What do you dream of when your days are filled with the activities usually reserved for those fantastical visions that come with a quiet, deep sleep? This was the thought that went through my mind as my small Cessna left a dirt and snow runway of the remote backcountry town of Port Alsworth, Alaska in the last hours of daylight. As the engine sputtered bringing me and my pilot higher and higher, the valley below disappeared into a royal blue shadow punctuated by spearheads of wild salmon pink mountaintops. My door was completely open though I was harnessed to my seat by a four point belt that would make any mother feel a bit more at ease. Still, with temps dipping below zero and traveling at 85 knots, the windchill itself was a dangerous -60 fahrenheit. At these temps, a hot cup of coffee would freeze before it would hit the ground. Wrapped in down jackets but still tearing up as I hung out the side of this small aircraft, we bounced around above the tops of the mountains while I captured image after image of the dreamscape. Elated but not satisfied, I went back up again at sunrise. I struggled to keep the lens steady in the wind while I fought my own breath from fogging up the view finder. These are a few of those images:
Like specks of dust on the landscape, four black figures begin the slow walk up towards the summit of Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park, Alaska. This is another of the unpublished images from the assignment with the National Parks Conservation Association. This photo was taken along the earlier portion of the climb at only 7500 feet in elevation.
The Winter 2009 issue of National Parks magazine (part of NPCA) features one of the most epic stories ever shot by Ian Shive. In June 2008, Ian was embedded in a National Park Service search & rescue patrol on North America’s highest mountain – Mt. McKinley, in Denali National Park, Alaska. The feature story, written and photographed by Ian, chronicles his experience.