It was like some kind of military operation this afternoon. To the cheers of over a hundred climbers, some of whom had been stranded for five days, dozens of bush planes began landing at Kahiltna base, plucking us off like they were harvesting Alaskan salmon (which is probably what most of the pilots were doing this morning, before a little bit of glacier flying, ho hum).
Lucky for Louie and I, we got a flight on a souped up Cessna 185, and the pilot opted to fly out the fulll 30 or so mile length of the Kahiltna Glacier down from our location, then make a left turn to Talkeetna. I think out of a lifetime of adventure, and even beyond the flight in to Denali, this has to be the highlight of my experience with mountaineering aviation. The crevasse fields; the toe of the glacier and resulting rivers; scale so gigantic it again felt like a fantasy novel rather than reality.
To top it off we had to loft over a lower mountain range, through a wall of clouds. The bush ace banked it over, punched through, and nonchalantly stated “when you can see light on the other side of the clouds, you know it’ll work.” I had to take a deep breath just now, even thinking about it…
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.