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Ralph Tingey

Ralph Tingey was interviewed on June 23, 2000 by Dave Krupa at Ralph's office at the National Park Service Regional Headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Ralph talks about his experience as a climbing ranger at Denali National Park. He offers a lively account of search and rescue activities and protocol, the special camaraderie of climbing rangers, and the evolution of rescue craft. He also discusses the practical means of controlling risk, as well as the psychological factors that can keep situations from turning into tragedy. Ralph's love of the mountains, climbing, and the mountaineering culture are clearly evident in this interview, as is his level-headed assessment of risk and challenge.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-18

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Jun 23, 2000
Narrator(s): Ralph Tingey
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) His love of climbing, and early experiences

2) Working on educational degrees and working as a seasonal ranger

3) The scope of search and rescue and typical job duties

4) Early climbing partners, and the evolution of mountain rescue in the Teton Mountains

5) Rescue techniques

6) The integration of many rescue techniques in the National Parks today

7) Places that he has climbed and how he ended up in Alaska

8) His new job in the newly expanded Denali National Park

9) Managing early concessionaires and the relationship between the Park Service and concessions

10) The Park Service's role in regulating guide services to ensure public safety

11) Early impressions of Alaska

12) Mushing competitively, and rock climbing around Denali National Park

13) Three climbs on Denali, including his first and most recent

14) What he learned during his 37-day trip on the mountain

15) Responsibility for the maintenance of fixed lines and the increasing number of climbers on Denali

16) Bottlenecks on the mountain and concerns about the number of climbers on the West Buttress

17) Attempts to alleviate problems with crowds, and the popularity of rock climbing vs. alpine climbing

18) Role of the U.S. Army in rescues, and the benefits and uses of the Lama helicopter

19) Changes in the typical climber on Denali and climbers' attitudes and perception of danger

20) Alpine vs. expedition climbing on Denali, the importance of acclimatization, and attitude towards risk taking

21) Importance of proper hydration and patience for waiting out bad weather

22) Taking advantage of good weather and waiting out the bad

23) Involvement in rescues and risk-taking in rescue situations

24) The effects and limitations that rescues have on a climber, and a couple dangerous situations he has been in

25) Climbs in the Alaska Range he considers to be exceptional

26) The improvement in climbing technology and its effect on route selection

27) The enjoyment and pleasure of being around and climbing with great mountaineers, who are also great people

28) Peaks he would like to climb and mountaineering as a life long passion

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: Salt Lake City, UT\ climbing -- learning\ Lone Peak\ climbing -- books\ climbing -- equipment\ gear\ Switzerland\ passion\ reading\ Teton Mountains\ Grand Teton\ Jackson Hole\ Teton Mountains -- summers\ climbing ranger\ Grand Teton National Park\ Egypt\ language -- Arabic\ Park Ranger|

Section 2: interests -- balance\ job -- seasonal\ school\ Greek -- classical\ languages -- Near Eastern\ John Hopkins University\ graduate school\ climbing rangers\ Ph.D. -- programs\ international relations\ Reese, Rick\ Sinclair, Pete\ English\ Airmarth?, Mike\ Philosophy -- modern\ Irvine, Bob\ mathematics\ Wilson, Ted\ Economics\ Park Rangers\ climbers\ jobs -- summer\ teachers\ education\ program -- preparatory\ work -- Search and Rescue\ climbing -- expertise\ Susong?, Dunbar\ spring training\ authorities\ practice|

Section 3: techniques -- rescues\ governments -- state\ governments -- local\ Rocky Mountain National Park\ Yosemite National Park\ Grand Teton National Park\ Mount Rainier National Park\ Denali National Park\ Hart, Pete\ Sinclair, Pete\ supervisor -- seasonal\ influence\ role model\ duties -- normal\ schedule -- revolving\ Jenny Lake Ranger Station\ climbers\ Jenny Lake -- campsite\ patrol\ Irvine, Bob\ Reese, Rick\ rangers -- shifts\ mountain rescue\ Susong?, Dunbar\ gear -- rescue\ climbing\ partners\ Salt Lake City, UT\ Grand Teton\ climbing partner -- Tim|

Section 4: Kimbrow?, Tom\ climbing ranger\ Lowe, George\ University of Utah\ nuclear physics\ AlpenbockClimbing Club?\ bouldering\ climber -- great\ routes -- first ascents\ rock climbing\ growing up\ Lowe, David\ Anchorage, AK\ Mt. McKinley\ Teton Mountains\ activity -- rescue\ helicopter\ Grand Teton -- North Face\ rescue\ rock fall\ leg -- broken\ loads -- ferried\ Teton Glacier\ helicopter -- importance\ deer carrier -- L.L. Bean|

Section 5: Trogsitz? -- Austrian seat\ efficiency\ slings\ litter -- balance\ method -- sophisticated\ method -- use\ Grand Tetons\ helicopters -- importance\ tool -- main\ rescues\ techniques -- evolution\ Yosemite\ short haul\ techniques -- big wall\ helicopter -- sling load\ technique -- crude\ Lemoore Naval Station\ El Capitan\ military\ Salt Lake City, UT\ Hill Airbase|

Section 6: helicopter -- fire fighting\ helicopter -- Bell Jet Ranger\ Jackson Hole, WY\ Forest Service\ mountain rescues\ Grand Teton\ Sinclair, Pete\ rescue crews\ competition -- techniques\ innovation\ techniques -- integrated\ Yosemite National Park\ Grand Teton National Park\ Rainier National Park\ Rocky Mountain National Park\ helicopters\ carabiner -- break\ bars -- break\ equipment\ winch -- electric\ Masdem? -- rope\ Austria\ Europe\ knots -- Bolin\ technique -- simple\ litter\ cable system\ weather -- bad\ rescue\ helicopter|

Section 7: approach -- initial\ rescue -- severity\ speed\ victims\ Teton Mountains\ technique -- smart\ Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT)\ Ranger -- seasonal\ climbing\ climbers -- fanatic\ Yosemite\ Salt Lake City, UT\ Little Cottonwood -- granite\ City of the Rocks\ Europe\ United States -- Eastern\ Alaska\ Tingey -- son\ Tingey, Thor\ wife -- business\ Jackson Hole, WY\ expense\ vacation\ Mt. McKinley\ Alcan Highway\ Prince Rupert, BC\ vehicle -- van\ dogs\ Brooks Range\ dogsled\ arctic\ house|

Section 8: climbing ranger\ management -- assistant\ ANILCA\ Denali -- size\ subsistence\ hunting\ trapping\ mining\ negotiations\ caribou -- studies\ mining -- studies\ wilderness -- planning\ management -- plan\ shuttle bus system\ visitors\ concessions -- management\ permits -- road\ National Park Service\ people -- local\ community -- relations\ Fairbanks, AK\ Anchorage, AK|

Section 9: role\ management -- involvement\ climbing\ concessions\ guides\ concession -- evaluations\ superintendent\ Airy Northwest\ Rainier Mountaineering\ Genet Expeditions\ Mountain Trip\ Fantasy Ridge\ National Outdoor Leadership School\ Mt. McKinley\ services -- visitor\ institution -- educational\ Alpine Ascents\ American Alpine Institute\ Gooding, CO\ contracts -- renewal\ opportunity -- limited\ monopoly\ clients\ competition\ visitor -- focus\ experience|

Section 10: National Park Service\ concession system\ Genet, Ray\ guide to climbers -- ratio\ human waste\ sickness\ safety\ numbers\ activity -- commercial\ control\ National Parks\ concession -- permit\ safety\ mortality rate\ Wilcox Party\ Cosmic Ray Party\ fatalities\ government\ precautions\ services -- guiding\ responsibility|

Section 11: climbs -- guided\ safety record\ comparison\ Salerno, Lynne\ fatality\ guides -- outstanding\ safety\ arrival\ climber -- experienced\ Alaska -- impressions\ Beaver Junction\ Denali National Park\ Cantwell, AK\ Alaska Range\ perspective -- outdoors\ low impact\ children\ kayaking\ skiing -- cross-country\ canoeing\ fishing\ backpacking\ dog mushing\ dog team\ mushing -- competitive|

Section 12: Denali National Park -- South\ McKinley airstrip\ cabin -- log\ dogs -- number\ Yukon Quest -- racing\ Coldfoot Classic -- racing\ dog mushing -- lifestyle\ children\ hides -- caribou\ sleeping bags\ camping\ rock climbing\ Savage Rock\ Park Hotel\ bouldering -- outlet\ rock -- quality\ Anchorage, AK\ Hatcher Pass\ rock -- granite\ Salt Lake City, UT\ Little Cottonwood Canyon\ rock climbing -- routes\ rocks -- access\ climbing -- roadside|

Section 13: Denali -- climbs\ climbing -- desire\ Pearson, Grant\ climb -- patrol\ Reese, Rick\ Wilson, Ted\ Lowe, Dave\ Grand Teton National Park\ Swanson, Steve\ Swet, Brian\ Healy, AK\ climbers -- Japanese\ frostbite -- severe\ Rescue Gully\ rescue -- techniques\ helicopter -- Chinook\ Denali -- summit\ Miller, Daryl\ Talkeetna, AK\ patrol -- mountain\ service trip\ rangers -- challenges\ problems -- garbage\ problems -- waste\ climb -- family\ climbers -- Salt Lake City, UT\ Tingey -- son\ Tingey -- daughter|

Section 14: Denali -- seriousness\ 14 camp\ crevasses\ avalanches\ ice -- slipping\ fatigue\ cold -- extreme\ altitude sickness\ rangers\ Hackett, Peter\ Medical Research Station\ rangers -- duties\ weather -- reports\ medical staff -- patrol\ treatment -- expectations\ rescue -- risk\ helicopters\ doctors -- world class\ frostbite|

Section 15: fixed lines -- maintenance\ guides\ Okonek, Brian\ National Park Service\ Alaska Denali Guiding\ fixed lines -- locations\ headwall\ 14 Camp\ Grand Teton National Park\ liability\ rangers\ ropes -- responsibilities\ ropes -- use\ climbing -- interest\ Teton Mountains\ climbers -- number\ magazines -- Climbing\ pitons -- Europe|

Section 16: climbers -- numbers\ crowds -- competition\ bottlenecks -- locations\ Windy Corner\ Motorcycle Hill\ fixed lines\ West Ridge\ Washburn's Thumb\ Denali Pass\ Summit Ridge\ bottlenecks -- number\ safety -- concerns\ bottlenecks -- exposure\ Teton Mountains\ climbers -- limiting\ Denali -- access\ Mt. Rainier|

Section 17: climbers -- limiting\ guides\ Denali -- number of climbers\ climbing -- expense\ parties -- private\ alpine climbing\ rock climbing -- popularity\ sport climbing\ Teton Mountains\ alpine climbing -- difficulty\ Yosemite National Park\ Pillar of Frenzy\ Salt Lake City, UT\ gym climbing\ Denali -- problems\ human waste\ toilets -- building\ garbage\ rangers -- efforts\ citations -- issued\ wilderness\ National Parks|

Section 18: search and rescue -- role\ U.S. Army\ 14 camp\ High Altitude Rescue Team (HART)\ Fort Wainwright\ helicopter -- Lama\ rescue -- speed\ Stevens, Senator Ted\ Talkeetna, AK\ helicopter -- use\ supplies -- hauling\ supplies -- medical\ toilet -- removal\ pulmonary edema\ frostbite\ rangers\ helicopters -- benefit\ wilderness\ safety -- importance\ human waste -- disposal|

Section 19: Denali\ attitude -- changes\ danger -- attitude\ climbers -- solo\ climbers -- unroped\ bamboo poles\ ladders\ Saunders, Norma Jean\ harness\ crevasse -- falls\ glacier -- travel\ accidents\ climber -- typical\ climbers -- changes\ fitness\ gear -- quality\ clothing -- material\ down\ Gore-Tex\ aveolite liners\ gloves -- down\ boots -- plastic\ overboots -- neoprene\ face masks\ climbers -- training\ preparation\ skill level -- increase\ Twight, Mark\ Backes, Scott\ House, Steve\ 14 camp\ West Rib\ South Buttress|

Section 20: alpine climbing\ expedition climbing\ Denali -- climbers\ acclimatization\ altitude sickness\ West Buttress\ West Rib\ Cassin Ridge\ routes -- difficult\ time -- factor\ routes -- exposure\ avalanches\ rock falls\ weather -- storms\ Tingey -- children\ climbing -- interest\ safety\ advice\ risk-taking\ mountains -- love of\ risks -- minimum|

Section 21: Denali -- climbing\ water -- boiling\ hydration -- importance\ stove\ drinks -- hot\ cereal -- hot\ water bottles\ snow caves\ altitude sickness\ warm -- staying\ dehydration\ weather -- challenge\ frostbite\ wind burn\ disorientation\ Orient Express\ Messner Couloir\ Denali Pass\ time -- concern\ patience -- importance\ reading\ frostbite\ deaths|

Section 22: weather -- waiting\ summit -- importance\ impatience -- problem\ day -- heat\ heat stroke\ Kahiltna Glacier\ climbing -- night\ 14 Camp\ weather -- Little Switzerland\ Ruth Glacier\ climbing -- safe\ Donini, Jim\ Kichatna Spires\ reading\ patience|

Section 23: Kerrebrock, Chris\ body recovery\ crevasse -- fall\ Peters Glacier\ Gerhard, Bob\ Gill, Scott\ Waterman, Jon\ climbing rangers\ rescues -- involvement\ climbers -- Japanese\ climbers -- Armenian\ ribs -- broken\ social conscious\ assistance -- giving\ snow walls -- building\ Sinclair, Pete\ rescue -- risks\ North Face -- rescue\ litter -- packing\ climbing -- solo\ rock -- poor quality\ verglas|

Section 24: climbers -- rescues\ rescues -- necessary\ rescues -- limitations\ alpine climbing\ Teton Mountains\ rescues -- frequency\ fatalities -- effect\ optimism\ situations -- dangerous\ litter -- packing\ Petzolt Ridge\ Conrad, Bill\ Grand Teton\ holds -- hand|

Section 25: Denali -- impressive\ West Buttress -- beauty\ children -- pictures\ Mt. Foraker\ Mt. Hunter\ Alaska Range\ climbs -- exceptional\ Ruth Gorge\ Donini, Jim\ Tackle, Jack\ climber -- Austrian\ Stump, Mugs\ Mt. Huntington\ Czech Direct\ Cassin Ridge\ Infinite Spur\ routes -- stories\ technology -- improvement\ boots -- leather\ Lowe, George\ boots -- plastic\ equipment -- changes\ crampons -- heavy\ fur\ wool\ Muldrow Glacier -- route\ climbs -- early|

Section 26: rock climbing\ nuts\ pitons\ piton hammers\ equipment -- improvement\ protection -- placement\ protection -- rack\ routes -- early\ Muldrow Glacier -- route\ Czech Direct\ techniques -- changes\ climbers -- admiration\ magazine -- Climbing\ routes -- committing\ routes -- exposure\ Alaska Range -- climbing|

Section 27: stories\ climbing -- enjoyment\ people -- quality\ Gill, Scott\ Covington, Mike\ Staley, Dave\ Tejas, Vern\ Athens, Peter\ Twight, Mark\ Backes, Scott\ House, Steve\ climbers -- world class\ climbers -- friendly\ climbers -- concentration\ experience -- family\ inspiration|

Section 28: future -- challenges\ friends -- climbing\ peaks -- desire\ Mt. Hunter\ Mt. Foraker\ Moose's Tooth\ Mt. Brooks\ Mt. Huntington\ peaks -- aesthetic\ Denali\ climbers -- aging\ mountaineering -- passion\ climbing -- life long\ Lowe, George\ Reese, Rick\ Wilson, Ted\ Alpenbach Climbing Club?\ friends -- high school\ Utah|