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Chinooks from Fort Wainwright help set up base camp on Denali for National Park Service

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 6:48 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Early Thursday morning two Chinook helicopters from Fort Wainwright took off to fly to Talkeetna. The pilots and crew of the aircraft were on a special mission to deliver supplies to Denali.

“We are loading up stuff to take up to base camp and then high camp as well so we are loading up the helicopters,” said CW2 Christopher Thore, a Chinook pilot for the Army.

The flight from Fairbanks to Talkeetna takes around an hour and a half. Once in Talkeetna there are thousands of pounds of supplies to load into the helicopters.

“So the army has been helping us out for decades now, helping us to move our camp infrastructure. In order to support the climbing on the West Buttress of Denali we establish two camps that are there for the season,” said South District Ranger for the Denali National Park and Preserve Tucker Chenoweth. These camps are essential to the climbing season on the mountain.

After the gear is loaded and the helicopters refueled, they take off to head to base camp at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier. Base camp will be the staging area for climbers for the next three months as they begin their trek up North America’s tallest mountain. As the Chinooks land, the soldiers begin unloading the gear.

“Just unloading all the supplies that will be going to high camp, food and medical equipment,” said instructor pilot CW4 Francois Collard.

Already on the mountain is Chenoweth and fellow Mountaineering Ranger Chelsea Bomba. They flew ahead in a National Park Service helicopter to mark the landing spot and help direct where the gear will go.

Bomba said the gear is, “Key to this operation. Med tents, a space for the rangers to post up and do their job.”

Already on the mountain were two adventurers who are planning on doing expeditions on the surrounding peaks over the next 12 days. Miron Chlebosz, a climber from New York said that having a base camp is important to keeping climbers like him safe, “Having a back up ranger with somebody that knows the environment and the weather, the current weather, it’s important for all the climbers.”

With the gear unloaded, it’s time for the Chinooks to fly back down the mountain to Talkeetna for fuel and then back to Fort Wainwright.

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