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Robert
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After 8 days on the Kenai it's time to leave, hoping to get a view of Denali which is rare; in 10 years in Alaska I saw the mountain in it's entirety once, from 30,000 feet in the air. Taking leave from our gracious hosts, we loaded up their car and headed for Talkeetna, a jump-off point for climbers and about the closest lodging to the mountain without going into the NP proper.

Time for a side note here. I'm having trouble downloading the majority of our pictures, taken on an old Nikon that uses the funky card. Will post what I have, some are not the best quality due to my cell phone.

Lodging fills up pretty fast in the summer in Talkeetna, by the time I called for a room in early May every hotel was booked except for a hostel, which turned out great. Paying $80 for a private room with a professional grade kitchen and outdoor bar-b-que at our disposal turned out nicely for us. Also, the hostel was full of climbers who'd just returned from a successful summit on the perfect 80 degree day we were there. One explained to us that Denali is second only to Everest in degree of difficulty for two reasons; there are no porters or sherpas, climbers carry their own gear and secondly, base camp to summit on Everest is 4,ooo vertical feet; on Denali it is 14,000 v.f. We had just watched the film Everest, based on the John Krakauer book "Into Thin Air" and it was timely to meet with some world-class climbers and get their take on the movie and Denali.

Denali from Montana Creek Road; 80 miles away. Massive is an understatement, I think it could swallow 5 or 6 Mt. Rainiers.
Sky Mountain Water Plant Water resources


Taking our leave after a stop at the Talkeetna Roadhouse for some road food (reindeer sausage in a roll and cinnamon rolls) we headed for Canada. I had 5 days to go 2500 miles to a fishing camp in south-central BC, and planned on spending 1-1/2 of those at a spot north of Prince George, where I'd been told by a Fly BC member there are 30" bulls and a lake full of trout and our timing was prime for the bulls.
Heading out of Alaska it was apparent Denali is not the only majestic peak. Here's a couple that are over 16,ooo ft.
Sky Mountain Water Plant Snow


Potential road kill (if you hit it, you may be the one that dies).
Water Plant Fluvial landforms of streams Natural landscape Vegetation


Made it into Canada and within the first 100 miles we spotted a huge Boar Grizzly grazing on the new spring grasses and flowers on the road right-of-way. Unfortunately we were in a construction zone with a pilot car and on a curve, no shoulder, etc. No way to pull over for a picture. He was magnificent! Within the next 50 miles and out of the CZ, we spotted a sow with two cubs and this time could pull over.

Plant Flower Leaf Natural landscape Natural environment

She was much smaller than the boar, but still probably over 400 lbs. Her cubs hid in the taller grass while she continued feeding 50 feet off the road.
So my plan was to drive as far as possible, maybe straight through the first night and stay 2nd night in Fort Nelson where I had a reservation. About 10 p.m. the kid faded on me and I turned on the radio, caught a snippet referring to flooding near Dawson Creek, the terminus (or beginning) of the Alaska Highway. About 1:00 a.m. I decided I'd had enough and grabbed a room and 5 hours of sleep and a shower in Whitehorse, Y.T. Hotel was a block from the river and mosquitoes ate us alive between the parking lot and the lobby; those SOB's were bigger and more abundant than anything we saw in AK.
Next morning I checked the news and BC Roads website; sure enough, about 150 mile section of roads had washed out prohibiting access to BC past Dawson Creek. The area was exactly where I had planned to spend a couple days fishing for Bulls. 36" of rain in 24 hours; F' me!
The only alternate was the Stewart-Cassiar highway, which we took and really were torn driving past famous streams that were in full spate and off-season for steel anyways, but it was great to see them anyways: Bell-Irving, Nass, Skeena, Morice, etc.
The next morning I realized I had two days before I was due at our first destination fishing camp and at a loss as to what to do. Not that there weren't a lot of choices, too many rather and a lack of preparedness on my part as many rivers were not open yet, but some were, etc. I got on WFF and sent Jeremy Floyd a PM, he responded with his cell number in minutes and we were soon on our way to his house in Queznel, 150 miles from my destination. Despite being knocked down by the flu, Jeremy insisted we stay with him and after stopping at one of the best liquor stores I've ever been in we were welcomed by JF and the lovely Lady Elizabeth. Jeremy's son Connor is a year older than Hayden and they seemed to hit it off. Jeremy spread a table of rib-eyes, baked 'taters, mushrooms with onions and god knows what else! Stunning. Everything that's been said about Lady L is true, Jeremy hit the lottery with her.
Next morning, after some details and tips from JF, we left for the "Fishing Highway" and checked into a lodge on Lac Des Roches, a rather large lake where the owner was nice enough to tell us the fishing was poor but on finding out we were fellow "Pescatores de Mosca" Luca drew a detailed map of a small, float tube sized lake a few Km away where he had a canoe stashed. Anyone driving through could do a lot worse than using the lodge and cabins at the lac for a base and exploring the hundreds of smaller lakes or, if desired, within minutes of the larger, well known lakes such as Sheridan and Bridge. Luca is a trained chef and sets a mean table of Northern Italian Cuisine, by reservation. Lots of culinary awards on the wall.
Drove up the North Thompson to Clearwater and the entrance to Wells Gray Provincial Park, home to beautiful rivers and waterfalls. At the outlet of Clearwater lake there was a major hatch of Pteronarcys Dorseta, the large western salmon flies of the Deschutes and Montana. Was not expecting that. To my despair, I thought the river was closed.
Water Cloud Sky Plant Plant community

Turns out we could have fished the lake and outlet to below the little islands shown above. Would've been perfect to cast out with a sinking line and nymph, slow retrieve back up to shore.
Mea culpa; Pendejo!

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Park. The river isn't small, estimate 1200+ CFS. 434 foot vertical drop.
Water Water resources Sky Cloud Ecoregion


End Part II, next The Lakes.
 

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s. Also, the hostel was full of climbers who'd just returned from a successful summit on the perfect 80 degree day we were there. One explained to us that Denali is second only to Everest in degree of difficulty for two reasons; there are no porters or sherpas, climbers carry their own gear and secondly, base camp to summit on Everest is 4,ooo vertical feet; on Denali it is 14,000 v.f. We had just watched the film Everest, based on the John Krakauer book "Into Thin Air" and it was timely to meet with some world-class climbers and get their take on the movie and Denali.
Very cool report and pics. Alaska is an amazing, amazing place!
Looks like you had a great time.

Wanted to clean up the climbing information out of respect for
climbers who summit and have died on the big peaks.

K2 is the king of mountain climbing to worldwide alpinist. K2 is remote, high at 28,251', a killer (300 summits-80 deaths compared to Everest (4000 summits/200 deaths). K2 and a few more Himalaya peaks have an incredible summit to death rate (Annapurna 191 summits/61 deaths the deadliest). Everest does not approach the technicality of K2 and others, too. It's elevation alone kills.

Everest summit of 29,029'+ from Nepal basecamp of 17,600' (net gain of + 11,500'-ish). From the Tibet basecamp at 16,900' to 29,029'+ (net gain 12,100+').
I luckily have been to the Everest basecamp trek from Nepal side and it is amazing! Same route as the climbers take to acclimatize and saw many full expeditions daily for over the 3 weeks up and back.

Denali is tough because it is far north and cold and crappy weather. It is just over
20,000 feet and is the medium step to the Himalaya peaks.
Climbers generally graduate from Rainier to Denali to the Himalayan giants.
Rainier is a 2-3 day climb, Denali in good weather a week or two- to much longer if stuck, Everest and many Himalaya climbs run into the months.
Not to diminish a climb up Denali at all, but it is perhaps not generally ranked a clear cut top 10 climb.

If interested in one of the great climbs of all time of another Himalayan giant,
read about Makalu US unsupported by Spokane climbers in 1980. Epic!
"The four-man team of John Roskelley, Chris Kopczynski, Jim States and Kim Momb culminated an 80-day Himalayan ordeal of pain, sickness and danger by becoming the first American expedition to reach the 27,790-foot summit of Makalu, the world's fifth highest peak-without support by porters.."

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2003/feb/09/makalu-climb-ages/

Seeing Denali while in Alaska is tough for darn sure. For me, once from a
plane, and once on a wonderful clear winter day from just north of Anchorage are my only 2 sightings!
Denali is a massive, bulky peak as you noted.

Great trip reports, thanks for sharing!
 
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