Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Brian Okonek

Brian Okonek

Brian Okonek grew up in Alaska and is the son of the famed K-2 Aviation pilot, Jim Okonek, a fact that gave Brian special opportunities to explore the rugged Alaska Range. He made his first expedition to Denali as a junior in high school, continued to do a lot of climbing in the Denali area in the 1970s, and went on to become one of the area's most expert climbers and guides. In 1983, Brian and his wife, Diane, co-founded Alaska-Denali Guiding, a mountaineering guide business in Talkeetna, Alaska. Because of the Okonek's leadership, climbing expertise, and values they became one of the most respected guiding companies in Alaska. Brian has led 35 expedition on Denali. Brian had a contagious love for Denali, a quality that helped him provide a challenging, but reasonably safe, climbing opportunity for his clients. Having grown up with the Alaska Range as his backyard, Brian tempers his enthusiasm for the mountains with a somber respect for the inherent dangers of alpine environments. As a guide, Brian also was involved in rescue operations on Denali, as well as assisting with high altitude medical research projects. In 2000, the Okoneks sold their business to their employees, Caitlin Palmer and Colby Coombs, who incorporated it into their existing business, Alaska Mountaineering School. After retiring from guiding, Brian continued to pursue a variety of outdoor adventures around Alaska, including dog mushing and skijoring.

Brian Okonek appears in the following new Jukebox projects: