (though not the second highest) mountain of the famed "seven summits" to climb after Everest itself. It is very close to the arctic circle and 20,320' above sea level at the summit. Frigid temperatures, frequent storms with hellacious tent destroying winds and snow squalls that can last for days batter its slopes. People die every season making an attempt on this summit. A friend and I decided to try our luck on it and we arranged with Alpine Ascents International to climb in June of 2010. To make the trip even more of an adventure we choose to drive the complete distance from Markham Ontario to Talkeetna Alaska, covering the full distance of the Alaskan Highway. Round trip it was 18,900 kilometres. I towed my ultra-light aircraft along for a unique "once in a lifetime" perspective of Alaska by flying it several times during our stay there. Paul made two skydives from the aircraft with Denali in the background for his jump. Our climb of the mountain was a fabulous experience, but success at making the summit was not to be had. High winds, snow, and biting cold kept us pinned at high camp for six full days. Out of time, we had to turn around and descend in a "walk off" from high camp at 17,000' without even being able to make a single attempt for the summit. We hiked back to base camp in twenty three straight hours without setting up camp or sleeping, only stopping briefly to drink and eat along the way. All of the Canadian north and Alaska is amazing country. I will visit the far north again. For this adventure I chose to take my Canon 5D Mark II body and my 24-105mm f/4.0 L, 70-200 f/2.8 L, 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L lenses. I took just the 24-105 f/4.0 L for the climb itself. Some of my shots now grace the Alpine Ascents International web site for the Denali page. It was a fabulous trip regardless of the fact that we didn't make the summit and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Oh wait...I did do it again. My other trip to Denali is also in this digital travel section of the website. You can click on any image to enlarge it to full screen.
© Steve Tambosso - "The Wandering Fireman"