U.S. Army gets thousands of pounds of supplies to Denali base camp

Inside the Gates
U.S. Army gets thousands of pounds of supplies to Denali Base Camp
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:28 PM AKDT
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TALKEETNA, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s hardiest mountain climbers can thank Army Alaska for helping them reach the nation’s highest peak.

On Monday, a U.S. Army team known as Bravo Company 1-52 — or simply the “Sugar Bears” — flew out two Chinook helicopters to the Kahiltna Glacier in the heart of Denali National Park to drop supplies for climbers at the Denali base camp.

It’s an annual operation that the military holds in partnership with the National Park Service.

“This is the second turn,” Capt. Jacob Norris said. “We’ve been up here with both of them twice, in order to get all the gear they needed for the climbing season.”

Norris’ team of 10 dropped off between 12,000 to 15,000 pounds of supplies, he estimates, during this year’s partnership.

“We always plan this day every spring, where they come help us, we get all the gear ready and bring it in,” said Chrissie Oken, a mountaineering ranger with Denali National Park. “We have so much gear ... if we were to do this on our own, it would take a ton of trips.”

The supplies will be used in climbers’ communication, kitchen and medical tents.

Norris said it’s a great way for them to give back, but it also provides them with critical training opportunities.

“It works really well for us, we get to use the beautiful state of Alaska, and the different environments we have, to be able to climb up this high, work on our landings, work on our high-altitude flying,” Norris said. “Our whole thing is we want to be able to go as far as we can and put the Chinook through its paces, and this is one of them. We can fly far, we can fly high, and we can move loads at both those extremes.”

The Army said they will keep a team on standby throughout the season to do any high-altitude rescues that may be needed.

Towards the end of summer, they will return to base camp to help pick up gear.