And there it was – the summit of Mt.McKinley!

Donnelly Travel Blog

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The plan was that the chopper would take us as close to the range as possible.. and the drop us at the base of the range.. from where we would trek for a few hours and then get back to Anchorage by afternoon. But when we got on board, the pilot said he had a little surprise for us! He told us that this was the best day for viewing the mountain range that they had had in weeks! Visibility was at a max.. and the clear skies were perfect for ......... a sea plane!!!! A sea plane could take us much higher and much closer to the peak of Mt. Mc.Kinley - USA's answer to Everest ;)

Thrilled at this prospect we got in and were taken to a lake... and from there.. in a sea plane - up to Denali! And my oh my.
.. what an experience that was!! First of all, the small seaplane was not even close to a regular aircraft where stability was concerned. So everytime we hit an air pocket, it suddenly dropped a few feet.. without any warning! And everytime that happened, I felt a little tingly feeling in my stomach! Sort of like I feel when I am on a rollercoaster! Soon we began to see the mountains.. and the ride got rougher... For the first time in my life I actually felt the need for the seat belt fastened tightly across me! If it wasnt for that, I'd be dead! And then we saw it - the summit of Mt. McKinley! Our pilot, a native Alaskan bush pilot, informed us that 70% of the times that he has been up there, he hasnt been able to see the summit. And of all the times that he has managed to see it, the number of times that it has been outside of May has been negligible!!! So this was a rare and fantastic treat for us!!! There it was .
The glacial trail..
... with the sun streaming down on it... the ice capped peaks glistening.... white...

The wind started to get pretty rough then and so we had to retreat to lower altitudes... but we were all quite thrilled with this little stroke of luck that we had had! And even the pilot was so thrilled, that he gave us yet another treat after that!!! Instead of dropping us off at the base of the mountain range, he landed on a glacial lake!!! Right by a dusty brown glacier. And we walked on it!!! On the glacier! He said its usually not possible to walk on glaciers, because they are essentially ice.. and so, are inherently slippery and dangerous. But this particular glacier was in a region where the mountains were eroding at a very rapid pace. And so, the face of the glacier had gotten covered with several layers of grime and silt... making it look rock-like.. and rough. The bad part was that the lovely glacial blue was all hidden under this filth. But the good part was - I got to climb up on a glacier!!! The pilot left us there and giving us a map each, told us where he would pick us up a few hours later! Man that really beat trekking down at the base of the mountains! We were right in the middle of the range!!!

The trek was a fairly easy one and we soon reached the designated point. From there our pilot first flew us to the small town of Talkeetna.. to celebrate our seeing McKinley! He claimed that there was a tradition wherein, if a party successfully saw the summit, then they had to buy the pilot a drink!!! So we all got into a little local brewery and ordered some Alaskan beer for our fantastic pilot.. and for ourselves too, of course!!! The beer had a slightly different flavor and the women in the party didnt really appreciate it. Your truly, of course had no such problems ;) .. Anyway, so the doting husbands decided that they couldnt get drunk without the wives having something too! And so, Mimosa was ordered!!! And yours truly, being a woman, had to dig into that as well... obviously!!! And so, at 1 in the afternoon, we were all happily drunk and quite pleased with ourselves :D

Well, I guess its all part of the package when you’re on a vacation! ;)
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The glacial trail..
The glacial trail..
photo by: anupa_rk