Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We climbed Mt. McKinley!

We did - we climbed Mt. McKinley!!! We climbed the "Big One", the tallest mountain in the world from it's base (20,320 ft.) and Mt. Foraker (17,300 ft.) and the little one, Mt. Hunter (only 14,573 ft!) and we did it in the comfort of a DeHavilland Otter, a ten-passenger single engine prop plane! (You didn't think I'd put on 17 layers of fancy cold weather gear and climbing equipment, did you?)


It was beyond magnificent - there are absolutely no words to describe this incredible ice age world.




We flew out of the cute, fun little town of Talkeetna. The evening was beautiful and our pilot was even thrilled with the clear skies and sunshine. He said he hadn't seen such a beautiful day in weeks! We keep telling people we're carrying the sun with us!


The flight took us over the Susitna Valley with its acres of muskegs - described as walking in soft sand, but really super water logged marsh where mooses love to snack! You can walk on it, but you need the right hip boots and lots of time!


We flew up the Ruth Glacier Gorge, the deepest in the world filled with close to a 5,000 foot thick river of ice, moving at about 3-4 feet a day, up to the south face of McKinley. Circling the mountain several times so both sides of the plane had exquisite views, we saw all the different climbing faces and flew over the Kahiltna climber's base camp. We traversed the Alaska Range twice, watching the 600 miles of mountains from a view only climbers experience, including the Wickersham Wall of McKinley, the steepest continual vertical relief in the world.


The glaciers themselves are phenomenal too. Down near the valley floor, then look like wide open fields of soil - it's called glacier flower and consists of the boulders and dirt that is ripped loose from the land as the glacier moves down the mountain. 

Higher up the mountain, it looks like what it is - a huge river of ice and snow. The Ruth Glacier is the largest in the world (I think he said that) and is two MILES wide, and as I mentioned above, it's almost a mile deep! Mind boggling!


We had the opportunity to walk on a glacier too! We landed in the recent snow cap on the one of the 4 or 5 coming down the mountain, and I promptly fell flat on my ass! And Suzie, of course, got it on video! 

Standing, once I could get back on my feet, in the pristine white snow (they had about 5 feet of fresh snow up there in the last few days!) surrounded by these great monsters of granite reminds me how truly unimportant our daily trials are!

We came back to our little home from this wonderful experience, way too wired to sleep. So we had a couple hot chocolates with rum and Bailey's Irish Creme and drifted peacefully off into sleepy land! (Until the cargo train roared by, whistle blowing, at 12:30 in the morning!!) What a terrific day!!!


Sooz just returned from a walk and let me know how lucky we are - she spoke with a gal who is heading out to the mountain this a.m. and they will not be able to land on the glacier because of the overnight conditions. Appears the soft snow we landed on last night froze into the deep ruts we made, and it's too dangerous for the planes to land on it today! Boy we timed that one right!

Talkeetna is a cute cute little town, with a grand total of about 775 residents.  It was originally a supply station for gold miners during the 1896 gold rush.

Talkeetna Camper Park
Talkeetna, Alaska 99676
907-733-2693 

Talkeetna Air Taxi
907-733-2218
www.talkeetnaair.com 

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