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Waking up early in the morning, the first thing we did was take an Uber to the railway station. There, we checked in our luggage at the tents and awaited departure, purchasing coffee and muffins. The majority of travelers appeared to be typical tourists. Here, the train functions more as a tourist attraction rather than the primary mode of transportation as in Europe.

Despite having purchased tickets beforehand, we still needed to register additionally at the ticket office and then wait within the waiting room. Boarding the train was only permitted upon receiving a signal from the train staff. Overall, the atmosphere resembled that of an airport rather than a typical train station.

Soon the boarding call was made, and we commenced our journey at a slowly pace. Since the train is a tourist train, high speeds akin to those in Europe were not to be expected. We rolled slowly forward, enjoying the scenic views.

The train’s retro-themed restaurant provided particularly splendid panoramic vistas. Indeed, the entire train exuded a nostalgic ambiance.

During the journey, we encountered fellow travelers, including a pair of American skiers planning their ascent of Denali, along with others intending to embark on ski tours within the national park.

The attendant periodically shared insights about the passing landmarks or alerted us to sightings of notable animals (I managed to catch a glimpse of an owl and what appeared to be a moose, albeit from a distance).

Four hours later, we arrived at Talkeetna, greeted by breathtaking river scenery.

Following check-in at the hotel, we immediately went down to the river, which boasted a considerable width, with majestic Alaskan mountains in the distance, prominently featuring our main goal of this expedition: Denali, the highest mountain on the North American continent.

Talkeetna itself revealed its character as a tourist village, featuring a modest library, numerous souvenir shops, galleries, and rustic dining establishments.

After lunch, we registered with a volunteer at the ranger station, who collected our information and provided a brief overview of our upcoming journey. We opted for the classic route via the West Buttress Ridge.

The highlight of his presentation were the bucket toilets, which we had to lower down the mountain along with all the contents.

This year, a record 952 climbers were registered to conquer Denali, with 185 already on the mountain and 6 descending without reaching the summit.

After thanking the volunteer for the presentation, we departed the ranger station with our conspicuous bright green poop buckets and headed directly to Airfield K2, where we spent the rest of the day in the hangar sorting our belongings and packing everything into our pulkas (sleighs) and backpacks. Each person’s load amounted to roughly 60 kg, signifying the physical challenges ahead: we will have to drag all this up the mountain. There are no porters here and we decided not to use the services of expedition companies, we were solely responsible for carrying our supplies and organizing everything ourselves. Therefore, we will have to not only carry everything up ourselves, but also cook, put up tents, build snow fortifications, extract water from snow and ice, etc.

After finishing all the necessary things, we went to dinner at a local restaurant. Alaska’s restaurant prices, compared to Europe, were notably higher, with flavors leaving much to be desired. This is the second time I have been disappointed with the food in Alaska. Chris, as a real German, didn’t like the fact that we also had to leave a 20% tip to the waitresses 🙂 but unfortunately this is how America functions, where many waiters rely heavily on gratuities.

After dinner we strolled once more along the majestic river, witnessing the mighty flow of ice blocks, a striking display of Arctic power.

Tomorrow heralds the commencement of our mountain expedition, marking a transition to a more serious phase. Today is our final opportunity to indulge in a warm shower, a comfortable bed, and the luxury of warmth.

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