Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Brian Okonek, Part 2

 Brian Okonek was interviewed on June 6, 2000 by David Krupa at the bunkhouse of Alaska-Denali Guiding in Talkeetna, Alaska. This is a continuation of the interview started on May 31, 2000. In this second part of the interview, Brian talks about developing his guiding business, leading guided trips on Denali, the guide's role, and maintaining safety with clients. He also discusses challenges faced on the mountain, issues of altitude, and dealing with illness and injury in the group. Finally, with great warmth Brian shares his love of Alaska, climbing, and outdoor adventure, including dog mushing.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-10

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Jun 6, 2000
Narrator(s): Brian Okonek
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.

Sections

1) Origins of Alaska-Denali Guiding

2) The evolution of the concession

3) The growth of Denali guiding

4) Deaths and other problems on Denali

5) Safety techniques used by guides

6) Continuation of discussion about safety techniques, and his first years as a guide

7) How he chooses clients

8) Continuation of discussion about choosing clients

9) Guide-client relationships and roles

10) Problems encountered on the mountain

11) The guide's role in the team

12) Continuation of discussion about the guide's role

13) In-camp safety measures

14) The role of the guide in camp

15) The fixed line and the post "14" experience

16) The ideal pace

17) The ideal pace and the process of acclimatization

18) Camping and climbing at high altitude

19) Continuation of discussion about camping and climbing at high altitude.

20) When only certain members can continue and his concerns as a guide at high altitude

21) A scary situation when a client hit the wall on the Summit Ridge

22) Trying to keep his client oriented by talking to him

23) Getting his weakened client down to high camp

24) Getting stuck for nine days at camp near the summit

25) Keeping clients focused when stuck in bad weather

26) Experiences that explain why he climbs

27) How he feels about climbing today

28) Why he loves Alaska

29) Dog sledding in the back country

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.

Transcript

Section 1: Genet, Ray\ business -- guiding\ Weber, Sep\ mountaineering\ hiking\ rafting\ Far Out Expeditions\ trips -- custom\ Europeans\ road trips\ Brooks Range\ Talkeetna, AK\ Airy North West\ Mt. McKinley -- Denali\ concession -- permits\ Foss, Lauren? -- owner\ transfers -- permit\ National Park Service -- authorization\ Alaska Denali Guiding\ expeditions -- Denali|

Section 2: business -- authorized\ guiding -- Denali\ management -- changes\ policy\ concessions -- history\ Special Use Permit\ Incidental Business Permit\ system -- permit\ business -- incidental\ license\ insurance -- liability\ scrutiny\ businesses -- traditional\ operating -- regularly\ trips -- guided\ Genet, Ray -- Genet Expeditions \ Denali\ guiding -- popularity\ people -- numbers\ momentum\ expedition -- organized\ people -- qualified\ companies -- guiding|

Section 3: use -- safety\ National Park Service\ public\ concern\ regulations -- concessions\ system -- change\ Incidental Business Permit\ concession\ rules -- stricter\ control \ regulation\ safety -- objective\ Genet Expeditions\ climbers -- numbers\ guides -- numbers\ ANILCA\ Denali National Park -- expansion|

Section 4: expedition -- trouble\ clients\ NOLS -- leadership\ techniques -- safety\ reputation\ area -- probed\ boundaries\ student -- died\ Genet Expedition\ client -- pulmonary edema\ Johnson, Harry\ Summit -- death\ parties -- guided\ falls\ weather -- wind\ Stump, Mugs -- guide\ crevasse -- fall\ South Buttress\ Denali -- risks\ record -- safety|

Section 5: concession -- opportunity\ guiding -- business\ philosophy\ climbing -- experience\ guiding -- experience\ techniques -- variety\ safety -- accidents\ respect\ mountain -- conditions\ snow\ weather\ altitude\ risk\ operation\ Denali\ Johnston, Dave\ Wheeler, Toby\ situation -- control\ risk -- decrease\ technique -- teaching\ glacier -- travel\ crevasse -- rescue\ climbing -- snow\ climbing -- ice\ eating\ drinking\ communicating\ preparation\ planning -- flexibility\ changing\ weather -- patience|

Section 6: tie-ins\ areas -- rest\ probe\ belay\ technique -- common sense\ familiarity\ mistakes -- eventual\ bridges -- melted\ teaching -- example\ Mt. Rainier\ client -- supervision\ tools -- best\ career -- climbing\ judgement -- good\ Denali -- expedition\ advertising\ start -- late\ Okonek, Diane\ clientele\ guides -- training\ trips -- leading|

Section 7: clients -- choosing\ fitness -- physical\ training -- routines\ outdoors -- experience\ backpacking -- balance\ Denali\ terrain\ balance\ coordination\ snow climbing\ ice climbing\ ice axe\ self arrest\ balance -- point\ crampons\ conditions -- variety\ ascending\ descending\ rope -- techniques\ systems -- belay\ glacier\ rescue -- crevasse\ rock climbing\ mountaineering -- general\ rope -- techniques\ familiarity\ camping -- winter\ packs -- large\ terrain -- exposed\ weather -- cold\ talk -- phone\ expedition -- Denali\ snow -- conditions\ variable\ movement -- slow\ oxygen|

Section 8: expedition -- reality\ judgement\ trip -- duration\ packs\ backpacking\ climbing\ snowshoeing -- winter\ mountaineering -- apprenticeship\ challenge\ Denali -- surprise\ discipline\ demands -- physical\ camps -- moving\ work\ element -- mental\ people -- management\ guides -- hiring\ climbing\ mountaineering -- judgement\ skills -- people\ guides -- roles\ facilitator\ supervisor\ dictator\ psychologist\ teacher\ friend\ problems -- altitude\ conditions -- snow\ weather\ family -- trouble\ Denali -- cost\ success -- importance\ emotions|

Section 9: guides -- decisions\ decision -- ultimate\ trips -- guided\ trips -- personal\ clients\ decisions -- respect\ conflicts -- personality\ skills -- people\ judgement -- good\ health -- safety\ group\ authority\ organized\ crisis\ responsibility\ encouragement\ Denali\ Mt. Hood\ altitude -- high\ expedition\ teaching\ suggestions\ conditions -- optimal\ camp -- safe\ drinking\ hands -- cold\ feet -- cold\ tools|

Section 10: conditions -- rough\ weather\ team -- rope\ mittens\ goggles\ wind\ visibility\ fatigue -- stress\ altitude\ decisions -- processes\ guides\ day -- normal\ camp -- break\ route -- familiarity\ weather\ cache\ moving\ snow\ wind\ risks\ frostbite\ hypothermic\ decision -- evaluate|

Section 11: eating\ drinking\ cooking -- guides\ stoves -- use\ pots\ water -- snow\ drinks -- morning\ camp -- moving\ gear -- packing\ loads -- community\ clients -- advice\ terrain\ clothing -- layers\ evening -- planning\ terrain\ gear -- emergency\ feet -- problems\ moleskin\ boots\ sleep\ appetite\ hands\ sleeping bag -- drying\ clients\ gear -- serviceable\ tents\ ropes\ wands -- pulling\ camp -- perimeter\ safe zone|

Section 12: leaders -- rope team\ trail -- breaking\ crevasses\ clothes\ groups\ climbing -- teams\ expedition -- Denali\ clients\ guides\ team -- organization\ communication -- verbal\ snowshoe -- break\ problem -- medical\ crevasse -- fall\ teams -- distance\ breaks -- hourly\ eating\ scenery -- introduction\ Windy Corner\ fixed lines\ Mt. Crosson -- history\ conversation\ birds -- migratory\ glaciology\ geology\ stockmarket\ weather -- evaluating\ mountain -- lower\ climbing -- altitude\ fatigue\ breath\ ataxic\ problem -- altitude\ climbing -- safety\ balance\ energy -- efficiency|

Section 13: camping -- area\ probe\ crevasse\ area -- marked\ camp -- design\ energy -- focus\ time -- waste\ winds -- prevailing\ slope -- angle\ snow -- texture\ camps -- available\ tent\ West Buttress\ kitchen\ latrine\ food -- cache\ teams -- organized\ shovel\ snow blocks\ water -- stoves\ routine\ tents\ sleeping bags\ journals\ sun\ boots\ gear -- organize\ dinner\ water bottles\ soup\ relaxing\ chores\ eating\ stories -- sharing|

Section 14: guides -- rounds\ gear -- secured\ gear -- lost\ expedition -- dynamics\ problems\ suggestions\ talk -- group\ individuals\ focus\ West Buttress -- routes\ wall -- psychological\ people -- scared\ Talkeetna, AK\ Denali\ overwhelmed\ basecamp\ camp one\ people -- focused\ pulmonary edema\ altitude -- sickness\ pulmonary edema\ fix line -- barrier\ worry\ clients -- rope team\ crevasse\ terrain -- exposed\ belays -- running\ reputation|

Section 15: fix line -- slope\ season -- early\ icy\ rest\ season -- later\ steps -- easier\ exposed\ nerves\ safety\ Alaska\ Denali -- experience\ altitude\ cold\ pacing\ work -- physical\ mental\ oxygen -- low\ movement\ balance\ rhythm\ acclimatization\ work -- hard\ oxygen -- saturation|

Section 16: guiding -- paces\ strength -- weakness\ exhaustion\ pace -- forcing\ movement -- team\ trail -- time\ fatigue\ steadiness\ slowness -- problems\ weather\ exposure\ pace -- typical|

Section 17: pace -- steady\ needs -- personal\ clothing -- changing\ calories\ appetite\ urinating\ acclimatizing\ fatigue\ balance\ guides -- tents\ down time\ questions -- answering\ high camp\ monitor -- closely\sleep -- fitful\ contact -- close\ goals\ logistics\ West Buttress -- crowd\ rope teams -- waiting\ fixed lines\ cold\ tiring -- psychological\ pace -- steady\ start -- early\ camp -- 16,200 ft\ acclimatization\ altitude -- higher|

Section 18: day -- long\ altitude -- jump\ ridge -- narrow\ camp\ tents\ slope\ platform -- shoveling\ snow -- hard\ wind\ demanding -- physically\ snow caves\ snow -- types\ cold\ dense\ roofs -- sagging\ caves -- durability\ underground -- security\ weather\ caves -- claustrophobia\ caves -- temperature\ tents -- temperature\ security\ ease\ vista -- incredible|

Section 19: evening\ kitchen -- outside\ veranda\ ledge\ view -- lowlands\ West Buttress -- camps\ favorite\ clouds\ lakes\ rivers\ light\ food -- carrying\ comfort\ balance\ steps -- steep\ exposure\ confidence\ camp -- high\ weather -- change\ preparation\ walls -- snowblock\ winds -- strong\ camp -- secure\ appetite\ sleep\ summit -- attempt\ timing\ team -- strength\ acclimatize\ members\ descent\ food\ waiting\ weather -- break\ storms -- duration|

Section 20: camp\ group -- supervision\ health -- changes\ weather -- change\ summit -- altitude\ guide -- supervision\ altitude -- ceiling\ high camp\ summit -- ridge\ expedition\ route -- problems\ concern -- level\ altitude -- problems\ group -- responsible\ safety\ weather\ labor -- digging\ blocks -- cutting\ camp -- maintenance\ effects -- individual\ deterioration -- rapidity\ altitude -- effects|

Section 21: disaster\ guiding\ problems -- diagnosis\ weather -- adverse\ decisions\ moment -- crux\ dangerous -- incident\ disaster\ manner -- timely\ member -- strong\ climber\ summit day\ camp -- helping\ summit -- halfway\ pace -- normal\ camp -- return\ continue\ ?, John\ wall -- hit\ face -- pasty\ goggles -- eyes\ summit -- proximity\ descent|

Section 22: balance -- help\ encouragement\ eating -- drinking\ will -- deteriorating\ pulmonary edema\ fatigue\ breath\ coughing\ cerebral edema -- dying\ exhausted\ Denali Pass\ legs -- crumpled\ parka\ slope -- steep\ pass\ traverse\ Harper Glacier\ high camp\ slope -- angle\ crevasses --few\ terrain -- easy|

Section 23: West Buttress\ Denali Pass\ traverse -- steep\ situation -- good\ evening\ weather -- windy\ Muldrow Glacier\ pulmonary edema\ gear -- sleds\ sleeping bag\ pads\ ?, John\ tent\ soup -- hot\ sleep\ traverse -- continued\ Karstens Ridge\ Wonder Lake\ lesson -- important\ problem|

Section 24: guides -- risks\ altitude -- adjustment\ trouble\ client\ crampons\ altitude -- high\ problems -- variations\ susceptibility\ physiology -- interest\ desire\ problems -- severe\ psychology\ difficulty\ conditions -- extreme\ activity\ focus\ storms -- stuck\ mind -- wanders\ thinking\ goal -- commitments\ family\ work|

Section 25: schedule -- focus\ chores -- organize\ breakfast -- exercise\ altitude -- lassitude\ muscle -- tone\ difficulty -- increasing\ storms -- long\ cold\ oxygen -- lack of\ sleep\ deteriorating -- tired\ life -- hard\ weather -- breaks\ decision -- group|

Section 26: wall -- snow block\ sun -- clouds\ mesmerized\ letters\ details\ glacier\ conversations\ experiences -- fleeting\ goal -- amazing\ immerses\ routine -- life\ traffic -- work\ grind -- daily\ centered\ conflicts -- complicated\ personalities -- flare|

Section 27: clients -- past\ Alaska Range -- expeditions\ people -- more\ guided -- individual\ National Park Service -- issues\ numbers -- management\ activity\ waste\ direction -- education\ public\ environment\ safety\ problems -- increase\ degradation\ rescues\ money -- spent\ self regulating\ Earth -- people\ Denali -- regulations\ pre-registration\ dollars\ numbers -- limits\ guide\ season -- short\ overcrowded\ route -- large\ bottlenecks\ safety -- issue\ rope teams\ West Buttress -- wilderness\ conditions -- harsh\ manage|

Section 28: experience -- wilderness\ Alaska -- fortunate\ backyard -- gigantic\ attraction -- masses\ trekking -- remote\ Okonek, Diane\ dog sled -- trips\ country -- pristine\ remote -- people|

Section 29: dog sled -- trail\ routes -- traditional\ wilderness -- trackless\ traffic -- little\ village -- people\ land -- closer\ subsistence -- roots\ people -- Native|