Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Roger Robinson

Roger Robinson was interviewed on April 27, 2000 by Dave Krupa at the National Park Service Ranger Station in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, Roger talks about being a mountaineering ranger at Denali National Park, interacting with climbers, working to establish clean camping regulations on the mountain, and being involved with search and rescue operations. Roger's humility and warmth of character make this interview one of the most engaging accounts in the Denali Mountaineering Project Jukebox collection.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-02

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Apr 27, 2000
Narrator(s): Roger Robinson
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Background information and how Roger got into climbing

2) Becoming very involved in climbing and mountaineering

3) Continuation of discussion about Mt. Logan climb, and cleanup climb on Denali

4) First trip to Alaska and climbs the following summer (1976)

5) Working on the clean-up crew in 1976 to alleviate the garbage problem as a result of the increasing number of climbers on Denali

6) Four months of total climbing\bagging peaks in the "Little Switzerland" area, and trading services for airfare

7) The architects of local buildings and environmental problems on the mountain

8) Plans for environmental climbs on Denali, and his decision to move to Alaska

9) Finishing college, and building his cabin in Alaska

10) Looking for work in Alaska and finally getting the ranger job at Denali National Park

11) His first duties working for the National Park Service and the new office

12) The duties his job expected of him

13) The similarities and differences between the Park Service of 1980 and the Park Service of 2000

14) How the profile of the typical Denali climber has changed in 20 years

15) More on the typical climber and qualities in people

16) His personal experiences climbing in the mountains

17) How to train for climbing Denali and unique rescues

18) The Park Service realizing that they need to do more in the way of educating the public

19) Significant recoveries affecting people emotionally and making people re-evaluate the current system

20) The people involved in search and rescue

21) How rescues are funded and incidents involving volunteers

22) Serious considerations on restructuring rescues

23) Rescuers hindered by being government employees and non-emergency rescues

24) Rationalizing the relationship between the wilderness ethic and people's preconceived perception of rescue as a way out

25) Some particularly harrowing experiences on the mountain

26) Dealing with large groups of people stranded at High Camp

27) The evacuation of the distressed group from High Camp

28) The frozen Russian climber

29) Attempting to rescue Victor Pomerosiff, and the silent avalanche

30) Continuation of the discussion about the rescue of Victor Pomerosiff

31) The weather clearing allowing people to move in and out of camp, and Roger's health

32) How Roger sees his future in the park

33) The seasonal lifestyle and Roger's other interests

34) Future plans

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Oregon\ Corvallis, OR.\ Willamette Valley\ Alaska -- move\ Oregon State University\ Boy Scouts\ climbing -- introduction\ family -- outdoor oriented\ Boy Scouts -- climbing\ rappel\ climbing -- volcanoes\ vehicle -- '57 Ford\ Cascade Mountains\ Eugene, OR.\ climbing -- rock\ basalt columns\ Smith Rocks\ Mt. Hood|

Section 2: camping -- winter\ skiing -- cross-country\ explorer post\ Boy Scouts\ Oregon State University -- outdoors program\ climbing store -- employment\ climbers -- network\ gear -- inexpensive\ climbing -- trips\ University of Oregon -- Eugene, OR.\ Mt. Logan\ Yukon\ "Shakedown" Trip\ Mt. Logan -- planning\ Mt. Logan -- approach\ Alpenstein, Jeff\ Denali\ Mt. Logan -- base\ airlift -- supplies\ Mt. Logan -- East Ridge|

Section 3: Mt. Logan -- climb\ Mt. Logan -- similarity to Denali\ Mt. Logan -- reconnaissance\ arctic -- mountaineering\ Alcan Highway\ Denali\ Oregon State University\ University of Oregon\ climb -- clean up\ Denali -- number of climbers\ routes -- crowded\ circumnavigation -- upper\ South Buttress -- Ramp Route\ Thayer Basin\ Thayer Ridge\ Harper Glacier\ West Buttress\ North Peak\ Denali -- summit|

Section 4: Denali -- first climb\ Alaska -- first trip\ Alaska -- wilderness\ climb -- clean-up\ Denali\ climbing -- active\ Alaska Range\ Mt. Huntington -- climb\ French Ridge\ skiing\ Mt. Huntington\ Denali -- clean-up\ West Buttress|

Section 5: accidents -- '76 season\ Denali -- number of climbers\ Bicentennial Year\ Denali -- garbage problem\ latrines -- pit\ garbage -- removal\ National Park Service -- garbage policy\ accidents -- '92 season\ Gerhard, Bob\ Mt. Rainier\ Mt. Foraker\ Okonek, Brian\ Sultana Route\ avalanche conditions\ Kahiltna Glacier\ Sheldon, Don\ Little Switzerland|

Section 6: Mt. Foraker\ Okonek, Brian\ Sultana Route\ avalanche conditions\ Kahiltna Glacier\ Sheldon, Don\ Little Switzerland\ climbing\ peaks -- first ascents\ American Alpine Club -- grant\ Mt. Huntington\ Sharp, Jim\ Talkeetna Air Service\ Sheldon, Roberta\ college\ office -- plans\ airport\ Talkeetna Air Taxi|

Section 7: Colorado\ architect\ Ritchie, Brad\ college\ clean-up\ park service\ rangers\ mountains\ problems -- environmental\ legislature\ rescues\ climbers\ survey -- environmental\ mountain -- crowding\ garbage\ marriage|

Section 8: climbs -- environmental\ Mt. Foraker\ Denali -- clean-up\ Bunny boots\ crampons\ climbing -- spring\ Okonek, Brian\ Swan Lake\ Geeting, Doug\ log cabin\ lifestyle -- remote\ building -- learning\ marriage\ land parcels|

Section 9: Oregon State University\ graduation\ resource recreation management\ Alaska -- live\ architect\ University of Oregon\ Shelby, Bo\ cabin -- building\ break-up\ hauling -- supplies\ family -- help|

Section 10: ranger\ Bureau of Land Management -- fire fighting\ Okonek, Brian\ National Park Service\ logging\ hauling -- supplies\ cabin -- building\ view -- Alaska Range\ Antarctica\ Oregon\ Robinson -- father\ telephone company\ Gerhard, Bob\ ranger -- mountaineering tech\ highway -- AlCan\ wood stoves\ cabin\ Denali -- work|

Section 11: tents -- North Face\ tents -- seam sealing\ gear -- archaic\ ropes\ ice axes\ carabiners\ rescues\ Talkeetna, AK\ ANILCA\ park service -- bad reputation\ fire station\ Sharp, Jim\ airport -- hangar\ railroad -- federal\ land -- lease\ Fairbanks, AK -- trailer|

Section 12: National Park Service -- trailer\ climbers -- check-in\ ranger\ Buchanan, Dave\ Buchanan, Doug -- Fairbanks\ climbing group -- contact\ garbage -- packed off\ outhouse -- 7,000 ft\ pit toilets\ garbage -- burning\ rescues -- air service\ communication -- CB radio\ helicopter -- Army\ climbing teams\ patrols -- ten day\ volunteers\ climbing friends|

Section 13: National Park Service -- change\ problems -- formula\ funding\ Talkeetna, AK -- staffing\ pre-registration\ climbing season\ park service -- protocol\ basecamp\ basecamp -- Randall, Francis\ basecamp -- Duquette, Annie\ pilots\ climbers\ 14 Camp|

Section 14: younger people -- less\ money\ college age\ adventure travel\ guided -- money\ gear -- expensive\ experience\ guide books\ Snyder, Howard -- "The Hall of the Mountain King"\ Wilcox, Joe -- "White Winds"\ Davidson, Art -- "Minus 148"\ Waterman, John -- "Surviving Denali"\ video -- Denali|

Section 15: video\ climber -- typical\ people -- adventuresome\ challenge -- desire\ preparation\ training\ igloo\ age -- average\ independent thinkers\ team effort\ rescue -- crevasse\ survival -- individual|

Section 16: decision making\ mistakes -- compounded\ mistakes -- fatal\ experience\ preparation\ lower mountain -- training\ cold\ Mt. Logan -- hitting the wall\ older -- acclimatize easier\ climbers -- pacing\ young people -- mistakes|

Section 17: cold\ wind\ altitude\ training -- conditions\ Mt. Rainier -- winter\ Denali -- summer\ crevasses\ snow\ difficulties -- above 14,000'\ expedition -- Wilcox\ Search and Rescue\ rescue -- Day, John\ National Park Service|

Section 18: Park Service\ climbers -- information\ climbing group -- declining\ rescue -- Day, John\ climbers -- experienced\ climbers -- inexperienced\ high camp\ preparation\ mountaineering\ Denali -- survival\ Park Service -- publications\ education|

Section 19: National Park Service -- operating system\ radios\ accidents\ Denali\ Mt. Foraker\ rescue -- high altitude\ Anchorage\ Hall, George -- Park superintendent\ body recovery|

Section 20: National Park Service\ rescues\ helicopter -- contract\ military -- HART (high altitude rescue team)\ helicopter -- Chinook\ camps -- pre-position\ helicopter -- shuttle gear\ volunteers -- camp help\ rescue training\ rescue business -- questions\ expectations|

Section 21: funding -- tax payers\ climbers -- fees\ Mt. Foraker\ Denali\ patrol -- volunteers\ volunteers -- deaths\ Korean -- Kim, Kee-Won\ volunteer\ Vanderbeek, Mike\ rescue business|

Section 22: rescue team -- professional\ Yosemite\ park service -- administrative\ rescue -- training\ National Park Service -- hiring\ gear\ volunteers\ rescuers -- mountain knowledge\ teamwork\ rescue -- extent\ locations -- dangerous (extremes)\ population -- increase|

Section 23: rescues -- over the line\ helicopter\ catastrophe\ rescues -- turning point\ environmental concerns\ resource management\ National Park Service -- park employees\ government -- archaic\ government employees -- red tape\ cell phones\ CB radios\ climbers -- screening|

Section 24: ability -- perception\ 14,000' camp\ Hackett, Peter -- research\ Japanese -- medical camp\ helicopter\ rescues\ 14,000' camp -- downscale\ death\ wilderness ethic|

Section 25: high camp\ patrol\ storm\ climbing group -- German\ ice cave\ climbing group -- missing\ blizzard\ frostbite\ wind -- howling\ bivy\ broken back -- lower|

Section 26: tents\ poles -- tent\ wind\ guided party -- German\ guided party -- American\ Parker, Nick\ high camp\ tents -- shredded\ snow cave -- expanding\ igloo|

Section 27: Parker, Nick\ tents -- blown away\ snow cave\ Hackett, Peter\ climbers -- German\ CB radio\ wind -- danger\ weather -- break\ helicopter -- Army Chinook\ camp -- evacuation\ frostbite\ injuries -- broken back\ doctor -- military\ bivy\ climber -- solo\ hands -- frozen\ problems -- underestimate conditions\ preparation -- lack of|

Section 28: snow cave\ storm\ climber -- Russian\ Pomerosiff, Victor -- nuclear physicist\ The Pamirs\ Bush, George President\ Miller, Daryl\ gear -- lack of\ climbers -- unprepared\ partner\ climbers -- Eastern bloc\ 14,000' camp\ weather -- storm\ climbers -- Colorado\ fingers -- frozen\ tent -- collapse\ hypothermia|

Section 29: hypothermia\ frostbite -- severe\ sleeping bag -- defecate\ Pomerosiff, Victor\ storm\ climbers -- Colorado\ high camp\ climbers -- Japanese\ volunteers\ rope -- fixed\ avalanche\ high camp -- 100 people\ weather -- break\ avalanche -- size\ debris pile\ ravine|

Section 30: storm -- conditions\ solo\ rescue -- danger\ climber -- Russian\ experience -- learning\ avalanche\ climbers\ risk -- choice\ helicopter\ rescue -- attempt\ wind\ ski patrol\ avalanche -- experts\ Ramsey, Bill\ climbers -- solo|

Section 31: climbers\ documenting -- camera\ avalanche\ climbers -- Colorado\ climber -- Russian\ 14,000' camp\ debris pile\ experience -- learning\ kidney transplant|

Section 32: Robinson, Ron\ kidney\ transplant -- difficulties\ transplant -- recovery\ rescues\ lead ranger\ climbing rangers\ management\ operations -- mountaineering\ Miller, Daryl\ district ranger|

Section 33: patrol\ interpretive work\ retirement\ law enforcement\ employment -- seasonal\ furlow\ climbing\ museum -- president\ ski club\ trails|

Section 34: travel\ Robinson, Roger -- wife\ Denali\ climbing\ training\ management|