Helicopter to Spike Camp

In the Field 2013

We rose early in order to have the 6:30am SKYPE call with Tony and WFAA.  So wonderful that we can communicate that way!  The call went well and if all works out ok there should be a story during the 5pm newscast today. So be on the lookout!

Denny plans with the pilot

We also awoke to the news that the helicopter departure had been delayed a half hour, so our departure time from the apartment to the helipad is moved to 8:30am.

By the way – A shout out to Denny Capps, Ph.D, a Denali Park geologist, and Lucy Tyrrell (once again) for all the organizing and planning they have done to make this backcountry trip happen!

Denny is also the helicopter manager for this flight. Denny arrives and consults with the pilot, Eric, to make plans for the loading and drops.

Here is the helicopter!


The first thing everyone had to do was don flight gear.  There is basically a closet of gear set up inside a small shed near the helipad and everyone goes in to pick out their size for the flight suits, gloves, boots, and helmet.  All this gear is fire proof so the goal is to be sure you are covered from head to toe as thoroughly as possible… just in case.

team checking out heli gear         yuong checking out heli gear

The next stepyoshi weighing in is to weigh – everything – people in their gear, duffel bags, back packs, bear cans, etc.  Anything and anyone that needs to be transported to the camp.

Tony plans with the pilotOnce they added up the total weight – which ended up at around 1400 pounds I think – the pilot, helicopter manager and Tony determined the strategy for the flight plans for the drops.

The chopper can only hold a certain amount of weight at one time so flight prep and planning for these drops is very methodical.  The plan is that the helicopter will make several flights in order to take people and gear to the designated camp site.

It is decided there will be three flights total.  Tony will go in on the first flight along with Denny and some gear so that he and Denny can choose the best spot to set up camp.  The next with Paul and the rest of the gear.  The final with Yoshi and Yuong and their back packs. (By the way, see those grey clouds behind Eric?)


Here is the team and all the gear.  All set and ready to load. (I will not be joining them for this portion of the expedition.)

Team and gear loading for helicopter

pre-flight checks

Here is Denny giving the pre-flight safety instructions.  Like I said very methodical!

Tony, Denny and Eric have a seamless take off and head into the Riley Creek area and Fang Mountain.

But, since our days always need a bit more excitement…  And, we are in the mountains after all… I mentioned those grey clouds before…  Right on the heels of their take off a storm arrived and turned the beautiful weather all rainy and wet.

storm brewing

We all piled into the shed to wait it out and wonder if the rain caught up to the helicopter and Tony   yet.  After about 30 minutes we hear the helicopter returning.  Denny reports that the initial flight and drop with Tony goes by the book and that the rain didn’t affect them.  We wait another 20 minutes for the storm to pass completely and once the pilot gives us the go sign, before we know it Paul is up and gone on his way too. 45 minutes later Yoshi and Yuong are up and gone as well.




The team will be in the backcountry for the next 5 days with no connection to civilization but a satellite phone (really for use only in case of emergency).  But, they plan to check in with me periodically so I can continue to update you.  We also plan to maintain contact with WFAA as well so be on the lookout for updates on Channel 8 news or on WFAA.com too.


Posted from Healy, Alaska, United States.