Every summer Denali sees more than a thousand climbers, but on average about half of them make it to the top. And every climber who succeeds usually has a story that will send an involuntary shudder through your shoulders -- the body’s way of discouraging you from even thinking about taking on such physical punishment.  

Even so, when Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn stopped by our Frontiers office at KTVA, we were all ears. The two brothers, who grew up in Nome, were the first to summit Denali this season.

Courtesy: Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn

Both will soon be back in college but took time out to share their photos and video of their Denali climb.

John Thompson, who hosts KTVA’s Daybreak morning news, kept hanging around, riveted by their stories. It was then that I knew John had to host this edition of Frontiers. He and the Hoogendorn brothers already had such great chemistry. There was no choice than to let him take over the show.

John had also recently interviewed Mike Gordon about his new book, “Learning the Ropes,” a biography that includes his story about climbing Denali. Gordon, though, is best known as the founder of Chilkoot Charlie’s in Spenard -- more than just a bar, but an icon in Anchorage nightlife.

Chilkoot Charlie's founder Mike Gordon climbing Denali in 1989. (Courtesy: Mike Gordon)

 John is an excellent interviewer, so you’re in for a treat -- some fascinating conversations rolled into one program. 

Here are the highlights:

  • DENALI MOUNTAIN HIGH. This is not something most drug rehab programs would recommend – to scale Denali to beat a cocaine habit. But Mike Gordon decided it was what he needed to do to break free from drugs. In the process, he says he substituted one addiction for another – and the high of summiting Denali sent him in search of new mountains to conquer.
  • DENALI: READY, SET, GO! Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn were high school track stars in Nome, who also enjoyed skiing long distances in sub-zero weather. When they decided they needed a tougher challenge, they dreamed big. Since they already had the dealing-with-the-cold part down, they trained for Denali on a treadmill, while carrying heavy loads on their back – just one of the many things they did to get ready.
  • DENALI: WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH. This was the Hoogendorn brothers’ second attempt to summit Denali. The brothers tell John Thompson how they managed the heavy loads, survived unrelenting storms and battled mountain sickness – as they forced themselves to eat food that was almost always mostly frozen. And there are gritty videos to go with their interview in which you will feel their pain.

Don’t miss this front row seat on a 15-day adventure that will take you to the top of the tallest mountain in North America, more than 20,000 feet above sea level. The two brothers represent a new generation of climbers, and it’s worth celebrating their accomplishment.

It’s a reminder that in our state is a mother lode of great stories, and every episode of Frontiers is just another chance to mine another golden nugget.



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