When we got up this morning, the sky was a clear, cloudless blue. From our viewpoint in Talkeetna, Denali, still 60 miles away, was a sparkling, shimmering jewel. Weather here is quickly changeable, but we knew we had a beautiful day for our 10:30 flight to see "The Great One" up close.
As instructed, we got to the airport before 10 and spent some time chatting with the other fliers and watching the planes and helicopters. By the time we took off at 10:30, high cirrus clouds had set in and the summit of Denali was obscured, but everything else was still in the open.
Our plane was a 6-seater Piper. Our pilot, Dale, briefed the four of us (John and me and another couple) on safety features of the plane -- how to open the plane's door from inside, where the emergency food and water was stashed, and how to buckle a safety belt. Really, is there anyone on the continent who doesn't understand how to buckle a safety belt? We got in, donned our headphones, and took off.
Northbound, we followed a braided stream whose source is a glacier on the mountain:
The summit was still mostly fogged in, but we did catch brief glimpses of it as our pilot circled through the snow-covered peaks. The only brief feeling of "uh-oh" came when he told us he was going through a pass, and asked us not shift our weight during the maneuver. When a pilot says that, it is very easy to sit perfectly still! A bit of turbulence and we were through it. My Dramamine did not let me down.
The climbing season on Denali is now over -- Dale showed us where base camp is, but all that remained today was a few ski marks from the planes that had dropped off climbers.