Tuesday, July 14, 2015

North to Alaska: Part 2: Flight Over Denali

During our tour to Alaska/Yukon we booked only one excursion ahead of time. For our second day in Denali National Park we had reserved 2 places on the Flight around the Summit of Denali.

Denali (The High One or The Great One) or Mt. McKinley is the highest peak in North America, 20,237 ft. There's always a good chance flights anywhere near Mt. McKinley will be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions and that Friday morning was no exception.

  • The flight excursion that was supposed to land on the glacier: cancelled. 
  • Helicopter flights: cancelled. Too much cloud, wind and even snow on that side of the Mountain. 
  • Our flight, however, was good to go so we and 6 other brave souls boarded a small van for the drive to Healy Airport, about 25 minutes north of Denali along one of the few paved roads in the state.

Here's the plane:

Nine of us, including the pilot.

Here's our pilot. He was young but he had 4000 hours under his belt and was very confident, thank goodness!

First of all we all put on a headset so we could hear what the pilot had to say.

The views on the way to Denali were awesome. There was some turbulence and as we rose higher and higher, it got cold in the cabin. Fortunately the pilot had a small heater to turn on. Still pretty chilly.

After about 25 minutes in the air, we approached the mountain. When we got above 12,000 ft. the pilot put on his oxygen mask and at 15,000 ft the rest of us put on ours. It was a great adventure!

We wound our way back and forth past the mountain to see its various facets in both directions to be fair to both sides of the plane. Denali up close is breathtaking, even on oxygen!

The pilot named the various peaks and slopes of the mountain as we cruised past, but who can remember now!

We reached approximately 20,360 ft., just high enough to say we saw the top of the mountain.

The views on the way back to the airport were also awe-inspiring.

Finally we landed safely and the adventure was over. 

Next: Dog-sledding, the Alaska Pipeline, panning for gold and more...