KAHILTNA GLACIER -- In Anchorage, telltale signs of spring’s arrival include budding willows and returning geese. In Nenana, locals watch for the tilting tripod in the annual Ice Classic.
In Talkeetna, this winter’s end was heralded by the arrival of 25,000-pound U.S. Army Chinook helicopters, which help the National Park Service set up the base camp used by climbers hoping to summit Mount McKinley and other high peaks in the Alaska Range.
The climbing season will begin early next month, and more than 700 mountaineers are already signed up to take a crack at Denali. At about 20,250 feet, the peak is North America’s highest, and it saw 1,200 attempts and 430 summits last year.
The typical launch point for Denali expeditions is the National Park Service’s base camp at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier. And on Monday, the Army crews dropped off a last load of gear there after spending nearly a week in the area, ferrying equipment in support of climbing season and using the surrounding high alpine as a playground for training exercises...