To climb Denali, you first need to get there. So my mission was to reach Anchorage from Tokyo in the middle of June (with all the fun of covid restrictions included). It went surprisingly smoothly. There were a few scary moments, like when people told me Hungarians wouldn’t be allowed entry to the US because of covid—but the restriction turned out not to be about EU nationalities but traveling from EU area.

Packed all my gear? Check. Got my ESTA? Check. Pre-departure covid test? Check. Even entry to the US was smooth. I don’t know if I’m getting used to it or there were just that much fewer people traveling. Seattle airport I was confused why my card wouldn’t work with vending machines when it’d work with everything else, but it was consistent about that restriction. Picked up some very unhealthy-looking breakfast before boarding an obviously overbooked flight to Anchorage. The contrast with the almost-empty flight from Tokyo was shocking.

At the Anchorage airport I started by getting a covid test (required by the expedition “on arrival”) and my first shot right afterwards. Cheers to Alaska offering free shots to every traveler no questions asked. It’s been over a decade since I last stayed in the US so the car culture and how big everything is was overwhelming at first. Stayed at a hotel at the lakeside where hydroplanes were taking off and landing (watering?) all the time.

I arrived first of the team. I guess the others had more options for flights from the US… The first “team activity” once everyone was gathered was picking snacks and the like for the three weeks on the mountain. We’d be getting breakfast and dinner in camp, but lunch was replaced by eating from our reserves during the hourly ten-minute breaks on the move. Once food was sorted out the guides took us to the local REI and another shop to pick up gear we were missing (in my case a neoprene face mask).

Next morning we loaded all our gear (and left city clothes and such at the hotel) and set off for Talkeetna. Driving through the Alaskan wilderness was a beautiful ride. We’d get really nice views of the mountain too. At Talkeetna we had to wait quite a while for our flight on the glacier, but late in the afternoon we got on board a small bush plane and to the world of ice and snow we went.