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Daryl Miller

Daryl Miller was interviewed on April 27, 2000 by Dave Krupa at the National Park Service Ranger Station in Talkeetna, Alaska. Daryl is a gifted storyteller, a skill displayed here as he describes his varied life and assays the special challenges and opportunities for mountaineering in the Alaska Range and on Denali. In this interview, Daryl talks about his experiences as a climber in the Alaska Range, being a mountaineering ranger for Denali National Park, being involved in rescue operations, and dealing with the challenges of managing climbers and the climbing program. For more about Daryl's philosophy about mountain safety and climbing, see, "Survival is Your Own Responsibility: Thoughts From A Retired Mountaineering Ranger" an essay he wrote that appears on the Denali National Park website.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-01

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Apr 27, 2000
Narrator(s): Daryl Miller
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
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) Personal background and how he was introduced to climbing

2) His first climbing experience on Denali

3) Not summiting on his first attempt and the value of the lessons learned from Lucy Smith

4) His growing relationship with the mountain and the transition from student climber to mentor

5) The various ways in which people use the mountain, and human error being the root of climbing problems compounded by weather and altitude

6) Life threatening issues that climbers must deal with and the first winter ascent in 1967

7) Difficulties and changes on the mountain during winter climbs, and the Japanese man, Kuriaki

8) Kuriaki's preparation for a winter climb, and gathering information about a winter circumnavigation

9) Planning and preparing for a winter circumnavigation with Mark Stasik

10) Continuation of discussion about the circumnavigation and obstacles encountered

11) The difference between mountaineering and backcountry travel, and details of the circumnavigation route

12) Backcountry travel skills, backcountry obstacles, and partner compatibility

13) The decision to not include National Geographic on the expedition and the abundance of local support

14) The word of the circumnavigation penetrating the public, and challenging climbs on Denali

15) The patrol rangers' abilities to make rescues on particular areas of the mountain

16) Stories of strange attempts at climbing the mountain, and safety

17) Accidents at Denali Pass and the value of experience when risk-taking and in gauging consequences

18) Chuck Bale as an example of self-sufficiency and the responsibilities involved in risk-taking

19) Difficulties encountered because of group dynamics and the importance of having a dependable partner

20) How accidents do not necessarily favor experience over inexperience

21) His experiences feeling out new territory and specific rescue attempts that are mandated by Congress

22) The negative consequences of Denali being a high profile mountain

23) The inability of the current population trend changing because of the types of people that a high profile mountain attracts

24) Ways to go about changing the current trend

25) His perceived incentives of foreign climbers and some particularly personal rescues

26) The death of the Koreans Kee-Won Kim and Sang Myeung Lee while climbing Denali

27) Organizing the recovery of bodies, and rearranging the leadership within the Korean group

28) The many unanswered questions regarding Kee-Won Kim and Sang Myeung Lee's death

29) Kee-Won Kim and Sang Myeung Lee's funeral at the Talkeetna cemetery, and the death of another volunteer

30) The death of volunteer Mike Vanderbeek, and relationships within the climbing community

31) The fragility of life and the chances of achieving mountaineering goals

32) The newer forms of alpine style climbing

33) The amazing ascent of the Russian Vanelli

34) Watching Canadian climbers funnel into a couloir while traversing

35) The decision to not continue with the rescue of the Canadian climbers

36) Where the decisions to continue on a rescue should be made

37) The best way to alleviate clashes between humans and nature is education

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: Alaska\ Northwest -- U.S.\ Arcadia, CA\ Eureka, CA\ Pendleton, OR\ Paddle Rock, OR\ Idaho\ Walla Walla, WA\ United States Marine Corps\ Vietnam War\ ranching\ rodeo clown\ college\ Master's Degree\ Great Falls, MT\ Hale, Dexter\ Big Horn Wilderness\ Mt. McKinley\ National Outdoor Leadership School -- NOLS\ Smith, Lucy|

Section 2: Mt. McKinley -- first experience\ student\ glaciers\ Wind River Mountains\ climb -- 40 days\ elevation gain\ climb -- northern approach\ journey -- fulfillment\ Muldrow Glacier\ tundra\ Wonder Lake\ McKinley River -- crossing\ Clear Creek\ Cache Creek\ McGonagall Pass\ Karstens Ridge\ Mt. McKinley -- three sections\ avalanches\ crevasses\ Great Ice Fall\ Lower Icefall\ Browne Tower\ Harper Glacier\ storm\ experience -- learning\ tents -- destroyed\ snow caves\ caches -- food\ weather\ altitude -- effects|

Section 3: Smith, Lucy\ climbing -- philosophy\ avalanches\ Annapurna, A Woman's Place\ guide\ Himalayan climber\ Vietnam War\ expedition leader\ knowledge -- mountain\ apprenticeship\ Denali -- fear\ risk -- understanding\ decision making\ experience -- learning\ journey -- importance\ summit -- importance|

Section 4: Denali\ mountain -- ownership\ mountain -- relationship\ risk takers\ climbers\ Colorado State University\ outdoor class -- teaching\ mentor\ volunteer -- patrol\ Robinson, Roger\ guiding -- responsibility\ Genet, Ray\ mountaineering|

Section 5: learning -- curve\ mountain -- understanding\ position -- management\ Denali -- decisions on future\ mountain -- respect\ Denali -- trouble\ accidents\ weather -- bad\ judgement -- bad\ altitude -- effects\ weather -- effects\ error -- human|

Section 6: ranger\ guide\ climber\ volunteer -- patrol\ Denali -- problems\ decisions -- bad\ weather\ altitude -- high\ cold\ wind -- killer\ climbs -- winter\ clouds -- lenticular\ ascent -- first\ Davidson, Art\ Genet, Ray\ Johnston, Dave\ Washburn, Brad\ ascents -- winter|

Section 7: climbing -- winter\ odds\ cold\ sunlight\ dark\ crevasses\ bridges -- wind chaff\ snow\ wind\ fuel -- more\ winter climbing -- challenges\ Alaska Range\ West Rib\ Japanese\ Kuriaki -- Caribou Man\ training -- tuna lockers|

Section 8: risk -- understanding\ Mt. Hunter -- apprenticeship\ Mt. Foraker -- apprenticeship\ Denali -- solo\ Stasik, Mark\ Robinson, Roger\ circumnavigation -- winter\ Perky Pile\ Kantishna\ McKinley Bar\ Denali -- history\ circumnavigation -- first\ Rowell, Galen\ Gillette, Ned\ Cook -- 1903\ horses\ raft\ Chulitna River -- West Fork\ south side -- alders\ West Rib\ travel -- backcountry|

Section 9: Stasik, Mark\ partner\ West Rib\ South Side\ North Side\ patrols\ caches -- food\ winter -- light\ rivers -- frozen\ circumnavigation -- planning\ Browne, Belmore\ Anderson Pass\ Talkeetna, AK\ Ohio Creek\ Seward, AK\ weather -- conditions\ Johnston, Dave|

Section 10: circumnavigation -- preparation\ Okonek, Jim\ Okonek, Brian\ Anderson Pass\ Gunsight Pass\ Chedotlothna Glacier\ Yentna Glacier\ terrain -- steep\ snow -- conditions\ rivers -- travel\ skis -- break\ snowshoes -- Tubbs Yukons\ snowshoes -- break and repair\ ice -- fell through\ Chulitna River\ throw bags\ fire -- tent\ "Little Siberia"\ Kuskokwim River -- Swift Fork\ caches -- food\ skis\ dog sled\ snowmachine|

Section 11: climbing -- technical\ Gunsight Pass\ ice axe\ Bunny boots\ self-arrest\ sleds\ gear -- protection\ gear -- tie-offs\ vertical depth hoar\ rocks\ wind\ thermometer -- temperature\ Minchumina -- weather station\ snow -- dumps\ Denali\ Alaska -- travel\ mountaineers\ glaciers\ mountains\ slopes\ backcountry\ climbs -- pioneer\ Fairbanks, AK\ Seward, AK\ airplane\ expeditions -- early|

Section 12: Alaska -- travel\ dogsled\ horses -- pack\ backcountry -- skills\ climber\ snow -- crust\ snow -- depth hoar\ snow -- slog\ McGonagall Pass\ alders\ spruce\ backcountry -- underestimation\ Stasik, Mark\ Johnston, Dave\ glacier -- travel|

Section 13: National Geographic\ filming -- expedition\ camera -- still\ slide show -- ownership\ equipment -- donated\ Ives, Deb\ Posh House\ wind suits\ equipment -- racks\ socks\ pile suits\ gloves\ mittens\ donations -- Bagel Co.\ caribou\ moose\ expedition -- Alaskan style\ Fairbanks|

Section 14: expeditions -- size\ expeditions -- filming\ newspaper\ American Alpine Journal -- "Alaskan Mile"\ Bryson, George\ We Alaskans\ Stasik, Mark\ reporters\ Talkeetna, AK\ climbs -- challenging\ climber\ routes -- difficult\ West Rib\ patrol\ West Buttress\ Woolford, Mark\ Goram, Steve\ Colorado\ weather|

Section 15: Muldrow Glacier\ West Buttress\ West Rib\ Cassin Ridge\ South Buttress\ equipment -- fixed lines\ sanitation\ Football Field\ Polish climber -- Kristov\ summit -- trapped\ crevasses\ climb -- solo\ clouds -- lenticular\ descent -- pendulum pitches\ descent -- traversing pendulums\ altitude -- sickness|

Section 16: elevation -- changes\ storm\ tent -- Bibler\ patrol -- survival\ cigarettes\ Denali -- challenges\ Denali -- tragedy\ accidents -- bad relationships\ nature -- problems\ prevention\ treatment\ wilderness -- Denali\ West Buttress\ safety -- numbers\ Orient Express\ descent -- roped together\ protection -- fixed\ casualties|

Section 17: Denali Pass\ fatalities\ rocks\ rock bands\ Orient Express\ climbers -- communicating\ experience -- first hand\ accidents\ risk-taking -- physical\ "chain of pain"\ families\ wilderness\ national park|

Section 18: Bale, Chuck\ Amish Lakes\ North Side\ Talkeetna, AK\ seasons\ Hudson, Cliff\ Hudson, Jay\ wife -- Nancy Bale\ wilderness\ self-sufficiency -- responsibility\ communication -- problems\ rescues\ searches -- cost\ medical emergency\ routes -- information\ risk-taking -- responsible|

Section 19: Denali\ group dynamics\ expeditions -- falling apart\ guided -- parties\ partners -- choice\ guides -- social directors\ instructor -- NOLS\ rope partner -- history\ tent\ climbing partner -- attributes\ partner -- dependability|

Section 20: problems -- experience\ fatalities -- numbers\ accidents -- numbers\ routes -- risk\ Stasik, Mark\ weather -- bad\ Mt. Everest\ Hackett, Peter\ Okonek, Brian\ Robinson, Roger\ death\ arrogance\ over-confidence\ awareness\ wilderness\ rivers\ crevasses\ bears\ rocks -- sounding rivers|

Section 21: river -- drown\ equipment -- throw bags\ territory -- feeling\ prepared\ wilderness\ West Buttress\ HACE\ fear -- lack of\ courage -- controlled fear\ elements -- respect\ Denali -- altitude\ frostbite\ hypothermia\ national park\ Congress -- mandates\ staff -- acclimated\ Stevens, Ted -- Senator|

Section 22: rescue -- modern\ helicopter\ conditions -- favorable\ victims\ sanitation\ rescue\ self-sufficient\ medical emergency\ trash -- abundance\ climbers -- backcountry users\ West Buttress\ caches -- abandoned\ Denali\ newspapers -- accidents\ Murkowski's Panel\ climbers -- problems\ Swed, J.D.|

Section 23: high-profile -- changes\ rescue -- obligation\ recovery\ pilot -- prepared\ rescue -- difficulty\ education -- change\ National Park -- rescue business\ high-altitude\ climb\ Denali -- seven summits\ Benowitz, Jeff\ summit -- constraints\ airplane ticket\ decisions -- expectations\ Denali -- training ground|

Section 24: climbers\ camp -- 14,000 ft\ helicopters -- business\ American Alpine Club\ Alaska Mountaineering Rescue Group\ Alaskan Alpine Club\ Denali Park -- wilderness\ sanitation -- problem\ rescue\ climbers -- anticipations\ Washburn, Brad\ life -- journey\ climbing -- community\ climbing -- journey|

Section 25: climbers -- foreign\ sponsorship\ climbers -- European\ Italian team -- time limits\ rescues\ fatalities -- personal\ Korean -- Kim, Kee-Won\ Korean -- Lee, Sang Myeung\ restaurant -- Windy Corner\ ranger patrol -- Kim, Kee-Won\ Swed, JD\ accidents -- Korean\ ambassador -- patrol|

Section 26: training\ patrol\ 14 camp\ Korean team\ Mt. Foraker\ Denali\ Lee, Sang Myeung\ Kim, Kee-Won\ acclimate -- West Rib\ weather -- normal\ fixed lines\ climbing -- Kim and Lee\ wind -- gusting\ radio transmission -- cease\ summit -- Kim and Lee|

Section 27: Grissom, Colin\ Dagle, Steve\ Luban, Craig\ equipment -- wand\ equipment -- fixed lines\ Lee, Sang Myeung -- dead\ Kim, Kee-Won -- unfound\ Young, Steve -- guide\ hypothermia\ Swed, JD -- incident commander\ Oh, Sun -- translator\ Public Information Officer\ Koreans -- camped\ snow cave\ helicopter -- search\ Peters Glacier|

Section 28: embassy -- Korean\ Consulate General\ nationals -- Korean\ Oh, Sun -- informing\ teams -- Korean\ Young, Steve -- found Kim\ Wasilla, AK\ local\ international\ ranger\ volunteer\ fixed lines\ hypothermic\ radios\ chain of pain\ Talkeetna, AK -- cemetery\ memorial -- Talkeetna\ climbers\ living will|

Section 29: delegation -- Korean\ ceremony -- multilingual\ climbers\ funeral service\ ropes\ Kim, Kee-Won -- volunteer\ book -- Kim's purpose\ patrol\ Denali\ chain of pain\ Oh, Sun\ Mr. Oh\ town park -- food\ Vanderbeek, Mike\ volunteer -- death\ rope up\ ice screws\ Ortato, Tim\ Cassin Ridge\ Mt. Foraker\ director -- Outward Bound - Alaska|

Section 30: Vanderbeek, Mike -- death\ tent -- sharing\ rope partner\ Robinson, Roger -- friend\ ranger\ Vietnam -- body escort\ Marines\ family -- tragedy\ deaths -- 27 people\ deaths -- effect\ partners -- bond\ rescues\ Daly, Malcolm -- Thunder Mountain\ decisions -- emotional|

Section 31: Stuck, Hudson -- 10,000 Miles by Dogsled\ mountain\ situations -- reversible\ glaciers -- solo\ risk -- calculated\ Denali Pass -- spin drift\ clouds -- lenticular\ climbing\ learning curve -- sharp\ mountaineering -- awareness\ summit -- luck\ high camp -- 17,000 ft|

Section 32: self-sufficiency -- frostbite\ climbing -- alpine style\ Denali\ Lowe, Alex -- patrol\ glacier\ summit\ Football Field -- 19,600 ft\ Twight, Mark\ Roskelley, John\ Backes, Scott\ Grissom, Colin\ altitude\ Vanelli -- Russian climber|

Section 33: high camp\ Grissom, Colin\ pulsometer\ Vanelli\ Waitman, Randy\ Benowitz, Jeff\ sleeping bag -- bad\ sleeping pad -- none\ coffee\ cigarettes\ Abbot, Mike\ vodka\ West Buttress\ West Rib\ Telluride Film Festival -- acclimated\ weather -- good|

Section 34: clouds -- lenticular\ climbers -- Canadian\ Football Field\ Robinson, Roger -- flying\ Covington, Mike\ high camp\ traverse -- lateral\ protection -- roped\ Messner Couloir\ Grissom, Colin\ Abbot, Mike\ Shott, Billy|

Section 35: medical kit\ ropes -- extra\ Messner Glacier\ The Hourglass\ slope collapse -- white-out\ climbers\ rescue -- scenario\ avalanches -- spin drift\ avalanches -- point release\ Grissom, Colin -- doctor|

Section 36: accidents\ decision-making\ rodeo clown\ rescue -- discretionary\ self-sufficiency\ mountain\ instant commander\ decisions -- from base\ mountaineers -- young\ judgement\ skills\ understanding|

Section 37: National Park Service -- education\ education vs. enforcement\ visitor -- climbing\ glaciers\ sanitation\ wilderness -- education\ information\ presentations -- Power Point\ presentations -- Real Time|