National Geographic : 1953 Aug
220 A Rubber Mountain Shows the Way to Lofty Camps on Mount McKinley As a guide to Air Force pilots in dropping supplies to climbers high on McKinley's rugged slopes, Bradford Washburn and his teen-age daughter made this model. Despite the precaution, one drop almost proved disastrous (page 225). Here at Chulitna. 50 miles southeast of the big peak, the author explains to an Eskimo audience his plan to approach McKinley's western face by plane. series of aerial photographs of Mount McKin ley which I had taken for the National Geo graphic Society and Harvard University in 1936-38, and 1947 and 1949.* Beneath us as we flew, the surface of the ice was at first so broken that nothing could pos sibly have landed there, not even a helicopter. The glacier's snout was buried under masses of rock and gravel. Some boulders were as big as bungalows, piled helter-skelter in heaps more than a hundred feet high. Glittering Snow Peak Unveiled The valley walls, sheer rocky ridges, towered above us on both sides. We flew between a rough floor of glacial ice and a solid ceiling of dark. gloomy fog 2,000 feet above us. It was like flying through a gigantic tunnel. However, the cloud ceiling seemed nearly level, while the glacier climbed steadily. If the two met, we would be out of luck. Ahead, the valley made a sharp bend to the right. As we turned the rocky corner, a great rift split the clouds as if by magic. Before us soared the thrilling virgin peak of Mount Hunter, white beneath a mantle of fresh snow. Looking back, we could see the dark, evil tunnel from which we had just emerged. The valley floor below was now much high er, and a snow blanket covered the rough ice. We were flying about 2,000 feet above the glacier, but our altimeter showed us to be 5,500 feet above sea level. Ahead the valley twisted abruptly to the left, the turn hiding the spot where we hoped to land. Every minute or two Terry swung the plane a bit so we could check our avenue of retreat. Until we sighted good landing snow we could not afford to let our black tunnel close up behind us. As we neared the turn, Kahiltna Glacier * See "Over the Roof of Our Continent," by Brad ford Washburn, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1938.