Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Art Davidson

Art Davidson was interviewed on July 6, 2000 by Dave Krupa on the deck of Art's beautiful and secluded home outside Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Art talks about his climbing and mountaineering career, especially in the Alaska Range. In particular, he provides an eloquent, if not harrowing, account of his most well known climb: the first winter ascent of Denali in 1967. Art also shares his experience of losing climbing partners and dealing with issues of survival, as well as his love of the mountains and his environmental ethic.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-23

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Jul 6, 2000
Narrator(s): Art Davidson
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
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Sections

1) Growing up Colorado

2) How he became interested in climbing and accidentally coming to Alaska

3) Climbing in the ranges around Anchorage and his first time on Denali

4) The Japanese climbing community and his mentor and friend, Shiro Nishimae

5) The importance of food while mountain climbing and the genesis of the Denali winter climb

6) Gathering people together to attempt a winter climb up Denali

7) Planning and preparing for the winter climb of Denali

8) The sense of unknown and discovery that pervaded climbing at the time

9) Packing for the expedition and misconceptions upon arrival about temperature and crevasses

10) The death of Jacques Batkin and the decision to keep climbing

11) Dave Johnston's love for the mountains and altitude considerations

12) The expedition climbing up from 14,000 feet

13) The winter view of Denali and individual emotions of team members

14) Dave Johnston, Ray Genet, and himself departing for the summit

15) Reaching the summit and descending in darkness

16) Deciding to sleep at 17,000 feet, and dealing with the wind

17) Being stranded at 17,000 feet by the storm

18) Ray Genet finding Dave Johnston's old, cached fuel that saved their lives

19) Considering descent once the wind stopped

20) Finding an old cache of food and descending Denali Pass

21) Shiro Nishimae explaining to him about the food

22) Descending to the 14,000 feet basin and seeing no sign of climbing partners

23) The rescue attempts

24) Being rescued by the helicopter

25) Shiro learning that his partners are alive, and the 30-year reunion of the climbers

26) Moving on after the climb and the emotions of sharing such an intense climb

27) Reflections on similarities between climbing and life

28) Going back to Denali with his son and writing a book

29) Looking back on certain elements of survival

30) His love of the mountains and living the lessons that he has learned

31) Mediums that he has been able to use to heal and share life experiences

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Transcript

Section 1: Colorado -- plains\ Steamboat Springs, CO\ fishing\ Alaska\ mountain climbing\ summer camp\ horseback riding|

Section 2: mountain climbing -- fear\ glissading\ adventure\ high school -- teacher\ Buckingham, Bill\ Sinclair, Pete\ mountains\ mountaineering -- skills\ climbing -- spirit\ Rocky Mountains\ West Coast Mountains\ mountaineering -- Golden Age\ Anchorage, AK\ Mt. Sanford\ Mt. Shasta\ Mt. Rainier\ rivers -- glacial|

Section 3: climbing -- Alaska\ Denali\ Chugach Range\ Talkeetna Range\ pickup -- Ford\ Nishimae, Shiro\ Osaka Alpine Club\ railroad\ Kahiltna Glacier\ South Face\ routes -- unclimbed\ Southwest Rib|

Section 4: climbing community -- Japanese\ history -- changes\ Japanese -- war\ relationships -- lifelong\ route -- South Face\ avalanche\ Denali\ ice fall\ seracs\ crevasses\ routes -- dead end\ Nishimae, Shiro -- teacher\ mountaineering -- life|

Section 5: Denali climb -- illness\ mountains -- food\ cornices\ avalanches\ Nishimae, Shiro\ winter climbing\ Osaka Alpine Club\ climbers -- experienced|

Section 6: Johnston, Dave\ Blomberg, Gregg\ equipment -- mountaineering\ Colorado Mountain Industries\ Wichman, George\ Edwards, John\ New Zealand\ Nishimae, Shiro\ Japanese\ Genet, Ray\ Batkin, Jacques\ Terray, Lionel\ Mt. Huntington -- first ascent\ Switzerland\ mountaineering -- Alaska\ glaciers\ calisthenics|

Section 7: Osaka Alpine Club\ Denali -- summer climb\ winter climb -- preparation\ safety\ food\ winter climb -- February\ guide books\ winter climbing -- mystery\ climbers -- qualified|

Section 8: glaciers\ challenge\ tragedy\ mountains -- unclimbed\ Kichatna Mountains\ Cathedral Spires\ Yosemite National Park\ rescue groups\ safety nets\ gear -- cold weather\ Blomberg, Gregg\ tents\ pants -- down\ parkas -- down\ bunny boots\ wool|

Section 9: Johnston, Dave\ route\ Anchorage, AK\ expedition -- packing\ Sheldon, Don\ Kahiltna Glacier\ temperature -- inversion\ crevasses -- Kahiltna\ route -- glacier\ roped\ snow bridge|

Section 10: stakes -- marking\ Batkin, Jacques\ tents\ crevasses\ communication -- feelings\ Blomberg, Gregg\ leader -- responsibility\ glacier -- roped\ cold -- invigorating\ Johnston, Dave|

Section 11: Johnston, Dave\ mountaineers -- limelight\ companionship\ altitude awareness\ climbing -- expedition\ climbing -- speed\ camps -- stocked\ acclimatizing|

Section 12: route -- West Buttress\ problems -- technical\ crevasses -- disguised\ temperature -- cold\ moisture\ safety net\ fixed lines\ cooking\ igloos\ snow cave\ tents|

Section 13: Kahiltna Glacier\ Denali -- view\ winter -- beauty\ Anchorage -- daily lives\ death -- meaning\ challenge\ book|

Section 14: summit -- attempt\ storm -- approaching\ high camp -- 17,000'\ snow cave\ Johnston, Dave\ Genet, Ray\ Nishimae, Shiro\ Blomberg, Gregg\ Edwards, John\ Wichman, George\ Denali Pass \ sleeping bags\ parachute\ stove\ food\ cache\ altitude\ atmosphere -- earth\ air -- thin|

Section 15: altitude -- oxygen\ summit -- decision\ climbing -- darkness\ summit ridge\ temperature -- cold\ Anchorage, AK\ willow wands\ head lamps\ South Face\ crampons|

Section 16: summit -- descending\ Denali Pass\ Johnston, Dave\ sleeping bags\ wind\ hands -- freeze-dried\ altitude\ snow cave\ gravity shift\ ice axe|

Section 17: Denali Pass -- wind\ altitude -- mind\ snow cave\ ice\ food -- rationing\ fuel\ summit\ storm -- intense\ Blomberg, Gregg\ Wichman, George\ Edwards, John\ diary\ crevasses|

Section 18: Johnston, Dave\ Genet, Ray\ death\ fuel\ water\ Denali Pass -- cache\ sleeping bags -- down\ hypothermia\ snow cave|

Section 19: wind\ mind -- clarity\ survival -- together\ feet -- swollen\ whiteout\ Denali Pass\ crevasses|

Section 20: tarp -- canvas\ ice ax\ Nishimae, Shiro\ food\ bodies -- starved\ crampons\ Denali Pass -- descent|

Section 21: food\ Nishimae, Shiro\ shrine -- offering\ food -- spirit\ bomber -- WW2\ Hudson, Jay\ Hudson, Cliff|

Section 22: Denali Pass\ feet -- frozen\ ridge -- 16,000'\ 14,000' basin\ tent\ igloo\ whiteout\ willow wands\ Johnston, Dave\ planes\ military\ jets|

Section 23: Genet, Ray\ Johnston, Dave\ Arizona\ planes\ food\ black box\ radio\ plateau -- 14,000'\ base camp\ Windy Corner \ climbers -- Seattle\ frostbite\ rescue\ storm|

Section 24: plane\ storm\ helicopter\ ice\ rope\ Blomberg, Gregg\ Edwards, John\ rescue\ frostbite\ illness\ Kahiltna Glacier\ basecamp\ Wichman, George\ Nishimae, Shiro\ igloo|

Section 25: igloo\ Nishimae, Shiro\ Talkeetna, AK\ weather\ mountain\ experiences -- emotions\ Fairbanks, AK\ Blomberg, Gregg\ frostbite\ reunion\ Edwards, John|

Section 26: expedition\ marriage\ baby\ climbing -- extreme\ Genet, Ray\ Denali -- guide\ Johnston, Dave\ Alaska Range\ winter climb -- Denali\ climbing -- bond\ experience -- near death\ adventure\ challenges|

Section 27: life -- simplicity\ children\ St. Exupery -- writer\ people -- adventuresome\ boundaries\ climbers -- Russian\ Tortestoft, Art\ Wickersham Wall\ South Face\ climbs -- technical\ weather -- mysteries|

Section 28: West Buttress\ climbing -- son\ Alaska\ Denali\ hitchhike\ outdoors\ self-reliant\ mountaineers\ Native cultures\ book -- "Minus 148 Degrees"\ writing -- challenge\ Genet, Ray\ snow cave|

Section 29: survival -- selfishness\ booties -- down\ survival -- perspective\ writing -- stories\ Nishimae, Shiro\ Japan\ book -- Shiro Nishimae|

Section 30: Denali -- climb\ memories\ friendship -- bond\ Denali -- scientific group\ Denali -- beauty\ summit\ glaciers\ light -- changes\ life -- enthusiasm\ climbing -- life lessons|

Section 31: writing -- projects\ books -- cultures\ book -- Endangered Peoples\ book -- Exxon Valdez Oil Spill\ book -- Circle of Life\ book -- Rites of Passage\ Nishimae, Shiro -- death\ poetry|