I just got back from 12 days on Denali and treated like crap by Doug Geeting Aviation. We waited for 6 hours the day we got into Talkeetna as we "waited for the glacier to warm-up." Meanwhile, tourists were coming and going. The girl working there even admitted we were being kept there until they ran out of tourists to take. While this was annoying, it was nothing near the anger I experienced when waiting to fly out. We waited for 8 hours on the glacier as about 30 other climbers (including 3 Alpine Ascents teams) were flown off the mountain by other air services. All but 4 had arrived at the airstrip after us but were quickly flown off. The only DGA plane to arrive had tourists who had payed the extra money for a "glacier walk," only to find they were picking up smelly climbers. Two other climbers waiting with us confirmed our assumption told us that DGA hates climbers. Anyways, I left a note for Doug when I finally flew in and just recieved a response:
Dear Joel, I'm very sorry that you were not happy with the service we
It has been a tough year for us. WE lost an airplane on the tokositna river
sandbar a few days prior to your pick up date. AS you may try to understand
the difficulty in re-arranging a schedule that is already full to max
capacity for three planes now having only two. AS much as we try to get
other air to help us out on those busy days, they too are booked heavy with
charters previously booked from last winters bookings. TAT had the same
thing last month. The lost an airplane on the Kahiltna base camp. As much
as they tried, they too had pissed off climbers waiting at the base camp.
Something's just cant be helped Joel. Not even for you.
I know that non of what I'm saying makes any difference to you when your
waiting on the Kahiltna for an airplane. For 27 years I have flown
climbers. I have never treated climbers as anything but "equal" citizens
with the rest of humanity. They mom and pop that books a flight tour has
just the same priority as the climber who has to wait a while for glacier
pick up. Why should I cancel the mom and pop who have been planning on their
flight around the mountain for months?
First off, climbers do not schedule a pick up time with us in advance. On a
busy day Joel, how would you suggest we handle it? Cancel the days flights
for the day when the climber shows up at base camp? Id appreciate any
I've tried it all, been there done that. Do you have any idea where I make
my money? It an't from climbers. Its from the flight seeing.
Just so you know, if it weren't for the flight tourist coming up here, the
price to the Kahiltna glacier would be more like $700 per person. Who do
you think pays for all this equipment? Climbers? Not.... Ask the other
the other guys too if you think I'm a liar. My 27 years in this biz tells
So to end this letter, you can say what you will about me and my company.
My reputation in this business is good enough to pull me through any mud
slinging from you. I'll just shake it off like a bad case of the flees and
keep on going. Cuz after servicing and survived the Denali flying for 27
years. I guess I must be doing something right, but I'm not perfect. I
have room for improvement, but in this case Joel, no learning is required.
I do appreciate your agony of having to wait a few hours on the Kahiltna
glacier with all that awful scenery. maybe you should give up the mountain
wilderness thing if it bothers you to wait for a few hours longer in such a
wonderfull setting. or,
you might try a little patients and understanding of certain events that led
up to your anger.
WE didnt plane on making you wait. It wasnt deliberate. It was a schedualing
thing that was beyound our reasonable meens to do anything about that.
WE didnt go out of our way to make your trip a bad one. WE simply try to
provide transport service to the glaciers and do the very best that we can
with what we have. for as little cost to you as possible. I dont
appologise for that.
In response, all these "months in advance" bookings seem like nonsense to me. As I was writing my note to Doug tourists were constantly streaming in setting up flights for the day. There is no way they get totally booked months in advance. DGA says they treat climbers equally, but it's pretty obvious that since climbers "don't pay for any of this equipment" we're unimportant to his business. If this is the case, he has no need for any of our business. Talkeetna Air, K2 and Hudson all seemed to treat their climbers well so use one of them and let Doug Geeting take care of the tourists like he wants.