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KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

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Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

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Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

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Surveyors take Denali down a a notch

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Just days after being officially named Denali, North America’s highest peak received a new height estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday. The new official height for the mountain is 20,310 feet, a reduction of ten feet from the previous estimate taken in the 1950s.

The mountain itself hasn’t shrunk. Rather, scientists today have more sophisticated means of measuring elevation than in the mid-20th century.

The decision to resurvey the mountain came in 2013, after a radar-mapping tool estimated Denali’s height at 20,237 feet. The USGS says that mapping tool is very useful, but not always accurate for the height of specific objects. The best way to determine the elevation of the summit is to do it the old-fashioned way. The USGS sent a team of climbers with GPS and other tools on an expedition earlier this year. The team reached the summit, placed the instruments, and returned safely.

Denali’s new, slightly lower, height still leaves it comfortably ahead of the continent’s second highest peak, Mt. Logan in Canada.


Visitors to Talkeetna react to Denali name change

Monday, August 31, 2015
Denali on Monday morning. Photo: Phillip Manning-KTNA

Denali on Monday morning. Photo: Phillip Manning-KTNA

On Sunday, news broke that North America’s tallest peak will now officially be known as Denali.  Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed the order Friday changing the name from Mt. McKinley. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has this story on how visitors from the Carolinas to Kenai are reacting.



Do you have an opinion on the change from Mt. McKinley to Denali? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Four years after stroke and heart attack, mountain guide solos Denali

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

by: Katie Writer


The last climber is off of Denali, and the summer season is now officially over. Out of the thousand-plus climbers that attempt the mountain each year, there are always a few exceptional stories of perseverance and courage. KTNA’s Katie Writer spoke with Doug Nidever about his climb and how it marked an important milestone in his road to recovery.

Doug Nidever has worked as a Professional Guide for the American Mountain Guides Association for decades, guiding rock climbing all around the world. At the age of 58, Doug suffered from a stroke and heart attack that his doctors were not certain that he would survive. With the support of family and friends, Doug slowly recovered.

Four years later at age 62,  Doug soloed Denali. He and a friend had started the West Buttress route together, but turned around at 11,000 feet. Something did not feel right to his climbing partner. Doug flew back to the Lower 48 and spent one restless night at his June Lake, California home. The next day,  Doug returned to Alaska to finish what he had11168185_10153038884471795_4647327177835954563_o started. And that was to give his best shot at reaching Denali’s Summit.

In a interview with Doug shortly after coming off the mountain, Doug reflects on early stages of his recovery. He had to relearn everything, and he means everything.

“Basic things, how to go to the bathroom. You know, you think that would be hardwired into your body, but having to re-learn that. Having to learn how to cook and read and drive and climb and spell and this and every aspect of life.”

In the midst of re-learning life, Doug decided that he was not going to settle for the life in a wheelchair that doctors thought was going to be his reality.  Instead, Doug chose to pursue his “gold standard” of living through his passion for mountaineering.

“Something extra difficult for me to go do something this big by myself with the uncertainties …what have I learned, what have I forgotten, what’s floating in the mix out there…just wanting to see where the boundaries lie.”

Doug says completing the climb by himself was actually a great opportunity to see just where he was at with his recovery from his stroke and heart attack.

“It’s a good completion of a four year struggle to get back to some sense of normality…finding out that I can understand, I can make good decisions, and I can do this somewhat correctly and have it work out.”

In addition to the need for physical fitness, Doug says those decision making skills are critical to safe travel in such an environment where crevasses are a constant hazard.

“One, these are the biggest crevasses on the planet that we live and if you fall in you are probably not coming out. There are a hundred and one different components that go into the decision making there.”<Doug Crevasse Danger>

Doug partially credits his success to his own stubbornness.  Slowly but surely, he progressed 1000’ a day with only a single load carry.  Most climbers shuttle their gear back and forth on the way up. Doug jokes that he’s “kind of a lazy guy,” knowing that his choice of travel was unique.  All of the perseverance in the world only matters in the Alaska Range if Mother Nature cooperates, however. Fortunately for Doug, the weather held, and he made it to the summit on a chilly midnight in late June. After a few minutes, alone, at the highest point in North America, Doug safely descended to his camp at 17, 200’.

11168185_10153038887261795_7524243424079589986_o“You know, so I got to sleep from 4 am until late afternoon. And mill around and see what body parts are sore and what still worked and what didn’t.  A little bit of loss of elevation brings your energy level so far up.

Doug’s solo climb of Denali gives him an appreciation for his own recovery.which he says wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his friends and family.

“Nobody stands alone very well.”




Denali ranger describes patrol and memorable summit day

Thursday, July 2, 2015
Andrew Lattimer, doctor and mountain patrol volunteer, descending from Denali's North Summit.  Photo courtesy: Tucker Chenoweth - NPS

Mountain patrol volunteers descending from Denali’s North Summit. Photo courtesy: Tucker Chenoweth – NPS

By: Katie Writer – KTNA

Currently, there are 1,090 people registered to attempt Denali. Of those, 129 are currently on the mountain, and 945 have completed their climbs. As of Thursday, 533 climbers have reached the summit, making the summit rate fifty-six percent.

All fifteen climbers registered for Mt. Foraker have completed their climbs, with six making it to the summit.

This week on the Denali Report, KTNA’s Katie Writer speaks with Mountaineering Ranger Tucker Chenoweth, who is back after patrolling on Denali:


Good weather on Denali for the past three weeks has increased the summit rate from a dismal 0% in May to a soaring 56% in early July.

Mountaineering Ranger Tucker Chenoweth and a team of four volunteers patrolled the mountain from May 26th to June 20th, and saw the dash for the summit that took place when the weather cleared.

“At high camp, I believe, there was a group – call it, like, a “plug of climbers—that had been stuck at “Fourteen Camp.” So, the first window they had, they all went. (more…)

Denali Height Being Measured By Climbers

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This story by KNOM’s Francesca Fenzi :

A dispute over the height of North America’s tallest mountain may be resolved this week, as surveyors climb to the top of Mount McKinley.

McKinley – recognized throughout Alaska by its Koyukon Athabascan name, Denali – has long been thought to stand at 20,320 feet, a measurement recorded in 1953. That number was contested in 2013, when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) used radar technology to re-calculate the mountain’s height. The result was a mere 20,237 feet… 83 feet lower than the previously recognized elevation.

“Oh, people didn’t like the lower number. And I was bothered by it myself. I mean I had people say, ‘It’s still over 20,000 feet, I hope?’ And I said, ‘Yes it’s still over 20,000 feet, but I don’t know how much over 20,000 feet.’”

Dave Moune is Senior Project Manager with Dewberry Geospacial Products and Services – a company contracted by USGS to perform the 2013 survey. Moune says the “new” elevation, in addition to being controversial, may not be entirely accurate.

He says the measurement was taken from the air using radar frequencies, to create 3D images as part of an ongoing mapping project around the state. And while that technique is great for mapping complex terrain in 3D, Moune says its single-point elevation measurements could be off by several meters.

He adds the most accurate way to measure height for a specific peak is to use GPS. But for that, you need old-fashioned boots on the ground…

“Hey there, this is Blaine. We’re up at 14,000 feet on Denali on the summit survey expedition.”

Blaine Horden is leading those boots – and a team of three surveyors – to the summit of Denali this week. Their mission: To set the record straight.

As of Monday night, the team had settled in at 14,000 feet… with plans to push for the summit as early as Wednesday. But Moune says the task of measuring a mountain isn’t an easy one.

“These guys are not just taking themselves to the top of the mountain. They are carrying a lot of equipment with them. That all has weight associated with it. Some of it is stuff they have to keep inside their coat so their bodies will help keep it warmer. That all adds to the complexity of the climb.”

 In addition to challenges faced by all high-altitude climbers, the team will need to clear a few logistical hurdles. For example: finding the physical peak of Denali – rock that has been buried under feet of ice and snow.

This is an ambitious goal. No survey of the mountain so far has calculated elevation using its natural peak… all measurements have been taken from ice resting on top of the mountain. Which, Moune says, could have contributed to some level of error in the past.

“People want to know how high is Denali. And perhaps the best we can do is tell them how high the ice and snow is in 2015 on the day that we surveyed it. Recognizing that the thickness of the ice and snow may change whenever it snows and rains up there. Or melts for that matter.”

 Moune says even if Horden’s team also measures from the ice at Denali’s summit, the data they gather will still provide an improved estimate of the mountain’s true height.

The expedition could take as long as three weeks to complete, but Moune reports that the surveyors are currently ahead of schedule – and could begin their descent by the end of this week.

Remains of Argentinian Climber Found High on Denali

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The National Park Service reports that the remains of a solo Argentinian climber have been found at a camp high on Denali.

According to a statement on Thursday, the body of 39-year-old Heraldo Javier Callupan was discovered shortly before midnight on Sunday, May 10th.  The Park Service says Callupan began climbing on May 1st, and was last seen leaving the camp at 14,200 feet to continue his climb on May 6th.  He was discovered four days later by another climbing team.  No other teams were reported in the area between May 6th and May 10th, and mountain patrols were not yet in place at the highest camp.

The National Park Service says Callupan was discovered lying in the snow, and had no apparent signs of trauma.  Thursday’s statement says he appears to have died from “unknown medical issues”.

Positive identification of Callupan’s remains took several days and coordination with the Argentine Consulate.  The Consulate notified his next of kin on Wednesday.

This is the only death reported thus far in the 2015 Denali climbing season.

U.S. Army ‘Sugar Bears’ Fly Supplies to Denali

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


On Monday, Army helicopters flew the last round of supplies to Denali base camp for the 2015 climbing season.  The unit, dubbed the “Sugar Bears” is well-known in Talkeetna, and has a history in Alaska of combining training and supply runs.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning went along on the flight and has this story:

There are signs all around of the imminent beginning of Denali climbing season.  The temperature is warming, the mosquitos are back, and the Sugar Bears are in town.  Sugar Bears is the nickname of the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment’s Bravo Company, based at Fort Wainwright.  If the name conjures up images of breakfast cereal, there’s a good reason. (more…)

NPS Staff Prepare for 2015 Climbing Season

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Last year, climbers attempting Denali had one of the lowest success rates in recent history.  Soon, hundreds more climbers will come to Talkeetna on their way to try to conquer North America’s highest mountain.  More than 700 mountaineers are already signed up for the 2015 climbing season, and that number will continue to grow.  Denali National Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri says that guided groups are not subject to the sixty day advance registration that most climbers are, so hundreds more are likely to register and attempt the climb.  Guiltier says she would not be surprised if the numbers are around last year’s mark of 1,200, but she does not think they will be significantly higher at this time.

Spring also means training for the mountaineering ranger staff.  Maureen Gualtieri says that rangers have completed rope, avalanche, and medical training, and that aviation training is currently underway.  As climbing season approaches, the National Park Service will receive logistical support from the military to set up the various camps on Denali.

In May, the KTNA news department will begin producing Denali Reports for the 2015 climbing season.

Lonnie Dupre returns safely from historic Denali climb

Friday, January 16, 2015

Climber Lonnie Dupre has returned to Talkeetna after becoming the first soloist to ever summit Denali in the month of January.  While in town, he stopped in to speak with KTNA’s Phillip Manning.

Lonnie Dupre’s historic climb began on December 18th, and he summited Denali on January 11th just after 2:00 pm.  This was Dupre’s fourth attempt at the unprecedented feat of being the first person to climb the mountain solo in January.  Veteran climber Willi Prittie says January is a tough month for climbing in Alaska, when the longest periods of daylight stretch just past six hours.

“You’ve got to be really on top of your self-care, your logistical stuff, and take advantage of every little bit of daylight that you have, and it isn’t any too much in something like January.” (more…)