Interview with Evan Clupper, an outdoor leadership student, about his capstone trip to Denali National Park and Preserve.

by Vicki Heisser  |   

people hiking mountain in snowPWSC alumnus Rafael Alfaro and student Evan Clupper recently led a capstone trip to Denali National Park and Preserve with Dr. Benjamin Rush, assistant professor of outdoor leadership. For Evan, the experience surpassed his expectations.

"Our main objective for the trip was to go up to Camp 2 at 11,000 feet and to have fun, most importantly. We exceeded our expectations by going to High Camp at 17,200 feet, so that's a great plus."

To prepare for the trip, Rafael and Evan had taken a series of outdoor leadership courses, including winter camping, crevasse and avalanche rescue, mountaineering, and ice climbing, in which they learned to plan and prepare for a multi-week trek through the mountains. They underwent months of extensive training, including spending days at Thompson Pass camping, pulling sleds, and preparing food for their trip.

Evan explained, "A day before we were supposed to leave, Raf and I were actually in Anchorage at Costco getting the last of our supplies. We cooked the perishable food beforehand, so we just had to heat them up on the mountain…For flying in, we had all of our stuff. We loaded it on the plane, all the food, all the equipment, everything. We got dropped off at base camp and had to haul it all the way."

When asked about the weight they carried, Evan revealed that each pack and sled weighed around 125 pounds, but they distributed the weight evenly to make it more comfortable. The team also discussed their daily goals during breakfast. Most often, the team decided to have Evan take the lead to establish the pace.

During their expedition, Ben, Rafael, and Evan stayed at five different base camps. The camps were located at the base of the mountain, Camp 1 at 7,800 feet, Camp 1.5 at 9,500 feet, Camp 2 at 11,000 feet, and High Camp at 17,200 feet.  

After base camp, they climbed to Camp 1, where they spent one and a half days before moving on to Camp 1.5 to acclimatize and then to Camp 2. For Evan, the most spectacular view he saw was a giant glacier near Camp 2.

"There was a mountain…with a glacier. We were walking up…and then there was a gigantic glacier on the right, crevasses, everything. The sun was hitting it. It was awesome."

That evening, they encountered a whiteout and camped for the night. On day four, they packed up camp and followed a guided trip with about 12 people to Camp 2. There was so much deep snow, and it was hard to see and hike. Evan explained that following behind the large group packed the trail and made it easier to follow. Evan and Raf found Camp 1 to Camp 2 the hardest because of the vertical climb. They camped at Camp 1.5 and hiked to Camp 2, where they spent three or four days due to the harsh weather.

man on snowy mountainAs they continued their ascent, there were moments where Evan realized the inherent dangers in climbing, but his training helped him to face his fears and make informed decisions.

"There was one point at which I was afraid: at the Headwall. This section covers the last 800 vertical feet to the ridge leading to High Camp at 17,220 feet, and we're going up at 70-degree angles. I realized, man, if I'm not secured, I'm going down… Then I realized I had all this training, Crevasse Rescue."

After making it to each Camp, they descended from High Camp, hiking for many hours. Evan explains, "There was only one time that I was dead tired during a hike, and [it] was on the way down because I think it was a 16-hour to 18-hour hike… down to…camp one."

Having completed the climb, with all of its successes and challenges, when asked if the trip and its preparation were worth the experience, Evan explains, "Yes, it's definitely worth it. I might go up again. That's how worth it is… I've found more confidence in myself doing this."

Photos taken by Rafael Alfaro.