Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Morton "Woody" Wood

Morton Wood

Originally from Maine, Morton "Woody" Wood came to Alaska in the late 1940s with the U.S. Army when he was stationed at Ladd Field near Fairbanks, Alaska. Woody settled in Fairbanks and married Ginny Hill (Wood), a local skier, pilot, and outdoorswoman. Woody worked as a park ranger for the National Park Service at Katmai National Park and at Mount McKinley National Park (now Denali), and in 1951 he and Ginny, along with their friend, Celia Hunter, established Camp Denali, the state's first ecotourism lodge, located high on a hillside near Kantishna and the end of the Denali Park Road. In 1954, Woody was a member of the first successful ascent of the South Buttress of Denali. The climb was both a magnificent mountaineering accomplishment and a tragic reminder of the inherent dangers of climbing. Elton Thayer, perhaps the most experienced climber of the team, was killed in a fall on descent of the mountain. Fellow climber George Argus, who dislocated a hip in the fall, was eventually left with dwindling supplies while Woody and fellow team member, Les Viereck, made a dangerous trek down the Muldrow Glacier in search of help. After the accident, Woody no longer climbed mountains, but continued to be an active outdoorsman, enjoying the beauty and tranquility of nature and believing in the importance of preserving wild places. He is also an accomplished folk musician. Woody and Ginny divorced in the early 1960s and he moved to Seattle where he became a foreign language teacher at Lakeside School. Woody lives in Seattle with his current wife, Martha.

Morton "Woody" Wood appears in the following new Jukebox projects: