2011-04-08 / Travel

Alaska, the Final Frontier

Part 24: Flight over Mt. McKinley
By Warner M. Montgomery
WarnerM@ TheColumbiaStar.com


Due to inclement weather we were unable to land on one of these glaciers flowing from Mt. McKinley. Due to inclement weather we were unable to land on one of these glaciers flowing from Mt. McKinley. Linda and I decided our first adventure would be a flight over Mt. McKinley. Fly Denali Inc. offered taxi services from our lodge and a 100 percent safety record, so Linda called their number, and I loaded my cameras.

The crew lined up in the tiny airport hangar and explained their roles and what we could expect to see during our hour– and– a– half trip over North America’s highest peak ( 20,320 feet). Since we would land on Ruth Glacier, walk around for 20 minutes and throw snowballs, we had to don special boots.

We followed Pilot Pete to the single engine, six– seat, oxygen–equipped de Havilland Beaver. Linda climbed into the back seat with another woman. I took one of the middle seats, and a third woman with hair to her waist and high heel boots sat next to Pete. She had an extra long lens and claimed to be a magazine photographer. After we adjusted our headsets, Pete yanked the little plane into the air.


Linda sits in the back wi th with her ear - phones on as we fly toward Mt. McKinley. Linda sits in the back wi th with her ear - phones on as we fly toward Mt. McKinley. “It will take us 15 minutes to reach the mountain, so just relax and enjoy the scenery,” squawked Pete. We did, and it was marvelous.

Fifteen minutes later, “The weather report says a front is headed to the mountain. We will not be able to land on the glacier, but I will give you an extra hour circling the mountain.”

For over two hours we flew around Mt. McKinley covering most of Denali National Park’s six million acres. Beneath us were snow–covered peaks, barren mountain ridges, glacial flows, cascading rivers, creeks flowing through tundra, evergreen forests, mountainside meadows, but not one moose.

The pilot had promised us the ultimate flightseeing trip, “not only the highlight of your vacation, but a highlight of your life.” He was right in spite of not being able to walk on the glacier. It was a truly wonderful experience.


We had to wear special boots to walk on the glacier. We had to wear special boots to walk on the glacier. Next week: A Tundra Wilderness Tour



Views of Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park. Views of Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park.

There were no mountain climbers on the 20,320-foot peak of Mt. McKinley There were no mountain climbers on the 20,320-foot peak of Mt. McKinley

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