Hoogendorn brothers look back on Denali summit at Elders & Youth Conference
Monday was the second day of the First Alaskans Institute's Elders & Youth Conference in Fairbanks. The theme this year is "language is our superpower." Two Inupiaq brothers represented youth as keynote speakers and began their presentation by telling the audience about their lineage in Inupiaq.
Oliver Tusagvik and Wilson Mungnak Hoogendorn are from Nome and were the first climbers to summit Denali this past May.
"You guys saw that mountain when you guys were flying in yesterday, or driving maybe. That big one — Denali?" the brothers asked the audience.
"We climbed it," Wilson said.
They described how they felt before the climb at the ranger station when other climbers asked what they were doing there. They said people who were outfitted in climbing gear dismissed the brothers who were in their street clothes. But Oliver and Wilson had the last laugh.
"It was funny later on because we were talking like, 'Oh, we broke their trail. They followed us," Oliver said.
The brothers talked about a steep portion of the climb called "the Autobahn" and how they navigated it.
"We thought we'd be following people, so we didn't really study where the trail went or how to go about going up," Oliver said.
Wilson said during orientations, rangers mentioned how many people had died going up the slope.
"We kind of just guessed on the whole thing, honestly," he said.
The brothers' experiences on the cliffs brought to mind how cold the weather was on their way up the mountain. Oliver said while they were on a certain steep ridge, he wanted to throw a rock over the edge but couldn't because all the rocks were frozen.
The brothers have different answers to why they decided to climb Denali.
"I just climbed it because Wilson asked me to, I think," Oliver said.
He said they've talked a lot about why they climbed the mountain, but haven't stuck with one reason.
"It was just kind of just because I wanted to, and like when I want to do something, I'll just go do it," Wilson added.
The Hoogendorns said it took two weeks to summit Denali, and it took one day to ski down. Oliver said he would return to the mountain if his family wanted to go.
"For the time being I feel pretty satisfied with that mountain," he said.
Oliver turned 22 years old a couple of months after the climb. He is about to graduate from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology. Wilson is 20 years old and is attending the University of Alaska Anchorage, majoring in aeronautical studies. He wants to become a pilot.
You can watch The First Alaskans Institute's Elders and Youth Conference on GCI channel 1 or channel 907. GCI is the parent company of KTVA.
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