Denali is always problematic. It has this huge presence, but it’s not especially photogenic. But, it’s Denali, so I had to get it. I had a professional photographer’s permit, which allows you to spend a week in Denali National Park with your car. I was there to photograph grizzlies, but at 11p.m. on a night in June, my wife and I saw this. We were on Highway Pass, a place everyone shoots the mountain from because something about the angle magnifies it. I wouldn’t have bothered if it hadn’t have been for the light.
From the Kahiltna, you can see 17,400-foot Mount Foraker. The crazy thing about this shot is that it was snowing—I have no idea where the light came from. It must have been a sucker hole. I lucked out. Later, we had to dig out a runway for our pilot. We were so proud of that runway. But when our pilot flew over and saw it, he yelled, “It’s not long enough. It’s too narrow. It’s not steep enough. It sucks!”
Back in 2007, when I got this pic of the Black Rapids Glacier at the start of the Hayes Range, digital DSLR cameras were just hitting the market. We went in March, when the temperature stayed consistently below zero. The old batteries hated the cold, so I brought five of them. I strapped them to my body, would pull one out, use it, and shove it back in. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake in 2002 forever altered this landscape. The brown is glacial moraine. All the old climbers lament how the quake covered the once pristinely skiable glacier in feet of debris when the mountains crumbled.
13,965-foot Mount Hunter, on the Kahiltna Glacier towers above Denali basecamp. We went in March, because I wanted the landscape to myself. The goal was to ski the length of the glacier. It was the coldest I’ve been in my life. Every day, avalanches were ripping off the mountains. I caught this one on our first day. During our traverse, in a whiteout, we ended up having to camp right at the base—terrifying stuff.
In 2015, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a single Northern Lights shot for this book. I normally never go hunting for specific shots. But we skied into the Tokosha Mountains in Denali State Park, and under a full moon, with no tent, and cooking over an open fire, the lights came out and raged.
If you ask most of the climbing community, they’ll say glaciers are a nuisance they have to cross to get to climbs. But I’d rather explore them, poking around crevasses and ice caves. This is the Moore Icefall on the Gulkana Glacier in the Delta Mountains. My friends and I planned a ski trip to the Eldridge Glacier, but after three days of waiting to fly, we decided to ski into the Deltas instead. We had great weather and were happy we didn’t abandon the whole trip.
Carl Battreall has been shooting pictures professionally since the day he graduated high school. “My dad said, ‘You could go to college or you could just do it,’” he says. An Alaskan since 2001, he began an epic project in 2005: photographing the entire, 650-mile Alaska Range. He captured thousands of shots before whittling them down to 168 to compile in his oversized book Alaska Range: Exploring the Last Great Wild ($29.95; The Mountaineers Books) “I delete almost everything I shoot,” he says. “Not much meets my standards.” Sadly, we had to delete another 162 for this small sampling of his work.