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    Sugar Bears help Park Service prep for 2022 Denali climb season



    Story by John Pennell 

    United States Army Alaska

    Aviators from B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment and their CH-47F Chinook helicopters continued a decades-old mission April 27, 2022, by flying in to help the National Park Service set up camps for climbers attempting to summit Denali.

    You could call it interagency cooperation at the highest level; or at least the highest elevation in North America.

    The Sugar Bears flew two Chinooks from Fort Wainwright to Talkeetna, Alaska, the start point for most climbers tackling Denali and other area peaks. There they met up with National Park Service rangers and loaded several thousand pounds of equipment and supplies into the helicopters for transport to the 7,200-foot level of Kahiltna Glacier.

    NPS personnel establish a base camp on the glacier and a second camp at 14,000 feet for climbers attempting the popular West Buttress route each year.

    More than 90 percent of climbers attempting Denali take this route. Roughly 1,000 climbers take the West Buttress annually, with only about 50 percent reaching the summit. On average, about 100 climbers suffer altitude sickness or frostbite and 12 require rescues. About 40 people have died on the West Buttress.

    The Sugar Bears also have a long history of returning to the mountain when called to assist in these high elevation rescues when climbers find themselves in danger. These rescues require special skills and training for the extreme conditions and effects of the high altitude on the Chinook’s capabilities.

    The base camp mission allows the more experienced Chinook pilots to train newer pilots and crew members in the terrain with no climber lives on the line.

    The Soldiers of the B Company's High Altitude Rescue Team have made several rescues from North America's highest mountain over the years, including one at 19,600 feet and a rescue hoist at 18,200. The National Park Service calls on the Army when its helicopter is out of service, there are more patients than their small aircraft can carry at one time or for other reasons the park service helicopter cannot do the mission.



    Date Taken: 04.28.2022
    Date Posted: 04.28.2022 19:30
    Story ID: 419581
    Location: TALKEETNA, AK, US 

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