Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

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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 jukebox project was carried out in 2000 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. In 2018, the Denali Mountaineering Project Jukebox was upgraded from its original HTML format to Drupal. The information in this project reflects the context of the original creation date. Some information may now be out of date.


Russell Berry Russell Berry

Russell W. Berry served as superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve from 1989 to 1994. He entered the National Park Service in 1966 as a park historian at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri, and continued to develop his Park Service career through a number of eastern park assignments and management posts. Before coming to Denali in June 1989, Russ served as assistant superintendent at Big Bend National Park in Texas, and six years as superintendent at... Read More

Colby Coombs Colby Coombs

Originally from Washington, D.C., Colby Coombs is an accomplished mountaineer and gifted teacher who worked his way through the National Outdoor Leadership School (where he also taught for ten years), and mentored under legendary Alaskan guide, Brian Okonek, on trips in the Alaska Range. Colby has climbed some of the most technically challenging routes in Alaska, including sumitting Denali in 1985 at age eighteen, and enduring a devastating epic on Mount Hunter in 1992 when two of his... Read More

Michael Covington Michael Covington

Originally from California, Michael Covington began as a rock climber and ski racer, and became renowned for his climbing and guiding accomplishments. He has decades of experience doing difficult and committed climbs in Alaska and elsewhere. He was instrumental in the rapid rise in climbing standards in Colorado during the 1970s, and founded Fantasy Ridge guide service at Rocky Mountain National Park and Denali National Park. Long before the ascendance of "adventure tourism," Michael was... Read More

Art Davidson Art Davidson

Originally from Colorado, Art Davidson became interested in climbing and was eventually drawn to the adventure and beauty of Alaska. In 1967, he participated in the first winter ascent of Denali. The book "Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley" is his stirring account of this expedition and has garnered critical and popular praise as a classic in mountaineering literature. In addition to climbing, Art has been a journalist and essayist, focusing on the environment and... Read More

Paul Denkewalter Paul Denkewalter

Paul Denkewalter is an accomplished mountaineer with decades of climbing experience in Alaska. In 1974, he founded the Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking store (AMH) in Anchorage, Alaska, which was one of the first outdoor and climbing gear outlets in town. Although by 2000, Paul was no longer climbing, he remained dedicated to the spirit of exploring the outdoors, and his business has helped outfit others as they pursue their own outdoor challenges.

Jim Donini Jim Donini Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jim Donini is a legendary big wall, technical rock climber and mountaineer, especially renowned for his first ascents in Patagonia in the 1970s and adventurous new routes in Alaska in the 1990s. At age 74 in 2018, Jim continues to astonish the climbing community by still climbing and setting new routes. He also has written numerous articles for climbing magazines.
Annie Duquette Annie Duquette

Originally from South Orange, Massachusetts, Annie Duquette first came to Alaska in 1990 and spent over ten years on Denali during the climbing season as the on-site manager of the climbing and aviation basecamp located at 7200 feet. She is known as "Basecamp Annie." In 2000, she stepped down from this position in order to enjoy life at her new home outside of Talkeetna, Alaska. Annie is world-famous as the liaison to the mountain, being everything from radio dispatcher to camp counselor.... Read More

Will Forsberg Will Forsberg

Born in Lakehurst, New Jersey, Will Forsberg came to Alaska in 1974 and settled in Healy, Alaska where he became interested in sled dogs. In 1980, he got involved with Denali Dog Tours, a business operated by Dennis Kogl that took visitors out on dogteam trips and freighted supplies to mountain climbing groups on Denali. Because of a Park Service ban on motorized access, dog transportation is the primary way climbers using northern routes acquire their supplies. Eventually, Will took over... Read More

Doug Geeting Doug Geeting

Doug Geeting is a pilot who operates Doug Geeting Aviation, a flight service business in Talkeetna, Alaska. He is an expert pilot who helped advance high-altitude and mountain flying techniques after having spent many years flying around Mount McKinley (now Denali). He flies climbers to and from the mountain, often in risky weather conditions, provides flight seeing trips for tourists, and has participated in many rescue operations. He is well respected as one of the world's best mountain... Read More

Taras Genet Taras Genet

Taras Genet was born in 1978 near Talkeetna, Alaska. He is the son of well-known Swiss mountaineer, Ray Genet, and Kathy Sullivan, who was one of Ray Genet's assistant guides on Mount McKinley (Denali). Following in the footsteps of this climbing heritage, Taras climbed Denali 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. Ray Genet died before he could lead his son to the summit of Denali, so Chip... Read More

Bob Gerhard Bob Gerhard

Bob Gerhard was a long-time National Park Service (NPS) employee who came to work at Denali National Park and Preserve in 1976 and was instrumental in the development of a climbing management system and establishment of the climbing ranger program. 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... Read More

Peter Hackett Dr. Peter Hackett

Peter Hackett,M.D. is a physician based in Colorado who has dedicated much of his career to high altitude physiology and medicine. He is a leading authority on altitude illness, high altitude climbing, wilderness medicine, and the effects of altitude on people living and working in the mountains. Dr. Hackett is also a board certified Emergency Physician. His pioneering work at High Camp on Denali and Mount Everest dramatically increased understanding of high altitude physiology and methods... Read More

Jim Hood Jim Hood Originally from Utah, Jim Hood has worked as the contract helicopter pilot with the National Park Service, flying the Lama high altitude helicopter for search and rescue missions on Denali.
Cliff Hudson Cliff Hudson

Cliff Hudson was a pioneering Alaska bush pilot whose air-taxi services based out of Talkeetna, Alaska made Alaskan climbing accessible to many more people. Born in Mallot, Washington in 1925, Cliff joined the U.S. Army in 1944 and came to Alaska in 1948 to join his brother, Glen, who was operating Hudson Air Service in Talkeetna. Cliff took over the business after his brother was killed in an airplane accident. Cliff had a great love of Alaska and flying, and was known for his flying skills... Read More

Jay Hudson Jay Hudson

Jay Hudson is the son of legendary bush pilot Cliff Hudson, and in 1998 took over as owner and operator of Hudson Air Service in Talkeetna, Alaska. Jay had his first solo flight in 1973, when he was sixteen years old and started flying commercially when he was nineteen. Jay followed his father's lead in providing air taxi access to the remote mountains in and around Denali National Park and Preserve, to locals shuttling back and forth to remote properties, and as a contractor for mail... Read More

Dave Johnston Dave Johnston

Originally from New Jersey, Dave Johnston came to Alaska in the 1960s and is an experienced mountaineer with decades of experience in the Alaska Range, including being a member of the climbing team that made 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. In Art Davidson's classic book on the climb "Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley," Dave emerges as the person most directly... Read More

Eugene Karstens Eugene Karstens

Eugene Karstens is the son of Harry Karstens, an early mountaineer in Alaska who was the guide and leader of the first complete ascent of Denali in 1913 and served as the first superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park (now Denali) from 1921 to 1928. Eugene came to Alaska in 1921 at age four when his family came to join his father during his tenure as superintendent. Eugene quickly learned the ins and outs of surviving in Interior Alaska, and enjoyed hunting and other outdoor activities... Read More

Ken Kehrer Ken Kehrer

Ken Kehrer had a long career with the National Park Service, working as a ranger and an administrator. He came to Denali National Park in May 1989 as West District ranger and became Chief Ranger in July 1990. He went on to hold upper level administrative positions with Denali, and in other park units, including Capital Reef National Park in Utah.

Dennis Kogl Dennis Kogl

Originally from Minnesota, Dennis Kogl earned a bachelor's degree from Humboldt State College in California, and in the 1970s came to Alaska to work as a fisheries assistant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). He went on to earn a master's degree in fisheries from UAF studying spawning salmon on the Chena River. He then became interested in wilderness living and mushing dogs, and with his wife, Sandy, moved to the Denali National Park area. They first homesteaded in the Yanert River... Read More

George Lowe George Lowe

Originally from Utah, George H. Lowe III is part of a family of famous alpine-style climbers: his cousin, Jeff Lowe, has made over one thousand first ascents, and Greg Lowe, another climbing cousin, founded the outdoor equipment manufacturer Lowe Alpine. George started climbing in 1962 during his first year of college in Southern California, but really became enamored with it when climbing in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. He eventually moved on to climbing in the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and... Read More

Ann Mackovjak Ann Mackovjak

Born in Maine in 1948, Ann Bourassa Mackovjak, known as "Cricket" to her family and friends, grew up on a dairy and potato farm where she loved being outside and helped with many of the farm activities, including driving the tractor and caring for the lifestock and chickens. From 1966 to 1970, Annie attended St. Joseph's College in Maine where she earned a degree in English and history, and obtained a teaching certificate. In 1970, she married Marc Bourassa who was in the Air Force and they... Read More

Ian McRae Ian McRae

Originally from California, Ian McRae is a former big wall climber turned alpinist, with an impressive array of first ascents in the Alaska and Delta Ranges. Ian did his first climbing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and after graduating from college came to Alaska to climb Mount Foraker. He settled in Fairbanks, Alaska where he would be close to the mountains and could continue to pursue his love of climbing and other outdoor activities. He later became a high school teacher, and most... Read More

Berle Mercer Berle Mercer

Originally from Nebraska, Berle Mercer first came to Alaska while serving in the U.S. Army and being stationed in Anchorage. After marrying his wife, Claire, in 1950 in Nebraska, they returned to Alaska. They first lived in Nenana and then in 1957 bought a homestead along Lignite Road near Healy, Alaska where they raised livestock. Since the 1950s, Berle had an on-going relationship with Denali National Park. For several years, he hauled freight via horseback to the McGonagall Pass cache... Read More

Daryl Miller Daryl Miller

Originally from northern California and Oregon, Daryl Miller was a climbing and patrol ranger for the National Park Service in Denali National Park starting in 1989 and has been of crucial importance to the climbing program at Denali, 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. He... Read More

Terris Moore Terris Moore

Terris Moore was the second president of the University of Alaska, serving from 1949 to 1953. He was an avid mountaineer who first climbed peaks in Alaska in 1930. He also was a pilot and known as the "flying president." He provided air support to many expeditions on Mount McKinley (now Denali) in the 1940s and 1950s, including flying Bradford Washburn to the West Buttress in 1951 when he pioneered that route. Terris' flights and landing on glaciers were key to providing support for many... Read More

Earl Norris Earl Norris

Earl Norris came to Alaska in 1942 with the Civil Aeronautics Administration which was constructing airfields and navigation facilities around Alaska. He homesteaded just outside Anchorage and built up a small kennel of Alaskan Malamutes. By 1950, Earl was Director of Logistics for the Port of Anchorage. Eventually, as Anchorage expanded, Earl moved out to a homestead in Willow, Alaska where he could expand his kennel and breeding operation. He was a respected dog musher who used his dog... Read More

Natalie Norris Natalie Norris

Originally from Lake Placid, New York, Natalie Norris grew up with a love of dogs and started sled dog racing at age thireen. She came to Alaska in 1946 and in 1947 married Earl Norris, a dog musher in Willow, Alaska who pioneered the dog team route up to the base camp on the North Side of Denali. Natalie continued her enthusiasm for sled dogs and in 1947 was the first woman to run in the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. Natalie stayed involved with dogs by... Read More

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,... Read More

Diane Okonek Diane Okonek

Originally from California, Diane is an avid outdoorswoman who hitchhiked to Alaska, following her adventurous heart and moving far from the crowds of the Lower 48. Diane settled in Talkeenta, Alaska and has climbed Denali many times, both as a climber and more recently as a guide. In 1983, Diane and her husband, Brian, co-founded Alaska-Denali Guiding, a mountaineering guide business in Talkeetna. Because of the Okonek's leadership, climbing expertise, and values they became one of the most... Read More

Jim Okonek Jim Okonek

Jim Okonek 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 near Anchorage. In this capacity, he was involved in rescue operations, which sparked his initial interest in Mount McKinley (Denali). His interest in the mountain got an added boost when his son, Brian, started climbing in the 1970s and Jim began flying him to the mountain. As retirement approached in the 1970's, Jim and his family spent more... Read More

Roger Robinson Roger Robinson

Originally from Oregon, Roger Robinson developed a love for the outdoors and climbing as a Boy Scout. He received a degree in Resource Recreation Management from Oregon State University and climbed in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. By the late 1970s, Roger was climbing in Alaska, including on Mount McKinley (now Denali), and in 1979 moved to a remote property on the south side of Denali National Park. In 1980, he was hired as a climbing ranger at Denali National Park based out of... Read More

Paul Roderick Paul Roderick

Originally from Connecticut, Paul Roderick is a climber, skier, and pilot based out of Talkeetna, Alaska. He is the lead pilot, Director of Operations, and owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi (TAT) 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, and tolerance of, climbers, as many of his clients stage out of TAT headquarters. Paul is a seasoned pilot who has been flying at Denali... Read More

Roberta Sheldon Roberta Sheldon

Roberta Sheldon was born in 1940 to Alaskan pioneering aviator Robert Reeve who founded Reeve Aleutian Airways, and his wife, Janice "Tilly." After graduating from high school in Anchorage, Roberta worked for Reeve Aleutian Airways and traveled the world as a stewardess. In 1964, she married pioneering mountain pilot, Don Sheldon, and moved to Talkeetna to help him operate Talkeetna Air Service. Roberta dearly loved the community of Talkeetna, and worked tirelessly to preserve its small town... Read More

Pete Sinclair Leon "Pete" Sinclair

Originally from New England, Leon "Pete" Sinclair was a rock climber and mountaineer with a lifelong love for adventure. After attending Dartmouth College and serving in the Navy, Peter headed west to Wyoming. In 1959, Pete and fellow climbers Jake Breitenbach, Barry Corbet, and Bill Buckingham completed the first ascent of the West Rib of Mount McKinley (now Denali) in 1959. This climb became one of the most famous, in part because the team shared their story in an article published in ... Read More

Kathy Sullivan Kathy Sullivan

Kathy Sullivan was a clerk/office manager for Denali National Park's South District based in Talkeetna, Alaska. 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, including scaling Argentina's daunting Aconcagua while pregnant. All that makes clerical work for the government a less than totally satisfying lifestyle. However, after Ray Genet's death on Mount Everest in 1979, single-parent... Read More

J.D. Swed J.D. Swed

In 1992, J.D. Swed became the South District Ranger for Denali National Park and Preserve stationed in Talkeetna, Alaska. Prior to coming to Alaska, J.D. had 16 years of experience as a National Park Service ranger in Yosemite, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, and other Southwestern parks. He worked on a variety of assignments including ski patrol, mountaineering ranger, search and rescue, and emergency medical work. Later, J.D. went on to serve as chief ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National... Read More

Ralph Tingey Ralph Tingey

Originally from Utah, Ralph Tingey developed a love for climbing in the Teton Mountains and after gaining an education worked as a climbing ranger for the National Park Service stationed at Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons from 1965 to 1981. In 1981, he came to Alaska to work as a climbing ranger at Denali National Park and Preserve stationed in Talkeetna, Alaska. Eventually, Ralph moved into management and in 1994 became Associate Regional Director based in Anchorage, a position he held until... Read More

Mark Twight Mark Twight

The son of a park ranger, Mark Twight grew up in a variety of western parks where he developed a love of the outdoors and had a number of opportunities to learn the intricacies of technical climbing. As an experienced climber and mountaineer, Mark helped develop a new philosophy in climbing, what he describes as "extreme alpinism." This is a combination of expedition style preparation and a lightning fast, completely committed alpine ascent. In the 1980s and 1990's, he used this technique on... Read More

Les Viereck Leslie "Les" Viereck

Originally from Massachusetts, Les Viereck came to Alaska in the early 1950s as a botanist. He earned a PhD in plant ecology from the University of Colorado and served in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. In addition to a long and productive career as a scientist, Les was a member of the first successful ascent 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... Read More

Barbara Washburn Barbara Washburn

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and growing up in the Boston area, Barbara Polk Washburn was the first woman to climb Mount McKinley (now Denali ) in 1947 when she accompanied her husband, Bradford, and his climbing partners on their expedition. Barbara graduated from Smith College and held various secretarial positions around Boston, including at Harvard University where she met explorer and adventurer, Brad Washburn. She then went to work for Brad at Boston's Museum of Science. They married... Read More

Bradford Washburn Bradford Washburn

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Bradford "Brad" Washburn was a mountaineer, scholar, scientist and gifted photographer. He not only made many first ascents in Alaska, and elsewhere, but his high altitude photography of Denali and the Alaska Range earned him the reputation as the "Ansel Adams" of high altitude imagery. His cartographic, scientific, and photographic achievements are unparalleled, especially on Mount McKinley (now Denali). Brad first climbed Denali in 1942, then in... Read More

James Wickwire James Wickwire

Growing up in Washington, at an early age Jim Wickwire developed a love of the outdoors and an interest in climbing. Over decades of climbing all over the world, including being the first American to summit K2 in the Himalayas in 1978, he became a world-famous climber who has accomplished much and endured even more. Jim started climbing in Alaska in the 1970s, and in 1981 his climbing partner, Chris Kerrebrock, was killed in a fall into a crevasse while they were on Mount McKinley (now... Read More

Morton Wood Morton "Woody" 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... Read More

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