Denali Base camp gets lift from Army Chinook Helicopters


Aviators from the U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force based out of Fort Wainwright have been assisting the National Park Service for the last week by flying in equipment and supplies to set up base camps for the Mount McKinley climbing season. KTNA’s Lorien Nettleton has more:

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Using large twin-rotor Chinook helicopters, the Aviators from Company C, 1st battalion, 52nd Aviation regiment are using the opportunity to get some high-altitude training, while at the same time giving the National Park Service a lift for supplies needed throughout the climbing season. Mountain Ranger Joe Reichert says the cooperation between the Army and the Park service has been going on for as long as he’s been involved with the Denali climbing.

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Using a net, about 6,000 pounds was carried in a sling-load by one chinook up to the 7-thousand foot high Kahiltna Base camp, where the climbers will arrive by air taxi throughout the season. From there, the majority of the Park Service’s supplies will be shuttled higher up the mountain, to the camp at 14-thousand feet, where The Park Service maintains a constant presence throughout the climbing season. Every year they bring a total of nearly 14-thousand pounds, with enough food fuel and supplies for 10 people for about 8 weeks.

Chief Warrant Officer Three Malcom Jennings says the training the Chinook crews get during their Alaska Range exercises can put them in new conditions that they don’t normally fly in.

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The high elevations of the Alaska range present a variety of unique conditions for the aviators to hone their skills, including gear such as oxygen for use at altitude, and for pilots like Jennings to push their chinooks to the edge of their capability.

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The trip to 14-000 camp was scrapped due to weather, so the Park Service’s contracted Eurostar Helicopter will shuttle loads from the Kahiltna Base Camp higher up the mountain.

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