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Will Forsberg

Will Forsberg was interviewed on August 22, 2000 by Bill Schneider at his home on the Stampede Trail in Healy, Alaska. In this interview, Will talks about using dogteams to freight supplies to mountain climbers on Denali. He describes the route he takes, the daily routine on the trail, the types of sleds and equipment used, and the challenges of getting to and from McGonagall Pass. He also talks about the best types of dogs to use for freighting, training the dogs, dealing with injuries, and the use of dogs for the seasonal round of subsistence activities. Finally, he talks about the question of snowmachine use in Denali National Park.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-27

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Aug 22, 2000
Narrator(s): Will Forsberg
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
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.


1) Growing up in the Lower 48 and his first time in Alaska

2) His introduction to Alaska and committing to spend the winters there

3) His very first experience with a sled dog team on the Yanert Glacier

4) His first overnight trip and slowly learning how dogsleding works

5) Early adventures and taking his first client out

6) Taking Chris Simons out to the East Fork cabin

7) Learning that not all clients are as nice as the first

8) Looking for the extremely slow ski group clients

9) The best clients that they have had

10) Insurance and the different clients served through the business

11) The trail they take when hauling supplies for climbers, and particular dog characteristics that benefit freighting

12) Performing different functions in different seasons

13) A typical daily run when hauling supplies

14) The sleds they use, and a description of the trip up McGonagall Pass

15) Pacing the dogs up McGonagall Pass and the differing conditions

16) Dropping down to the glacier on the other side of McGonagall Pass

17) Cache sites that they used on the glacier, and perspectives

18) Getting the dogs down from McGonagall Pass to the glacier and tying them down

19) Coming back over McGonagall Pass on the way back to Wonder Lake

20) Training dogs for freighting

21) Injuries with the dogs

22) Making a trail for the dogs in deep snow

23) Keeping track of weather reports and being stuck in storms

24) Reading the weather, and the Arctic Oven tent

25) Types of tents, and materials they build sleds out of

26) The new brake systems with teeth, and hauling out everything brought into the Park

27) Hauling out people's trash, and differences between the North and South sides of the Park

28) Describing a yearly cycle with the dogs

29) Exploring the North side of the Park, and the subsistence lifestyle

30) Weak salmon runs and the evolving nature of subsistence

31) The issue of snowmachines in the National Park

32) Access abilities on a dog team and a snowmachine

33) His favorite lead dog

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.


Section 1: Lakehurst, NJ\ father -- Navy\ Guam\ California\ Santa Barbara, CA\ Alaska Pipeline -- construction\ Vice President -- Spiro Agnew\ college\ Park Hotel\ Alaska\ Horseshoe Lake\ moose\ winter -- Alaska\ parents\ Sioux City, IA\ farms -- relatives\ Southern California\ Navy -- retirement\ Earth Day\ college -- Environmental Studies|

Section 2: influence -- parents\ Kodiak, AK\ bears -- brown\ Healy, AK\ ferry\ Ketchikan, AK\ cemetery\ camp\ restaurant -- Chinese\ Haines, AK\ Fairbanks, AK\ McKinley National Park\ laundry facility\ buses -- wash\ supplies -- haul\ sled dogs\ winter -- commitment\ skis\ sled\ backpack\ Reeves, Ford\ Jones, Steve\ Barb, Steve\ sled -- bought|

Section 3: Johnson, Linda\ sled dogs -- National Park\ Jones, Steve\ Reeves, Ford\ Kogl, Dennis\ dog team\ winter trip\ Yanert Valley\ Tolly, Steve\ dogsled -- first experience\ cabin -- trapper\ Trapper Creek Trail\ hook -- set\ tree\ dog -- leader\ highway\ team -- size|

Section 4: dogs -- collecting\ dogs -- older\ Johnson, Linda\ dogs -- babysitting\ trip -- overnight\ cabins\ Yanert Valley\ water -- avoiding\ river\ camp -- setting up\ gee pole\ skis\ cooperation\ Wonder Lake\ Denali National Park\ Savage Campground\ Kogl, Dennis\ King, Jeff\ Widemore, Gary|

Section 5: winter\ dog food\ Denali Dog Tours\ Simons, Chris -- England\ Kogl, Dennis\ Johnson, Linda\ gear -- hauling\ climbers\ ski\ glacier\ Muldrow Glacier\ Wonder Lake\ dog team\ Sanctuary cabin\ mush\ wolves -- wild\ ridge\ Denali National Park|

Section 6: client\ pianist\ organist\ university -- England\ cabin -- East Fork\ shrew\ Simons, Chris\ bucket -- shrew\ dog teams -- size\ Kogl, Dennis\ business -- bought\ sled dogs -- money\ Denali National Park\ dogs -- travel\ sled -- heavy load\ client -- first|

Section 7: Kogl, Dennis\ climbing groups -- hauling supplies\ passengers -- hauling\ sled\ ski groups -- accompany\ cabins\ Wonder Lake\ Bethel, AK\ client -- overweight\ airstrip\ parka\ foot -- blister\ dog sled trail\ breaking trail\ McKinley Bar\ mountains\ river\ Forsberg, Linda\ dentist -- Bethel, AK\ gee pole|

Section 8: sled -- help\ rudder tails -- break\ dentist -- Bethel, AK\ dogs -- feed\ Thoroughfare Gorge\ icy\ ski\ mush\ Forsberg, Linda\ river\ trail\ pharmacist -- Bethel, AK\ clients\ drink -- Tang\ cabin\ outhouse\ ski group\ sleds -- ride|

Section 9: Toklat River\ trail -- easy\ people -- introduction\ clients -- best\ Simons, Chris\ ski groups\ Anchorage, AK\ packing\ clothes\ skis\ cabins\ tent\ Forsberg, Linda\ client -- Belgium\ Healy, AK\ girlfriend -- French\ World War II\ Germans -- invaded\ engineer\ war planes -- German\ prisoner of war|

Section 10: Denali National Park -- snow cover\ Denali National Park -- concession\ insurance\ liability\ insurance -- claim\ insurance -- premiums\ people -- hauling\ people -- warm\ Kogl, Dennis\ Cougar, John\ dog teams -- assisting climbers\ Denali\ Mercer, Berle\ mules -- hauling\ ski groups\ passenger groups\ hauling -- climbers\ glacier|

Section 11: Kogl, Dennis\ hauling\ Forsberg, Linda\ hauling -- steep inclines\ glacier\ hauling -- rocky\ trail -- groomed\ Fairbanks, AK\ cold camping\ McGonagall Pass\ climbers -- Mt. McKinley\ pioneer climb\ Denali -- north side\ sled dog -- special\ dogs -- type\ Denali National Park\ dogs -- strength\ dogs -- calm\ supplies -- ferry\ dogs -- quit\ dogs -- breeding\ dog houses|

Section 12: Kogl, Dennis\ business\ racing\ hauling -- climbing groups\ freighting -- winter\ passenger groups -- spring\ ski groups -- spring\ climbing groups -- dog team\ Nenana, AK\ Fairbanks, AK\ Stuck, Hudson\ Karstens, Harry\ South Peak -- Denali\ firewood -- haul\ kids -- Nenana, AK\ supplies\ food -- caribou\ food -- sheep\ crevasses\ climbers\ mushers\ National Outdoor Leadership School\ Wonder Lake -- storage\ flight service -- Talkeetna, AK\ airstrip -- Kantishna, AK\ mush\ Moose Creek\ Kantishna Roadhouse\ glacier -- dog team|

Section 13: Wonder Lake\ cabins -- ranger\ Big Timber -- spruce\ McKinley River\ gravel bar\ flood\ ice\ trail -- safe\ Turtle Hill\ ridge\ Clearwater River\ overflow\ snow -- deep\ Cache Creek\ McGonagall Pass\ willow\ wood stoves\ cold camping\ dogs -- routine\ Forsberg, Linda\ sleds -- toboggan|

Section 14: sleds -- traditional\ Forsberg, Linda\ campsite\ trail -- good\ dogs -- race\ Wonder Lake\ dogs -- new leaders\ Cache Creek\ dog food\ supplies\ tent -- arctic oven\ firewood\ willows\ McGonagall Pass\ camp\ dog teams -- smaller\ dogs -- leaders|

Section 15: dogs -- pacing\ McGonagall Pass\ valley -- windblown\ snow -- icy\ sleds -- heavy\ bar brake\ toboggans\ dogs -- trust\ rock -- river\ rock -- sharp\ buckets\ boxes\ fuel\ route\ glacier|

Section 16: glacier -- rocky\ Kogl, Dennis\ snow\ dogs -- stake-off\ trail\ snowshoes\ boulder\ mushing\ dogs -- leader\ gee\ haw\ tug lines\ neck lines\ Forsberg, Linda\ stake-out -- rocks\ sled -- steep\ sleds -- brake\ buckets\ supplies -- carry\ buckets -- bowling|

Section 17: weather -- stable\ trail -- improving\ cache sites\ climbing groups\ McGonagall Pass\ glacier\ boulder\ Mt. McKinley\ Lower Ice Fall -- Muldrow Glacier\ crevasses\ snow\ windy\ white-out\ cache site -- upper\ Muldrow Glacier\ mountains -- elevation\ summit\ ridges\ Mt. Brooks\ airplanes\ perspective -- lose\ distances -- danger|

Section 18: dogs -- hook down\ boulders\ snow flukers\ snow stakes\ rock\ rope\ gang line\ stake-outs -- cable\ dogs -- tied down\ dogs -- leader\ sled\ McGonagall Pass\ glacier\ neck line -- double\ buckets|

Section 19: dogs -- personality\ sled\ McGonagall Pass\ boulder\ trail -- steep\ Forsberg, Linda\ dogs -- fight\ chase factor\ supplies\ Wonder Lake|

Section 20: dogs -- training\ training -- race\ training -- freight\ muscle -- building\ dogs -- mental control\ weight -- pulling\ sleds -- heavier\ dogs -- behavior\ dogs -- longer coat\ camp -- training\ dog houses\ camp -- straw\ dog -- injuries\ racing -- injuries\ runs -- long|

Section 21: injuries -- wrist\ injuries -- shoulder\ trails -- groomed\ trail -- breaking\ injuries -- straining\ dogs -- older\ dogs -- arthritis\ training -- freighting\ team -- freighting\ team -- racing\ injuries -- feet\ toenails -- broken\ feet -- booties\ water\ breeding -- good feet\ windpack\ Denali National Park\ snow -- deep\ leader -- long-legged\ snowshoes\ leader -- break trail\ snowshoes -- size|

Section 22: dogs -- leaders\ snowshoes\ sled\ snow -- deep\ trail -- straight\ dog team -- loose\ wheel dogs\ rope\ sled -- rear stanchion\ Denali National Park\ Big Timber -- trees\ snow -- wind\ snow -- soft\ moose -- trail\ rabbits -- trail|

Section 23: dog team\ trails -- snowmachine\ Denali National Park\ storm\ radio\ weather reports\ radio station -- KUAC\ trail -- breaking\ North side -- Denali National Park\ rivers -- overflow\ Riddles, Libby\ Iditarod\ McGonagall Pass\ Wonder Lake\ tent\ wind\ dogs -- bury\ snowdrift\ supplies\ climbing groups|

Section 24: radio\ wind warnings\ Anchorage, AK\ Mt. McKinley\ snow -- wind\ ridges\ Mt. Brooks\ Mt. Oastler\ Mt. McGonagall\ wind -- funneled\ canyon\ dogs -- panic\ haw\ wind -- gravel\ snow -- hard pack\ Wonder Lake\ binoculars\ Arctic Oven\ camp\ winter tent\ Alaska Tent and Tarp\ Fairbanks, AK\ condensation -- inner layer\ framework -- aluminum\ snow stakes\ skis\ wood stove\ fire\ tent -- heavy\ sled|

Section 25: tents -- traditional\ canvas -- lightweight\ wall tents -- pyramid\ Forsberg, Linda\ Stuck, Hudson\ dog sleds\ sleds -- freighting\ sleds -- wooden basket\ sleds -- plastic toboggan\ runner -- wooden\ buckets\ sleds -- hauling\ bracing -- steel pipe\ runner shoes -- plastic\ Quick Change Runner System|

Section 26: White, Tim\ sleds -- toboggan\ brakes\ brake -- bear claw\ brakes -- teeth\ sleds -- control\ brakes -- buy\ aluminum\ bolts -- heavy\ supplies -- burning\ World War II\ plane -- crash\ Denali National Park\ Army -- search\ tents\ stoves\ trash -- build-up\ climbing groups\ bonfire\ supplies -- haul out\ National Outdoor Leadership School\ buckets -- plastic\ boxes\ traverse -- south side|

Section 27: clean-up -- Sierra Club\ Forsberg, Linda -- hauling\ National Park Service -- hauling\ South Side -- Denali\ vehicles -- motorized\ airplanes\ North Side -- wilderness\ Denali National Park -- North side\ Wonder Lake\ climbing season\ climbers -- experienced\ McGonagall Pass\ tundra\ crowds -- avoid\ Mt. McKinley\ clients -- guides\ pioneer climbs -- north side\ Pioneer Ridge\ North Peak -- Denali\ Karstens Ridge\ South Peak -- Denali|

Section 28: hauling\ dogs -- year round\ Kantishna River -- fish camp\ fish wheel\ salmon -- dog food\ training -- dirt\ four wheeler\ injuries\ snow\ training runs -- longer\ Wonder Lake\ racing\ snowmachine -- break trail\ dogs\ Toklat River|

Section 29: cabins -- training\ supplies\ trail\ Wonder Lake\ camp\ cabins -- Park Service\ Denali National Park -- North side\ routes -- new\ Moose Creek\ Kantishna, AK\ mining district\ trails -- old\ cabins -- old\ Minchumina, AK\ Nikolai, AK\ McGrath, AK\ Ruby, AK\ Nenana, AK\ Yukon River\ Stampede Trail\ Park Corridor\ snow -- melt\ dogs -- communicate\ summer -- healing\ dogs -- running\ subsistence\ economic value|

Section 30: salmon -- chum\ salmon returns\ escapement\ spawning\ factors -- environmental\ ocean\ Asian countries\ Yukon River\ Tanana River\ fishing\ dog food\ dog team -- subsistence\ dog team -- transportation\ hunting -- food\ Alaska -- money economy\ dog team -- commercial use\ subsistence -- evolving|

Section 31: economy -- cash\ trapping -- subsistence\ government -- federal\ government -- state\ Denali National Park\ dog teams\ skiers\ snowmachines\ South side -- Denali\ Dunkel Mine, AK\ wilderness\ Wonder Lake\ snowcover\ impact -- plant life\ tundra -- fragile\ hills -- trails\ snowmachines -- speed\ dogs\ Talkeetna, AK\ Trapper Creek, AK\ mushing\ snowmachines -- safety\ wildlife -- disturbing|

Section 32: snowmachine\ trails -- dogs\ skis\ snowshoes\ snowmachine -- noise\ snowmachine -- trails\ wilderness\ dog team -- access\ Denali National Park -- North Side\ snow\ McGonagall Pass\ McKinley River\ dog teams\ snowmachines -- access\ National Parks\ snowmachines -- pollution\ wilderness -- vehicle free|

Section 33: mushers\ dog team\ trail -- open\ snowmachines\ dogs -- leader\ leader -- succession\ Legs -- leader\ Pike -- leader\ leader -- break trail\ Big Timber\ snowshoes\ Eagle Summit\ race -- Yukon Quest\ Forsberg, Linda\ dogs -- hound\ trail -- hard pack\ tradition|