The Mountain House Tour Route and...
West Buttress Route, Denalis' most popular climbing route
Climber's Base Camp
The Great Gorge
Ruth Ice Fall
South Face of Denali
Don Sheldon Amphitheatre
West Ridge of Mount Hunter
South Hunter Ice Fall
The broad Susitna Valley
The epicenter of climbing activity on Mount McKinley is the Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp, a location established by Don Sheldon as Bradford Washburn was pioneering the West Buttress route up Denali.
The focal point of our Base Camp Tour is a close-up look at Mount Hunter, the Kahiltna Glacier (Denali's biggest), and the Kahiltna "Base Camp" where the majority of Mt. McKinley's climbers really begin their journey, at an elevation of 7,200 feet.
Our popular Base Camp flightseeing air tour gives the passenger a good look at both the base camp and the enormous Kahiltna Glacier. This route also includes all of the highlights of the Don Sheldon Mountain House Tour.
You'll depart from Talkeetna and experience the vast river and forest lands on the flight to the Kahiiltna Glacier.
The river and forest lands are home to Alaska's wild game such as black bear and moose. In addition the occasional lodge can be sighted along the lake shores, often only accessible by float plane.
On the way the route takes you past Little Switzerland, a popular destination for both technical climbing expeditions and fun day trips. This particular subset of the Alaska Range is characterized by steep rocky peaks similar to the European alps. Accordingly, many of the more experienced climb teams come to this location for the pure technical climbing challenge.
The flight offers outstanding views of Little Switzerland as we enter the massive Kahiltna Glacier gorge.
Next you climb over the Kaliltna Glacier as it winds toward Denali
The Kahiltna is massive, easily the largest glacier in the Alaska Range.
Just short of the head is a small branch off to the east that contains the landing area Don Sheldon pioneered as the arrival point for climbing expeditions. This is where the climbers begin and conclude their trek up Denali -- Base Camp.
If you wish, you can ask to add a glacier landing to this flight, and we can land on the Ruth Glacier. Landing on the Kalhitna is reserved for climbers. As Sheldon co-owner Dave Lee says, "A landing lets you put the flight into perspective." It gives one a moment to appreciate the scale of the surroundings in flight.
The route continues with a cut through a pass which eventually leads to the Don Sheldon Amphitheater at the top of the Ruth Glacier.
You will see Mooses Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth peaks, popular climbing destinations on the far side of the Amphitheater.
In the course of the May-June Denali climbing season, Sheldon pilots deliver and pick up climb teams to the base camp in all kinds of weather. As the video at the top of the page shows, even if it is overcast in Talkeetna, outstanding scenery can be observed once in flight.
To top off your Alaskan flightseeing Adventure you will experience the majestic Ruth Gorge on the way back to Talkeetna.
The Great Gorge, as it is also called, is a mile deep in some places. The floor is the rugged Ruth Glacier. Watch for the brilliant pools of bright blue glacier melt water.
On the way back, the Tokositna River area at the base of the Alaska Range offers another opportunity to view moose and bears in their natural habitat.