US Army Chinook helicopters help establish base camp on Denali


National Park Service soldiers and personnel unpack supplies from a Chinook helicopter at Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp in Denali National Park in 2016. The camp, at 7,200 feet, is the main staging area for climbers which head towards Denali and other major peaks in the region. (Photo: US Army)

Those wishing to climb North America’s highest peak got a head start this week from the US military.

Airmen from B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright flew two bus-sized CH-47F Chinook helicopters on Wednesday to continue the decades-old tradition of helping establish camp base on Denali, a 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) mountain located about 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage.

Thousands of pounds of equipment and supplies were delivered to the Kahiltna Glacier, base camp site below 7,200 feet (2,195 meters).

The National Park Service sets up this camp and another at the 14,000-foot (4,267-meter) level as climbers attempt to ascend Denali along the West Buttress route, the most popular for climbers. Last year, of the 1,007 climbers who attempted to summit Denali, 943 took the West Buttress route. Of these, 490 made it to the top, or 52%.

Soldiers from Fort Wainwright often return to Denali when helicopters are needed for high altitude rescues. This assistance is provided for a variety of reasons, including when the National Park Service helicopter is out of service or when there are more patients than the small Park Service helicopter can carry.

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