I retired in 1990 and soon after, I ask my wife what she thought about me going to Denali Park to explore the glaciers in the vicinity of Denali. She knew I was prepared for such an effort as I had been doing glacier travel since my ascent of Mt. Rainier, a part of the Mountaineering training course there, in 1980. I do not remember if this was before or after I built the storage shed she had asked for. In any case, she assented to my plea in the positive, as I knew she would. After, then, forty years of marriage, we knew each other rather well. Today, she still uses the shed and I have my memories and a large color slide collection.
It is my purpose, with this Post, to share some of my memories, and a few slides, with you to perhaps convey to you why I still have the slides and cherish the ever- fresh memories of my mountaineering days. But first, I want to explain how I came to know Jim Okonek, then the owner and chief pilot of K2 AVIATION, and his son Brian and Brian’s wife Diane, owners of ALASKA DENALI GUIDING. I was a member of the 1983 DENALI TURKEYS EXPEDITION and we had contracted with K2 to provide air support for our Denali climb. We showed up at K2 in Talkeetna with what we thought was a reasonable amount of food and equipment for six climbers. Jim thought otherwise. He was aghast; I suspect he was comparing us to Hannibal crossing the Alps. We quickly came to a new agreement and all was well. Jim, and his wife Julie, established with us a reputation for impeccable expedition support and a friendly and gracious outreach to our expedition members. I first met Brian and Diane at 14000 feet on Denali. Dr. Peter Hackett and others had established a medical research station on Denali and Brian and Diane managed the station. I was bad shape due to apparent cerebral edema and needed a helping hand from the medics; that is how I came to know Brian and Diane. Brian and Diane started ADG the following year. Since 1983 there has been no doubt about who I go with in Alaska. I owe much to the Okonek family for the many fond memories I and my wife have left of our days in Alaska.
I arranged with ADG to join their Kanikula and Ruth Glacier trips. The itinerary for the Kanikula Glacier trip was: 1) Use a wheel-ski airplane to fly from Talkeetna to 7000 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier (KIA). 2) Travel down the Kahiltna Glacier, turn left and climb to the top of “second shot” pass. 3) Descend the ice fall to the cirque basin of the kanikula Glacier. 4) Travel the full length of the Kanikula Glacier, passing thru the accumulation zone, ablation zone, melting zone and terminal moraines to the toe of the glacier. Then descend the outwash plain to the end and cross the wide and shallow river to a river-side airstrip. An airplane will bring in raft and food fit for a king. The mountaineering equipment will fly back to Talkeetna. Use the raft to return to return leisurely to Talkeetna and the Swiss Alaska Inn. This Trip was chosen due to my interest in the life history of glaciers. The descent down the Kanikula Glacier allowed me to observe a glacier from birth to death. The un-official itinerary included Vern’s great food at the Swiss Alaska Inn, Ice cream and other goodies at Sparky’s store, and a beer or two at the Fairview Inn. Life was good then as it remains today at eighty years.
The images in the “video” were scanned by me from my 1991 Fuji-chrome slides, obtained using my trusty old Pentax SLR camera. Enjoy; I know I did.