The High One.
Denali is the Athabascan Indian name for Mt. McKinley.
20,320 feet of granite at South Peak, 19,470 feet at North Peak,
both liberally laced with ice via multiple glaciers. Denali is
surrounded by some six million acres of Denali National Park
As of 1990 there had been 12,295 attempted climbs of McKinley,
6602 climbs were successful. There had been 64 deaths. In 1990
there were 994 attempts, 571 successful climbs, 3 deaths.
By contrast, 1994 set an all time record with 1277 climbers
making the attempt, 574 of which were successful. Sixteen of
the climbers went solo, of them 8 were successful.
There were 20 missions flown to rescue 28 people from a variety
of dangers. Some experienced life-threatening AMS (altitude
mountain sickness), others suffered frostbite, falls, or ins
some cases severely high winds swept away their tents or other
Seven people perished climbing, three on McKinley, two on Mt.
Hunter and two on Mt. Wake.
At the foot of Denali is a small town named Talkeetna, permanent
population said by local residents to number 286 people and 187
dogs. This comment is made only half in jest.
Talkeetna, which is a Tanainan Indian name meaning "River of
Plenty", is at the confluence of three rivers, the Talkeetna,
the Susitna and the Chulitna. It has become the jumping off
point for those who wish to climb McKinley.
There are a number of air charter services that will fly
climbers to the base camp at 7200 feet. There remain a number
of other interim camps en route to the summit; included within
these camps are medical service camps which provide emergency
medical services and/or med-evac flights. These stations are
staffed by National Park Service personnel and/or contract
In Talkeetna there is a National Park Service office that serves
as a Mountaineering Headquarters. Climbers register here, pay
fees and receive orientation before starting their climbs.
The village of Talkeetna itself has been listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. It is a colorful little town. It
has served as an important supply station for gold prospectors
from the late 1800s to 1940. Today it still serves the mining
and trapping industry but also serves as a popular staging area
for outdoor enthusiasts.
Log and frame buildings populate the city and many are still
functional. The historic Talkeetna Roadhouse, B&K Trading Post
and the Fairview Inn are all highly active and well used even
today by locals and tourists alike.
Talkeetna today services the tourist trade with many
flightseeing tours offered by aircraft operators; additonally,
it is the primary point for the aforementioned climbing
fraternity; when the tourists go home and the climbers put their
ropes and crampons away Talkeetna still plays host to area
miners and trappers. Chances are that those who sport beards
are locals. It seems to be a custom that if you move to Alaska
you grow a beard.
Come wintertime there is a unique feature offered by Talkeetna.
It is the annual "Talkeetna Bachelors' Auction and Ball". This
festive occasion occurs on December 2nd and is sponsored, not
surprisingly, by the Talkeetna Bachelors' Society.
The event started some fourteen years ago as a means of
attracting "Wilderness Women" into Talkeetna to provide
companionship for lonesome miners and trappers. It has become a
major annual celebration with women competing for the right to
run in a race, win a gold nugget, and the opportunity of bidding
on area bachelors. It is said that some of the local men even
break down and bathe for this event. Confirmation is, so far,
Mine is a pioneer family in Talkeetna. One my uncles emigrated there from Minnesota, took up residence, and, ultimately, died there. Those who live in Alaska, even today, live a hardy life. Plenty of snow and cold in the winter. Hard to imagine our pioneer ancestors living there and carving out a life . . . but, they did.