Army gives Park Service a lift to Denali


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Members of the Army's 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment (the "Sugar Bears") conducted a training mission to the 7,000-foot level of Mt. McKinley Friday, April 26, 2013. Flying CH-47 Chinook helicoters, the troops shuttled supplies to a base camp currently being set up by the U.S. Park Service for the summer climbing season on North America's tallest peak.

Three Chinooks left the Talkeetna airstrip Friday morning bound for the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,000 feet.

Members of B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment prep their helicopter for the 45-minute flight to the glacier.

In operation since 1962, the twin-engine Chinooks are primarily used to carry troops and supplies into hostile environments.

The aircraft has undergone several redesigns, and Army aviators at Ft. Wainright now fly the "F" model Chinook.

The Kahiltna Glacier is the main jumping-off point for climbers hoping to summit 20,328-foot Mt. McKinley.

According to the Park Service, an average of 1,100 to 1,300 climbers attempt to summit Mt. McKinley each summer climbing season. About half are successful.

(Above) Mountain climbers Jeff Becstrand, left, and Jason Blauch, both of Salt Lake City, Utah, share a laugh while hanging out at base camp. The men had been on Kahiltna Glacier for a week when the Army and Park Service arrived with supplies for base camp. Becstrand and Blauch said they didn't plan on summiting McKinley, but were instead making the first ascents of the season on several technical routes in the Alaska range.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, about 14,000 pounds of gear is needed to operate its ranger station on the mountain.

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