Chinook Season - 2018

April 30, 2018 Posted by: Katherine Belcher, Denali PIO
First glimpse of Basecamp out of the back of the CH-47 HelicopterNPS Photo - Katherine Belcher

Few places on earth are as serene, remote and stunningly beautiful as the ice-filled granite valleys of the Alaska Range that surround Denali, the tallest peak in North America. For the mountaineering staff of Denali National Park and Preserve, the time has come to once again set up base camp for the annual climbing season. 

This year, as they have done in the past, the U.S. Army took advantage of the opportunity to assist the National Park Service in moving supplies from Talkeetna to the section of the glacier that will serve as base camp, which sits at 7,200 feet on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier – the world’s longest with a span of 43 miles. 

A CH-47 lands on the Kahiltna Glacier, surrounded by snowy peaksNPS Photo - Katherine Belcher

For the Soldiers and Mountaineering Rangers, it’s a win-win situation that provides an opportunity to train in difficult, high-altitude and often inhospitable terrain while efficiently moving thousands of pounds of gear and supplies from one place to another in a matter of hours. 

The operation involved the use of three CH-47F Chinook helicopters and aviators from the 1st Battalion of the 52nd Aviation Regiment stationed at Fort Wainwright. 

NPS Rangers pack camp gear in giant nets, soon be blown up to 14,200 feet by the park helicopter NPS Photo - Katherine Belcher

To view and download more GREAT photos of the Camp Insertion Day, go to the Denali National Park FLICKR album "Denali Basecamp 2018."

Text and photos submitted by Katherine Belcher, Denali National Park and Preserve's primary Public Information Officer, who was thrilled to participate in this season's camp insertion -- her first time flying into Basecamp, and it won't be her last!

Fast facts about mountaineering on Denali

  • Denali is the tallest peak in North America at 20,310 feet
  • The typical climbing season runs from late April to mid-July
  • The West Buttress, West Rib, Cassin Ridge, and Muldrow are the most frequently climbed routes on Denali.
  • The majority of climbers on Denali (more than 90%) attempt the West Buttress route
  • The average group size is 5-6 climbers
  • Teams may not exceed 12 climbers
  • Currently, there are only six guide services authorized by NPS to lead commercial expeditions on Denali
  • The average expedition is 17 to 21 days, round trip
  • The view from base camp is one of the most amazing on the planet!

Last updated: April 30, 2018

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