Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

photo on the summit ridge of DenaliThe Denali Mountaineering Jukebox is an interactive computer program featuring audio and video clips, photographs, maps, and texts of the people that have made history in the mountains encompassed by Denali National Park and Preserve. The "Jukebox" offers a broad spectrum of mountaineering experiences, from climbers to bush pilots, from park rangers to concessionaires. The Denali Mountaineering Jukebox preserves first person accounts of mountaineering and related activities. Interviews focus on the changing role and importance of climbing in historical, scientific, recreational, commercial, and management perspectives. The recordings provide an important record of the people and events that have shaped the history of the Park as one of the world's premier mountaineering venues. Interviews offer a glimpse into the challenges, dangers, and rewards of climbing on Denali and the surrounding area. A previous National Park Service (NPS) sponsored Jukebox on Denali mountaineering and bush flying is significantly augmented by this project. The previous project, produced in 1992 by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Oral History Program with interviews by Bill Brown, has been incorporated into the current Jukebox.

This project was carried out under a cooperative agreement between the Photo of DenaliNPS and the UAF Oral History Program at Rasmuson Library. Hollis Twitchell, a Cultural Specialist for Denali National Park and Preserve, managed the Park's involvement in the project. David Krupa, Research Associate for the Oral History Program, conducted the interviews and oversaw the construction of the Jukebox. Jarrod Decker and other staff members of the Oral History Program designed and produced the Jukebox. The Oral History Program would like to thank Roger Robinson, Brian and Diane Okonek, Jim Wickwire, Dennis Kogl, Laurie Larson, Colby Coombs, and Will Forsberg for generously supporting the project with photographs from their personal collections.

For more information about Project Jukebox, call the UAF Oral History Program at (907) 474-6672.



Russell Berry Russell Berry Russ entered the NPS as a park historian in 1966 at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. His varied service before coming to Denali in June, 1989, included a number of eastern park assignments and management posts. He was assistant superintendant at Big Bend National Park in Texas, and superintendant for 6 years, at Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota.
Colby Coombs Colby Coombs Colby is an accomplished mountaineer and guide who, together with his wife Caitlin Palmer, owns and operates Alaska Mountaineering School in Talkeetna. The couple have also recently acquired the Okonek's Alaska Denali Guiding.
Michael Covington Michael Covington Michael is the founder of Fantasy Ridge guiding service and is renowned for his climbing and guiding accomplishments. He has decades of experience doing difficult and committed climbs in Alaska and elsewhere. Long before the ascendance of "adventure tourism," Michael was putting together guided trips that pushed the envelope of the possible. While the West Buttress route was becoming the standard "milk route" up Denali, Michael was challenging his clients with risky climbs on the West Rib and... Read More
Art Davidson Art Davidson Art is widely renowned for his stirring account of the first winter ascent of Denali in 1967. The book "Minus 148," has garnered critical and popular praise as a classic in mountaineering literature. Art has continued his work as a journalist and essayist, focusing on the plight of indigenous peoples throughout the world.
Paul Denkewalter Paul Denkewalter Paul is founder and owner of the outdoor and climbing gear outlet, as well as an accomplished mountaineer with decades of climbing experience in Alaska.
Jim Donini Jim Donini Jim is a legendary big wall, technical climber especially renowned for his first ascents in Patagonia.
Annie Duquette Annie Duquette Annie, who has spent over ten years on the mountain during the climbing season as the on-site manager of basecamp, was wrapping up the season before stepping down to enjoy life at her new home outside Talkeetna. Annie is world-famous as the liaison to the mountain, serving as everything from radio dispatcher to camp counselor.
Will Forsberg Will Forsberg Will Forsberg and his wife, Linda, have a camp on the Kantishna River where they stay in the fall until after freeze-up. Then they return to Healy and train dogs until spring when they begin freighting supplies for mountain climbers attempting northern routes on Denali. Because of a Park Service ban on motorized access, dog transportation is the primary way climbers using northern routes acquire their supplies.
Doug Geeting Doug Geeting Doug is a big, energetic pilot that flies in and around Denali Park.
Taras Genet Taras Genet Taras, the son of Ray Genet and Kathy Sullivan, climbed Mount McKinley in June, 1991, at the age of 12. At that time, he was the youngest mountaineer to attempt this climb and the youngest to make the summit. He follows in the footsteps of his famous mountaineer-guide father and his mother, who was one of Ray Genet's assistant guides. Ray died before he could lead his son to the summit of Mount McKinley. Climbing expedition leader, Chip Faurot served as mentor to the young climber. Taras is a... Read More
Bob Gerhard Bob Gerhard Bob is a long-time National Park Service employee who was instrumental in the development of the climbing ranger program at Denali. His understanding of the history of NPS backcountry policy and management is exceptional, and he has been one of the Park Service "insiders" not afraid to take on difficult and sometimes unpopular positions in the interests of protecting the Park experience on Denali. As a ranger at Denali, Bob was in on many search and rescue operations, long before the days of a... Read More
Peter Hackett Peter Hackett Peter is a physician who has dedicated much of his career to high altitude physiology and medicine. His pioneering work at high camp on Denali and Mount Everest has dramatically increased understanding of high altitude physiology and methods for coping with life-threatening conditions such as cerebral and pulmonary edema. In this interview, Peter describes high altitude physiology, processes of acclimatization, and symptoms of conditions of those who become ill. He helps dispel misperceptions... Read More
Jim Hood Jim Hood Jim serves as the contract helicopter pilot with the National Park Service, flying the Lama high altitude helicopter for search and rescue missions on Denali. With considerable understatement and humility, Jim provides a first hand account of flying helicopters in one of the most dangerous locations in the world. Flying at altitudes that stretch and even exceed the design specifications of his craft, Jim describes rescue work in conditions where there is no margin for error and "mechanical... Read More
Cliff Hudson Cliff Hudson This interview with Cliff Hudson was conducted by Bill Brown on February 28, 1992, in Cliff Hudson's living room in Talkeetna; a busy place with family, friends, and dogs dropping in or running through the room. Since 1948 when he joined his flying brother in Talkeetna, Cliff has been accumulating experience and anecdotes about Alaska and especially Denali flying.
Jay Hudson Jay Hudson Jay is the son of the legendary Cliff Hudson,also featured in this Jukebox. Jay followed his father's lead in providing air taxi access to the remote mountains in and around Denali National Park and Preserve. In this interview, Jay discusses growing up with his pilot father, how he became a pilot himself, and the many changes he has seen in the air taxi business over several decades. Like his father, Jay has intimate knowledge about flying in the Alaska Range and surroundings, and a wealth of... Read More
Dave Johnston Dave Johnston Dave currently works for Denali State Park and is a mountaineer with decades of experience in the Alaska Range, including the first winter ascent of Denali in 1967. That climb cost the life of one climber and became a survival epic for the rest of the party. InArt Davidson's classic book on the climb "Minus 148," Dave emerges as the person most directly responsible for the survival of the team members who were pinned down for a week at Denali Pass (18,200'). Dave shrugs off any accusations of... Read More
Eugene Karstens Eugene Karstens This interview with Eugene Karstens and his son Rory, was conducted by Mike Sfraga on June 24, 1992 in the ../audio studio at the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Rory is writing the biography of Harry, his grandfather, who is the subject of this interview. The interview covers Eugene's life growing up in the interior of Alaska, and his descriptions of his father, his role in the Park Service, and the 1913 climb of Denali.
Ken Kehrer Ken Kehrer Ken came to Denali in May 1989 as West District ranger and became Chief Ranger in July 1990.
Dennis Kogl Dennis Kogl Dennis Kogl was interviewed in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Dennis was one of the first to establish a dog mushing business to transport supplies up to the mountain. Dennis later sold the business to Will Forsberg. For many years, Dennis has lived in the Denali area and he now works for the National Park Service.
George Lowe George Lowe George is a world-renowned climber famed for his unstoppable will and consummate skill. Among climbers, George's climbing style is often described as "impeccable," and he has a reputation for taking on highly "committing" routes. George is cousin to fellow climber Jeff Lowe. George describes how he became a climber, what drew him to Alaska, and what particular challenges he faced on the routes he pioneered in Alaska---some of the most demanding and audacious climbs anywhere in the world. George... Read More
Ian McRae Ian McRae Ian is a former California big wall climber turned alpinist, with an impressive array of first ascents in the Alaska and Delta Ranges. Ian provides a wonderful and entertaining window into the "Fairbanks climbing scene," carrying on an eccentric and decades old Fairbanks tradition of pioneering "sloggers" who get up routes via low tech approaches and more grit than gear. He reflects not only on numerous memorable climbs, personages, and epics, but also on the philosophical "games climbers play... Read More
Berle Mercer Berle Mercer For several years, Berle hauled freight via horseback to the McGonagall Pass cache site for climbers attempting the Muldrow Glacier route on Denali. Berle recalls packing in supplies for some of his most memorable clients, including the ill-fated Wilcox Expedition, Bradford and Barbara Washburn, and a very finicky wildlife photographer. In the interview, Berle also recalls rescuing a Swiss climbing party that descended the Muldrow Glacier, after their guide abandoned them on the West Buttress.... Read More
Daryl Miller Daryl Miller Daryl became a climbing ranger for NPS in 1989 and has been of crucial importance to the program, both on the mountain as search and rescue coordinator and in Talkeetna as a seasoned ambassador to Denali mountaineering. Daryl has an exceptionally varied background, ranging from combat soldier in Vietnam, to rodeo clown, to consummate climber and ranger. In 1995, together with fellow Talkeetna climber Mark Stasik, Daryl completed the first circumnavigation of the Denali massif in winter. Daryl... Read More
Terris Moore Terris Moore Terris was in poor health at the time of the interview. Katrina assisted in helping Terris recall the stories and details. Most of the recording's content is concerning 1951, when he flew Bradford Washington to the West Buttress and pioneered that route. Terris' flights were key to providing support to the Mountain.
Earl Norris Earl Norris In this interview, Natalie Norris does most of the talking because Earl has been ill. Working together, they provide a detailed look at early dog team support. Natalie and Earl Norris describe growing up with dogs, coming to Alaska to work, and the growth of dog mushing. During World War II, their dogs were recruited for search and rescue. Bradford Washburn recruited Earl to provide freight support for climbing expeditions on Denali. Earl pioneered the dog route up to the base camp on the North... Read More
Brian Okonek Brian Okonek Brian 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. Brian went on to become one the area's most expert climbers and guides. Brian exudes great warmth and has a contagious love for Denali, qualities that help 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... Read More
Diane Okonek Diane Okonek Diane is an avid outdoorswoman who hitchhiked to Alaska, following her adventurous heart and moving far from the crowds of the Lower 48. Diane has climbed Denali many times, both as a climber and more recently as a guide. In this interview, Diane shares her love of the mountains and reflects on her experience and philosophy as a guide. She provides a remarkable and detailed description of the "nuts and bolts" of guiding trips on Denali, and of the special human rewards of helping people to... Read More
Jim Okonek Jim Okonek Jim graciously let Bill stay in the bunkhouse during his visit to Talkeetna. Tape I was going along fine until Bill realized that the tape was not winding. In tape II, they went back over the missing topics and continued to the end of the interview. Jim was able to repeat the lost discussions almost word for word as Bill had first heard and noted them. Jim came to Alaska with the U.S. Air Force in 1964, as a helicopter pilot working at the Rescue Coordination Center based at Elmendorf Field.... Read More
Roger Robinson Roger Robinson Roger is chief climbing ranger for Denali National Park and Preserve. He has almost three decades of experience as a climber at Denali and in the surrounding mountains. Roger has a number of first ascents in the Alaska Range, including many new routes in "Little Switzerland" off Rahiltna Glacier. Roger has also been a climbing ranger on Denali with over two decades of experience on the mountain, running climbing patrols, maintaining high camp at 14,200 feet, and working on dozens of search and... Read More
Paul Roderick Paul Roderick Paul is the lead pilot and owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi and spends much of his summer in the air, supporting climbers and flightseers headed to and from Denali. As a climber himself, Paul seems to have a special affinity for climbers and tolerance, too, as many of his clients stage out of TAT headquarters. On the day of the interview, poor weather made it possible for Paul to take a short time out of his busy day to reflect on flying in one of the world's most dynamic and perilous environments.... Read More
Roberta Sheldon This interview is available only at the Oral History office at the Elmer Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Pete Sinclair Pete Sinclair Leon "Pete" Sinclair was a member of the team that completed the daring first ascent of the West Rib of Denali in 1959. Pete describes how he and his partners first found their way to Alaska and then managed to climb, well beyond their comfort level, all the way into the history books with the first ascent. Their climb became one of the most famous, in part because they shared their story in a "Time Magazine" story and other venues. In this interview, Pete describes the climb, shares stories of... Read More
Kathy Sullivan Kathy Sullivan Kathy is the clerk/office manager for Denali National Park's South District. As a former ski instructor, climbing guide, assistant guide to Ray Genet, and the mother of Genet's two children, Kathy has led an active, adventurous life that makes clerical work for the government a less than totally satisfying lifestyle. However, she sympathizes with larger park purposes and admires her immediate mountaineering ranger associates. Single-parent necessities have forced the adjustment to a more... Read More
J.D. Swed J.D. Swed This joint interview with Climbing Ranger Daryl Miller (right) and South District Ranger J.D. Swed (left) was conducted by Bill Brown on February 27, 1992 in the unheated NPS Ranger Station in downtown Talkeetna. It brought experienced climbing ranger, Miller, and recently arrived district ranger, Swed, together with their varying perspectives and responses. Daryl has been long associated with climbing and Mount McKinley, in particular, as an independent climber and as a client and guide with... Read More
Ralph Tingey Ralph Tingey Ralph spent many years of his NPS career as a climbing ranger in the Grand Tetons, and elsewhere, before coming to Alaska to work as a climbing ranger at Denali. Although Ralph has moved into NPS management as Deputy Superintendent at the regional level, he continues to be an avid climber and outdoor enthusiast. Ralph offers a lively account of search and rescue activities and protocol, the special camaraderie of climbing rangers, and the evolution of rescue craft. Ralph's love of the mountains... Read More
Mark Twight Mark Twight Mark is emerging as a visionary master of what he describes as "extreme alpinism." This is a combination of expedition style preparation and a lightning fast, completely committed alpine ascent. A son of a park ranger, Mark grew up with a love of the outdoors and opportunities to learn the intricacies of technical climbing. Mark describes his climbing philosophy and technique in an intriguing account of how he and partners Steve House and Scott Backes climbed the Czech Direct Route in about 60... Read More
Les Viereck Les Viereck Les is a retired botanist who, in addition to a long and productive career as a scientist, was a member of the first successful ascent of the South Buttress of Denali in 1954. Like fellow climbing team member Morton Wood(also featured in this Jukebox), Les recalls this climb not only as a remarkable achievement, but one that came with a tragic price: the loss of the most experienced climber on the team, Elton Thayer. Les describes the climb and subsequent epic in great detail, adding... Read More
Barbara Washburn Barbara Washburn Barbara made history, along with her husband,Bradford,when she became the first woman to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) in 1947. Barbara describes her colorful life as a hiker, climber, and wife to adventurer and scientist Bradford. Barbara gives a modest account of her exceptional accomplishments, including a wonderful description of her trip up the mountain and the camaraderie of the climbers. She offers a remarkable window into life, not only as a woman adventurer, but as a social pioneer... Read More
Bradford Washburn Bradford Washburn Bradford's cartographic, scientific, and photographic achievements on Denali (Mt. McKinley) are unparalleled. Bradford, a mountaineer, scholar, and gifted photographer, has not only made many first ascents in Alaska, and elsewhere, but his high altitude photography of Denali and the Alaska Range has earned him the reputation as the "Ansel Adams" of high altitude imagery. Bradford first climbed Denali in 1942, then pioneered the West Buttress Route, which today is by far the most popular route... Read More
James Wickwire James Wickwire Jim is a world-famous climber who has accomplished much, and endured even more, over decades of climbing all over the world. An attorney by profession and a devout family man, Jim, nonetheless, is "addicted to danger" and the challenges of extreme mountaineering. In this interview, Jim describes his climbing experiences throughout the world, including the ill-fated trip to Alaska where he lost his climbing partner Chris Kerrebrock in a freak crevasse fall on the Peters Glacier. Jim's account is... Read More
Morton Wood Morton Wood "Woody" was a member of the first successful climb of the South Buttress of Denali, in 1954. 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 andLes Viereckmade a dangerous trek down the Muldrow... Read More

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