KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Washington climber dies in fall during early season Denali climb

Friday, May 9, 2014
Sylvia Montag and Mike Fuchs in Talkeetna around April 14, 2014

Sylvia Montag and Mike Fuchs in Talkeetna before their expedition. Photo by Mike Fuchs.

Just days into climbing season, a mountaineer has died in an an accident high on Denali.  Sylvia Montag, 39, of Tacoma Washington, became separated from her climbing partner around May 5th.  Montag and her partner, Mike Fuchs, 34, of Berlin, Germany, were climbing near Denali Pass on May 3rd at just over 18,000 feet when the weather forced them to turn back from the summit and set up camp to shelter from the high winds.  After waiting out the weather for two days, Montag and Fuchs began their descent down the West Buttress of Denali.

At 11:00 am on Monday, the National Park Service says that Fuchs reported via satellite phone that he and Montag had become separated and both had limited supplies.  Fuchs had taken shelter in a storage locker kept at High Camp, around 17,200 feet.  On Tuesday, May 6th, Fuchs called the National Park Service again and requested rescue.  He still had not heard from Montag.

High winds and poor visibility prevented the Park Service from launching its rescue helicopter on Tuesday.  Because Montag and Fuchs were climbing very early in the season, mountaineering rangers were not yet in position to help on the ground, either.  On Wednesday morning, the weather cleared enough for the rescue helicopter to launch.  Montag’s remains were spotted nearly 1,000 feet below Denali Pass.  Mountaineering rangers believe she fell while descending from the pass sometime on May 5th.  Fuchs was spotted near his camp at 17,200 feet and airlifted to base camp.  After a medical assessment, he was flown to the Talkeetna State Airport and released.

Denali base camp to be set up Thursday

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


For a few months each year, one of the busiest “airports” in Alaska isn’t technically an airport at all.  It’s Denali base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier.  The vast majority of climbers fly in from Talkeetna to the camp at just over 7,000 feet to start their trek.  On arrival, climbers are met by base camp manager Lisa Roderick.  She says her job on the mountain involves wearing multiple hats.  One of her regular tasks is calling the air services in town with current weather conditions in the Alaska Range.

“They love having a person up there that can tell them what the ever-changing conditions are doing.  As climbers fly in, I help unload the planes and just facilitate getting the planes moving and keeping things running smooth.  As the climbers are done climbing the mountain, I call there air service and get their flight out…” (more…)

Helicopter crew preps Park Service camps on Denali

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


As climbing season approaches, it means a logistical challenge for everyone involved,  including the National Park Service.   Mountaineering Rangers see to the safety of climbers throughout the season as well as ensuring that regulations are followed.  In order to do that, they need semi-permanent camps with supplies and shelter.  Many times, they are assisted by the Alaska Air National Guard, but this year is a bit different, as Ranger Joe Reichert explains.

“Because the military has been deployed, the big two-rotor aircraft you’ve seen over the past few years, the Chinooks, that typically help us out, weren’t able to this year, so we’ve been flying our loads in with this helicopter, the A-Star B3.” (more…)

Su-Valley Voice April 23rd, 2014: Denali Mountaineering

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


This week on Su-Valley voice, host Phillip Manning sat down with John Leonard, South District Ranger for Denali National Park, and Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger for Denali National Park to discuss all things Denali.  Su-Valley Voice airs live every-other Wednesday at 10:00 am.  On May 7th, Phillip will be discussing borough issues with Assembly Member Vern Halter.

As spring arrives, mountaineering season ramps up

Friday, April 4, 2014

The beginning of April means the National Park Service, climbing guides, and air services are ramping up for the beginning of Denali climbing season.  A few climbers have already ventured into the range, and this year looks to be another busy one on North America’s tallest peak.

On Thursday, the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station reported that 772 climbers have registered to climb thus far.  According to Maureen Gualtieri, spokeswoman for the Park, that number is perhaps slightly above average, but definitely in the normal range.  She says that the Park Service is expecting around 1,200 climbers to make the attempt to summit Denali this year, which would be slightly higher than the 1,151 that attempted the climb last year. (more…)

Reactions to Denali’s Elevation Adjustment

Thursday, September 12, 2013


On Wednesday, Lieutenant-Governor Mead Treadwell announced that Denali is eighty-three feet shorter than previously believed.  That means that instead of 20,320 feet, the mountain now measures in at 20,237 feet.  It’s not in any danger of losing its place as North America’s tallest peak, but there could still be some impact from the change.  In Talkeetna, Denali is big business.  Companies offer tours from the air, water, and land that promise visitors a chance at seeing the mountain that dominates the skyline.  In addition, all of the climbers who attempt to summit Denali come through Talkeetna to register with the National Park Service.  Any change involving the mountain is bound to have ripples in the community. (more…)

Centennial Climbers Return to Talkeetna

Friday, July 5, 2013

Full audio: 20130705CentennialClimb


The Centennial Denali expedition arrived in Talkeetna late on July 3rd after retracing their ancestors’ steps all the way to the top of North America.  On June 28th, five men, most with direct family ties to the original 1913 summit team, made the final ascent from the Harper Glacier along with four guides from Alaska Mountaineering School.  They spent half an hour on the highest spot on the continent, then began the long trek down.

Centennial Team Summits Denali

Monday, July 1, 2013

History was repeated last week when the Centennial Denali expedition reached the summit of North America’s highest peak.  The summit team is made up of five men representing the first party to reach the summit of Denali as well as four guides from Alaska Mountaineering School.

Denali Legislation Advances in U.S. Senate

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Full Audio: 20130620MurkowskiDenali

On June 19th, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the Denali National Park Improvement Act sponsored by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and co-sponsored by Alaska Senator Mark Begich.  The legislation changes the name of the Talkeetna Ranger Station to the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station, in honor of  the first man to stand on the summit of Denali.  I spoke with  Senator Murkowski on the significance of naming the Ranger Station after Harper.