One can hardly visit Alaska and miss her. Denali, the High One, rising 20, 320 feet above sea level and dwarfing everything in her shadow. A symbol of our state’s grandeur and mystery, Denali (or Mount McKinley, as the peak is formally known) is Alaska to many people, and whether you soar above icy surfaces, climb steep flanks, or merely savor the view, you can’t resist her.
Considered in some climbing circles to be the toughest in North America, a summit push to Denali’s High Camp means months, sometimes even years, of careful schooling, preparation, and sheer grit. Reaching the top is momentous, precious even, and climbers who do summit know the feeling of digging deep and coming out on the side of sunshine. Even those who don’t summit know this feeling, for Denali, while she is beautiful, is also quite fickle, throwing aside willing participants at her whim. Digging deep also means mining for the best decision leading to the best outcome, summit be damned if necessary, and the life lessons are such that anyone who experiences moments on this freezing, windy, and often-treacherous mountainside will surely succeed, everafter.
So now we meet Expedition Denali, the first group of African-American climbers to ever attempt a summit push, together. Sponsored and trained by National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and supported by a host of well-known outdoor corporations and organizations, the group is nearing their moment of truth, coming upon the last 10,000 steps to history.
They’re tough, they’re smart, they’re already planted firmly in the books, and Anchorage families can now be a witness to their success, whatever the outcome.
On Friday, June 28, from 1-4 p.m. at the University of Alaska Anchorage, anyone interested in helping to figuratively boost Expedition Denali along their final 5-mile stretch of ultimate awesomeness can join AKontheGO, REI, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, Get Outdoors Alaska, NOLS, Campfire, and the Anchorage Park Foundation, among other fabulous sponsors, for an afternoon of fun, education, and outdoor time.
From 1-3 p.m., kids and grownups can wander the marked trails around UAA, University Lake, and Goose Lake on a 10,000-step adventure, visiting mock mountaineering camps and earning stamps along the way. At the “summit” along University Lake, “climbers” will be celebrated and rewarded before heading back down the mountain and toward the Student Union Building at UAA.
From 3-4, visitors will be treated to Denali slide shows, visits from rangers and climbers, and an on-mountain opportunity to talk with Expedition Denali team members as they continue their push toward the summit. This has never been attempted before, and kids who attend will surely be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Bring sunscreen and bug spray, a water bottle, stroller for little ones, and a healthy and hearty appreciation for these men and women who are undertaking such an ambitious project.
The event and parking at UAA are both FREE. All ages and stages are welcome, and groups are surely encouraged to attend with an adult to supervise.
The climb’s mission? “Inspiring diversity in the outdoors.” How much do we love that?
Oh, so much.