So, the weather this morning was clear, very clear! After calling up the tour company and getting picked up by Vern, the owner + pilot, we initially had some (funny) doubts with climbing into a knackered Chevrolet mini-van with an old guy with a very strong accent originally from Mississippi. But, so long as you listened carefully, you could just about understand him!
I must say, it really was one of the most amazing things I’ve done! You can see mountain ranges on TV documentaries, nature programmes, etc. and in books, but to actually be there is stunning. Mount McKinley rises from sea-level to it’s peak at 20,320 feet, and is unbelieveable – apparently the tallest mountain in the world in terms of height gained. Those in the Himalyans and other mountain ranges may well be taller, but this really does rise out of nothing.
Onto some photos then! Think I took around 100 photos in total, but here’s a few downloaded quickly. First up, this is the Alaskan mountain range as you fly into the area:
Here’s the view of the Kahiltna glacier and Mount McKinley on the right. Can’t remember the peak on the left, just a few hundred foot lower than McKinley itself. The Kahiltna glacier is one of the largest there is, certainly in this area – 45 miles long and 7 miles wide:
And Mount McKinley itself from closer up whilst circling the bowl where most of the climbing expeditions head out from. It’s not considered to be technically difficult in terms of climbing it, but as the weather can be so dangerous, some of the worst in the world for mountain climbing in terms of how it can swing, a number of deaths have been recorded, and many expeditions end in failure.
After quite a bit of turbulence looking at swinging around the back of McKinley, Vern changed tack and swung back round the other side and into the great gorge above the Ruth glacier. It wasn’t until we were told the gorge was over a mile wide we realised the sheer scale of thing!
The glaciers themselves just didn’t seem real. Flying back out down the glacier out of the mountains had us flying 800 feet above the ground and descending 500 feet per minute. You just didn’t realise how steep the glaciers fall away as it all seems so level. The actual glaciers seem a little rough with humps + bumps which end up actually being like 100 foot high! But, we ended up back safely:
So, for anyone in Alaska, head to Anchorage and get in touch with Vern at Vernair for an awesome experience!