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TRUE WILDERNESS the alaska range

[photography by Carl Battreall]

STARTING IN 2005, PHOTOGRAPHER CARL BATTREALL SET out to tell the complete visual story of the Alaska Range: an arc of mountains that stretches more than 600 miles across the middle of Alaska like an upside-down smiley face, forming a rugged, rarely explored borderland between Southcentral and the Interior.

Denali National Park and Preserve—by far the most photographed portion of the Alaska Range—perches near the peak of the arc. Most park visitors gather and explore the northeast side, while avid climbers set their sights on Mount McKinley, or the hundreds of smaller, more technical peaks that make up the Denali massif.

Beyond Denali—and even within the boundaries of the park—the Alaska Range is shrouded in mystery. Only a few peaks attract hardcore mountaineers and wilderness explorers, and there’s even some dispute as to exactly where the southwestern edge of the range comes to an end.

Battreall has made more than 20 trips into the most remote parts of the Alaska Range, a place notorious for having some of the worst weather you’ll find outside of Antarctica. Just a handful of trips remain before Battreall realizes his goal of sharing one of the world’s most pristine mountain ranges as a whole, from documenting the beauty of tiny lichens to aerial photos of peaks rippling into the distance.

During his photography expeditions, Battreall works simply and travels light, often using just one lens to capture his images. Not content to simply capture the beauty of these wild, rugged places that most humans will never see, Battreall also collects data from the more isolated areas of the range for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a group using outdoor recreation enthusiasts to aid in climate and conservation research. The following photos are excerpts from Battreall’s book, The Alaska Range, which was published in 2016 by Mountaineers Books. —Lisa Maloney

The north face of Denali towers over the tundra. Denali is the tallest peak in North America, topping out at 20,320 feet. It has one of the largest vertical gains of any mountain on Earth—roughly 18,000 feet from base to pinnacle.
Water in a kettle pond provides a perfect reflection of Mount Moffit in the eastern Alaska Range.
Snowclad even at the peak of summer, Mount Moffit was supposed to be named Mount Shand in memory of one of the climbers in the first ascent party. But that name was mistakenly applied to another peak; Mount Shand’s triangular peak is just out of frame, to the right and behind Mount Moffit.
Mixed light filters over the Delta Mountains, in the eastern part of the Alaska Range. The Richardson Highway runs straight through the Delta Mountains on the way from Glenallen to Delta Junction, making them the most accessible part of the Alaska Range. The Delta Mountains are a popular snowmachining destination in the winter, but during the summer these mountains remain pristine and rarely visited.
A determined grizzly in Denali National Park and Preserve.
The omnivorous bear uses its front claws, which may measure up to 4 inches long, to turn over rocks, uproot plants and break open logs during its search for food.
Skiers Sy Cloud and Chris Wrobel descend through the Kahiltna Icefall in Denali National Park and Preserve.
Climbers on Denali have to travel through the icefall to reach Thunder Mountain and Mount Hunter, or to ski Kahiltna Glacier. Mount Foraker, the second-highest peak in the Alaska Range at 17,400 feet, lurks in the background.
Too steep for snow to cling to, formidable Mount Johnson looms in the Ruth Gorge, on the south side of Denali National Park and Preserve.
Some speculate that a complete melting of Ruth Glacier would make Ruth Gorge the deepest canyon in the world.
A lone bull caribou looks over an unnamed glacier in the Delta Mountains, part of the eastern Alaska Range, as a storm brews in the background. With the exception of migration and breeding seasons, bull caribou often travel alone or in small groups with other bulls.
Babel Tower (left) and South Buttress Peak (right) are reflected in a still pond. Both peaks are located in the rarely explored Revelation Mountains, near the southwest corner of the Alaska Range.
Rosy alpenglow shines on the north ridge of Mount Hess, overlooking Gillam Glacier in the eastern Alaska Range.
You’re most likely to see alpenglow for a few minutes around sunrise or sunset, when the sun sits just below the horizon.
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Alaska Magazine
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Photography by Carl Battreall

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