Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flying up to Denali Base Camp



For my friend Georgianna's 40th birthday, my friend Maggie's 50th birthday, and my upcoming 40th birthday, we went flightseeing around Denali to celebrate and mark the year with something special. We went with Talkeetna Air Taxi, who took us up to Base Camp near Denali. We did a glacier landing and hung out for a while at the camp. It was a stunningly gorgeous day and not too cold. We figure it was probably about -10 at Base Camp.

I had thought we'd see people and tents up there for climbing season, but I was off by a few weeks. Climbing season doesn't really start for about 3 more weeks, lasting until early July, for that prime mix of long sunny days and milder temps, but before the snow gets too soft and avalanche-prone. So, it was a surprise to make our soft landing on the deep snow of the glacier, and find 4 people just standing around up there. I asked our pilot what they were doing. He said they came up for a day-ski and winter camping for a day or two, likely. We didn't trudge through the snow to where they were standing because it felt pretty cold to us. We stayed just long enough to take lots of pictures of the beauty around us (I didn't realize that the Don Sheldon Mountain House was just above us on a narrow rock plataeu. It has a wooden outhouse which has no door and the most stunning view of Denali from a potty that you can get). We were only up there 6-8 minutes, about the longest the engine could sit without having an engine blanket put on.

This was my first time shooting video up there with my camera and I got a few cool moments that seem to "translate" to how amazing it is. The sheer granite cliffs you see are in the Great Gorge. It's incomprehensible to our puny little human brains--those cliffs are over one mile high and the glacier filling the valley is nearly 2 miles wide in that view.
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