Paul Denkewalter was interviewed by Dave Krupa on July 7, 2000, at the Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking store in Anchorage, Alaska. Paul is founder and owner of the outdoor and climbing gear outlet, as well as an accomplished mountaineer with decades of climbing experience in Alaska. Paul's intensity and grace shows through in this interview as he shares stories of climbing some of the most challenging routes in Alaska in the company of other eminent Alaska mountaineers. He gives us an insider's view of climbers, group dynamics, and the changes in mountaineering technology that have helped climbers to reach higher and go farther. Though Paul no longer climbs, he remains dedicated to the spirit of exploration out of doors, and his business helps outfit others as they pursue their own outdoor challenges.





Paul Denkewalter talks with Dave Krupa in Anchorage, AK on July 6, 2000.  Denali National Park Jukebox Series.


1) Background information and how he and his family ended up in Alaska.

parents -- Chicago\ New Jersey\ high school -- New York\ Boston College\ backcountry travel -- Vermont\ climbing -- introduction\ Mt. Everest -- British expedition\ Grand Teton\ sport rappelling\ Vermont -- Mt. Washington\ Africa -- Kilimanjaro\ Africa -- Mt. Kenya\ Denali\ climbers -- French\ Soudain, Sylvan\ climbers -- Arizona\ climbers -- Spaniards\ climbers -- Japanese\ summit -- Denali\ law school\ moving -- Alaska\ Talkeetna -- bush pilots


2) Mood, character, and circumstances of his first Denali trip with his father.

family -- climbing\ Glenn Exum's Mountaineering School\ rappelling\ peak bagging\ New Hampshire -- Presidential Range\ New York\ Green Mountains\ Wyoming -- Teton's\ Mountain Travel -- San Francisco\ Blanchard, Smoke\ glacier\ West Buttress\ Anchorage\ Alps\ Kahiltna Glacier\ basecamp -- character\ Sheldon, Don\ fixed lines


3) Early concessionaires and the style and equipment used.

guiding concessions -- official\ Genet, Ray\ mountain travel -- permit\ Bocarde, Gary -- mountain trip\ adventure travel\ crampons --10 point\ wool\ frame pack -- camp trails\ Talkeetna\ garbage cans -- stabilize\ sleds\ snowshoes -- wood\ boots -- [Lowett Triplek]\ overboots -- uninsulated\ tents -- pyramid\ sleeping bags -- down\ stoves -- Optimus 3B


4) His awe of Denali and the ease of the first trip.

food -- freeze-dried\ coffee\ snowfields\ glaciers\ fear\ crevasses\ Kahiltna Glacier\ Blanchard, Smoke\ climbers\ security -- ignorance\ altitude sickness\ climbing speed


5) Learning about physiological conditions at high altitude and his first job in Alaska.

Hackett, Peter -- high altitude physiology\ dehydration\ digestion -- high altitude\ Blanchard, Smoke\ Europeans\ Boston\ law school\ Alaska\ Wasilla -- [Teelan's Store]\ pipeline\ Daily News -- paper delivery


6) Starting a climbing store and getting into winter climbing with his friends.

climbing gear -- store\ climbing -- peaks\ Chugach\ Kenai\ Redmond, Earl -- Fairbanks\ winter climbing\ bivouac\ Bocarde, Gary -- guiding business\ West Buttress\ Mt. Hunter\ Hudson, Cliff\ Tejas, Vern\ Parker, Nick\ frostbite\ dehydration\ route -- Lowe-Kennedy\ approach\ Kahiltna Glacier


7) Climbing Mt. Hunter in the winter using the Lowe-Kennedy route and rudimentary equipment.

report -- Lowe-Kennedy\ rock ledge -- bivouac\ boots -- plastic\ randonée boots -- Messner\ overboots -- neoprene\ Okonek, Brian\ Mt. Deborah\ socks -- neoprene\ crampons -- 12 point\ ice axe\ hammer\ ice -- hard\ ice -- pressure cracks\ Bocarde, Gary\ Tejas, Vern\ top rope


8) Summiting Mt. Hunter in the winter.

bivouac\ pickets\ temperature -- cold\ weather -- good\ Mushroom Bridge\ Porter, Charlie\ The Shield -- first ascent\ Moose's Tooth


9) Winter attempt to climb the Moose's Tooth to the West Summit in very cold conditions.

winter climbing -- Chugach\ winter climbing -- Moose's Tooth\ Porter, Charlie\ Bocarde, Gary\ Talkeetna, AK\ Ruth Glacier\ West Summit\ belaying -- freezing\ weather -- cold\ Buckskin Glacier\ cornice -- fall


10) Digging a tunnel in the ridge for protection and learning to deal with winter climbing conditions.

ridge\ tunnel\ West Summit\ basecamp\ temperature -- cold\ tent -- ripped\ winter climbing -- different\ routes -- easier\ food -- calories\ hydration\ feet -- protection\ snow caves\ igloo


11) His experience with Bunny Boots and meeting Reinhold Messner.

tents -- useless\ Mt. Hunter\ Johnston, Dave\ bunny boots\ Okonek, Brian\ Moose's Tooth\ Messner, Reinhold\ Porter, Charlie\ Cassin -- solo ascent\ boots -- [Glibier]\ Italy -- [Sudrow]\ Nagna Parbat


12) His experiences with frostbite, group dynamics, and decision making.

frostbite -- toes\ bivouac\ boots -- frozen\ Mushroom Ridge\ rappel\ Tejas, Vern\ Bocarde, Gary\ bunny boots\ Mills, Dr.\ Moose's Tooth\ wind tunnel\ hypothermia


13) Climbing with less experienced climbers and coordinating winter climbs.

climbing partners\ preparation -- mental\ carbiners\ figure eights\ mistakes -- cold weather\ moon cycle -- coordination\ Alaska -- Southcentral\ conditions -- monthly\ winter -- daylight\ winter climb\ Redmond, Earl\ Mt. Drummond


14) His preference for down over synthetic materials.

sleeping bag -- down\ sea kayaking\ Bocarde, Gary\ sleeping bag -- polarguard\ pack -- internal frame\ sleeping bag -- compressibility\ Gore-Tex -- icing\ Ruth Glacier\ bivouac\ pants -- down\ jacket -- down\ bivouac sac -- heat loss


15) The most important component of climbing relationships is trust.

climbing teams -- trust\ Bocarde, Gary\ success -- blinded\ relationships -- development\ Tejas, Vern\ route -- Lowe-Kennedy\ belaying\ climbing partners -- personality\ Louis, Ned


16) The use of an individual's ability and a discouraging attempt of Mt. Huntington.

trust\ ability\ climbing group -- size\ Mt. Huntington\ snow conditions\ Parker, Nick\ avalanche -- courses\ Tokositna Glacier\ climbs -- discouraging\ basecamp\ Bocarde, Gary\ crevasses


17) Great climbs in Alaska other than Denali.

Mt. Bona -- Wrangell Mountains\ snow caves\ igloo\ Mt. Huntington -- north\ alpine climbing\ Denali\ Mt. Foraker\ Mt. Hunter\ Little Switzerland\ Covington, Michael\ Kahiltna\ Ruth Glacier -- peaks\ Elevator Shaft -- Mt. Johnson\ picket\ rescue\ summit ridge\ Parker, Nick


18) The rock condition on the Ruth Glacier and Little Switzerland.

Mt. Johnson\ Ruth glacier\ rock -- condition\ Ruth glacier -- peaks\ Stump, Mugs\ Little Switzerland\ Kahiltna Glacier\ cracks -- debris\ Bocarde, Gary\ Yosemite National Park\ Alaska Range\ alpine climbing -- classes


19) The end of his climbing career and the improvement in tools for ice climbing.

climbing -- termination\ winter climbs\ summer climbs\ alpine climbs\ rock -- Chugach Mountains\ rock -- Talkeetna, AK\ peak bagging\ crampons -- 12 point\ ice climbing\ ice tools\ ropes\ harnesses\ ice screws\ ice -- chandeliered\ Valdez, AK\ camming device\ Cathedral Spire


20) Necessity facilitating new inventions in gear and climbers' dependability on equipment.

gear -- changes\ crampons -- 12 point\ Scotts\ tools -- pterodactyls\ Chouinard, Yvon\ invention -- necessity\ glacier\ axe\ Denali-itis\ Messner, Reinhold\ equipment -- dependability


21) His philosophy of looking to the examples of pure climbers and explorers.

equipment -- failure\ explorers -- Antarctic\ Lewis and Clark -- preparation\ mountaineers -- seasoned\ climbing -- drugs\ climbing -- crutches\ pure climbing -- Messner


22) The different reasons that people are involved in climbing.

notoriety -- drive\ paid -- firms\ gear -- changes\ long underwear -- synthetic\ REI\ physiology -- knowledge\ climbers -- Alaska\ checklisters


23) People's excitement for climbing and the meaninglessness of first ascents.

skis -- cross-country\ sea kayaking\ route -- Lowe-Kennedy\ first ascents -- motivation\ Chugach Mountains\ Cathedral Spires\ Kahiltna Glacier\ Little Switzerland\ Wrangell Mountains


24) The physical and emotional risks of climbing.

Moose's Tooth\ emotions -- anger\ Rooster's Comb -- avalanche\ climbing community\ risks -- minimizing\ sports -- unforgiving\ Stump, Mugs\ ice bridge


25) Dealing with death in the climbing community of Anchorage.

[Polki], Dave -- brother\ Carpathian\ Portage Glacier\ mountaineer\ Mt. Bona\ sleeping bag -- broken\ death\ Terray, Lionel\ Stumps, Mugs\ Donne, John\ death -- rebound\ Anchorage, AK\ climbers -- new blood


26) People's true motivations behind backcountry travel, and the use of long distance communication equipment.

death -- risk\ climbing -- memories\ Bradford, Jeff\ Chugach Mountains\ dying -- innocuous\ conditions\ flying\ fishing\ Alaska -- remoteness\ radios\ cell phones


27) The impact of the possibility of rescue on the sport of climbing.

rescue -- possibility\ Yosemite National Park\ Mallory, George\ Irvine, Andrew\ experiences -- wild\ mistakes\ basecamp\ climbing -- cautious\ rescues -- Park Service\ climbing -- prostituting\ climbing -- cleansing


28) Living in Alaska.

Brooks Range\ bears\ climbing -- ability\ rescues -- GPS\ sports -- changing\ Alaska\ Portage Glacier\ eagles\ moose\ salmon\ Hatcher Pass\ travel