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Alpenglow On Mount McKinley’ s West Rib

It was not easy to bid farewell to Denali National Park. It will always be one of my favorite areas in Alaska, and my recent trip just reinforced my love affair with this great place. I was very happy with the images I captured on this trip for my upcoming book project ‘Above Denali’, and this image is one that might make the final cut. The prominent ridge in the center is the West Rib, a steep and direct line to the west of the popular West Buttress route. The ridge to the right of the West Rib is the Cassin Ridge, considered by many Mount McKinley’s most difficult route. The combination of steep ice, steep mixed terrain, altitude, hazardous weather conditions, lack of communications, difficult retreat, and perplexing route finding for nearly 9,000 feet make the Cassin a mountaineering classic. I was very fortunate on this flight to have Kantinsha Air Taxi pilot Andy Young tune into the waning light, and although we were supposed to head up towards the Traleika Col for a circumnavigation of the mountain, Andy decided to head towards Kahiltna Pass instead, so we could experience the Alpenglow on Denali’s western flanks. The giant lentiuclar cloud sitting on top of the mountain is a sure sign of brutal winds pounding the upper mountain, not unlikely being in the 100 mph range, making this one of the most hostile environments on the planet.
PS: The only thing that could have made my trip better would have been to beat Kantishna Air Taxi owner and chief pilot Greg Lahaie in Ping Pong on his home turf, but I will save this for next year my friend …

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