Days 24 and 25 (Wednesday and Thursday July 22/23) were pretty much devoted to transiting from Fairbanks down to Alaska with a stop overnight at Willow AK right near Talkeetna.
Wednesday morning the weather was pretty clear albeit a bit cold for us as it was in the 40s. We knew that the clouds around Denali would pick up later in the day so planned our first couple of stops for views of the mountain before the visibility went to heck. Good thing we did. We headed south along AK-3 towards Willow and stopped at a couple of places where the mountain was visible and got some nice shots. Our plans included stops at the marked North and South Denali overlooks…but the weather was turning bad at the North one and completely bad by the south one so our best shots were from about 45 miles away along AK-3 near Cantwell AK and the northern viewpoint.
After arriving at the park at the end of our 147 mile drive we got setup and unhitched…then drove into the little town of Talkeetna to see the sights. Talkeetna…for those of you who’ve watched Railroad Alaska…is the little town that the whistle stop train stops at after it picks up all of the off-gridders south of the town…for them Talkeetna is the big city where they can get parts and other store bought items…for Connie and Neil it’s a small quaint little town with a very nice bar in it and a couple of tourist attractions.
Our first view of Denali today…about 60 miles away at this point and still have a few clouds in front of it…we hoped they would blow by in a little while as we got further south.
Couple of shots of the Talkeetna Mountains which are on the other side of AK-3 from the Alaskan Range which contains Denali. AK-3 runs roughly northeast to southwest and splits the plain between the two ranges.
A closer view from near Cantwell AK…about 35 miles away at this point.
What we think is the best shot of the day of Denali…maybe 33 or so mile away and about as close as we got. I am pretty sure this one was taken at the northern viewpoint…you can see the clouds starting to build around the peak at this point in the day. The southern summit is the higher of the two and the most common climbing route is from base camp which is located behind the saddle in the loser mountain right at about center frame. From there the route extends upward and southward until just about directly below the higher southern summit then up it mostly directly away from the camera position with the final approach to the summit being up and to the right on the ridge just to the left of the summit. Total distance from base camp to the summit is about 14 miles and the climb typically takes about 3 weeks with time to get acclimated to the altitude.
Denali…unlike most of the other tallest peaks in the world…is in the arctic instead of being pretty close to the equator…hence it’s weather-wise even harder to climb than Everest. Temperatures at the summit in summer average -40F…which is about the same as the temperature at Everest’s summit in the middle of winter…and the winds frequently blow to 100 knots as well. Climbers have been literally blown off the mountain by the wind. The rangers talked about whether it was the hardest mountain to climb due to the weather and said that a good training run for it would be to climb Mt. Ranier in Washington state in the middle of winter and you would have a decent warm up for Denali in the summer.
The climbing season lasts just 2 months June and July…after that the snow bridges over the crevasses in the glaciers get too soft to be safely crossed…with about 1500 climbers attempting the ascent annually; only about half of them succeed. Making it a bit easier than Everest no oxygen is necessary…but making it a bit harder than Everest is the fact that Denali is a clean climbing mountain…everything packed in must be packed out including human waste which gets put in cans carried by the climbers and flown out at the end of the season. With about 750 climbers reaching the summit in 60 days and with only probably a third of the total season having good enough weather for a summit attempt…that’s 30 or 40 climbers reaching the summit on every decent weather day…more like rush hour than mountain climbing I’m guessing.
This is the view at approximately eye magnification from the northern viewpoint…a mighty darn impressive mountain I’m tellin’ ya.
We didn’t take many photos in Talkeetna…but as seen on TV here’s the Alaska Railroad locomotive.
Day 25 (Thursday July 23) we traveled from Willow AK to Anchorage AK…about 100 miles total. It was a pretty uneventful day…nice roads and good weather and we arrived at Golden Nugget RV shortly after 1200 and got parked in site 162. It was a bit tight getting in next to Bill and Linda’s rig…Bill and Neil were working on jacking the truck back and forth to get the rig turned into the site without hitting either the tree or the big rock when Connie (being alert to the big picture) offered us a much simpler solution. They were just trying to solve the problem while she saw the really easy solution which was to make a turn onto the next row and cut through a site across from ours. That was a much easier turn into the across the street site and allowed us to miss the tree and rock easily.
On the way we stopped by something called the Iditarod Trail Museum…apparently it commemorates some sort of dog race. Doesn’t sound nearly as interesting as say a bear race to me…but ya gotta wonder about those people. We did get a few shots and watched the movie…but mostly it was about dogs and dog sleds…go figure.
Here’s a status of the guy that invented the race.
After parking we headed out to the local greenhouse/botanical garden and Connie got some pictures.
Neil thought this was a cool cactus.
Once that was done…we came home. Bill and Neil went out hunting keys with no success then we had another wonderful dinner. Linda grilled some salmon for the three of them and some halibut for Neil since he doesn’t prefer salmon. Neil made a curry rice concoction to go along with it.
Tomorrow will be chores day for us…we need to get BAT’s oil changed and get some groceries and beer. The only scheduled caravan activity for the day is a trip in the late afternoon to the local chocolate factory (gee, I wonder if they’ll give free samples) then dinner and a show.