Mt McKinley and the Oriental Express

North America’s tallest mountain is also called Denali by the Alaskan Indians. That is also the name that was given to a giant National Park that is mid-way between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Mt. McKinley is one of the most hazardous mountains to climb in the world. The descent is more dangerous than the ascent. Experienced mountain climbers have answered its challenge. Many Japanese have tried it, and many have died from falls during their descent (which is very tricky) and thus the mountain has acquired the nickname “THE ORIENTAL EXPRESS”.

This brings a couple of things to my mind. One is an interview, given by a girl on PBS, with an old mountain climber that lived in Hailey, Idaho. He had conquered many major mountains around the world. The interviewer said that he should write a book of rules for mountain climbing. I’ll never forget or cease to ponder his answer: “RULES IS FOR FOOLS, if you don’t make a VALUE JUDGEMENT for each situation, you’re DEAD”. That statement also brings to mind several teaching/coaching decisions I made in my teaching career that were wrong, and that I’d like to have back to do over. In all instances I had failed to evaluate each specific case, and did the standard procedure or followed advice given by other staff members – followed the book, so to speak. I have since been ashamed of the results of those specific decisions. Also, I learned that the fewer rules I had, that fewer discipline problems arose. The kids were forced to make their own VALUE JUDGEMENTS.

But back to the present; Mt McKinley’s is 20,320 feet high and its top is usually shrouded by clouds. Mt. Everest is higher, but sits on the Tibetan Plateau – which makes McKinley a higher climb from its base. Five large glaciers flow off its slopes, which add to descent dangers! The mountain is a major attraction in Denali Park, and the park is very much worth a visit. Bears, Caribou, Dahl Sheep, Moose, and many other wildlife species are easy to see from the school buses that you must ride to get into the park. Cars are not allowed on the park roads, therefore the use of the buses. By buying a token at the park office, you can be transported to various destinations within the park – the farthest is the 85 miles to Wonder Lake at the west end. But, be sure to take bug repellant. The mosquitoes at the lake are something else!

Mt McKinley on a cloudless day

Mt McKinley on a cloudless day