Book Review: Alaska Range, by Carl Battreal


A disclaimer: Carl Battreal is a personal friend of WC, and WC was a Go Fund Me supporter of Alaska Range, Carl Battreal’s book on Alaska’s biggest mountain range. So feel free to take that into consideration as you read this review.

Denali – the mountain formerly known as Mt. McKinley – gets all the press. But it’s simply the tallest mountain in an extraordinary chain of mountains, running from the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains at the Alaska border to the Alaska Peninsula, a 400-mile long arc of snow, rock and glaciers. Carl set out to tell the story of some of the rest of that remarkable range.

It’s penetrated by roads at only three places: the Parks Highway at Broad Pass, the Richardson Highway at Isabel Pass, and the Tok Cut-off at Mentasta Pass. A few roads wind around the edges: the Denali Highway, from Paxson to Wonder Lake at the northcentral edge of Denali National Park; the Petersville Road south of the Denali Massiff; the Nabesna Road into the northern edge of the Wrangells and the Mcarthy Road, along the southwestern edge of the Wrangells. That’s it. The rest is pretty much wilderness.

Citadel Peak, Neacola Mountains, p 21 of Alaska Range

Citadel Peak, Neacola Mountains, p 21 of Alaska Range

For about five years, Carl set out to explore, photograph and study this massive set of mountains. He recruited geologist Jeff Benowitz to write about the geology; Roman Dial to write about the climbing; Bill Sherwonit to write about the wildlife; Verna Pratt to write about the flora and others to round the story out.

Carl wrote chapters himself, and every photo in the book is his. And the photos are excellent, capturing the ranges of scale of his subject. The photos range from the small plants of the tundra to the stunning Ruth Amphitheater on the south of Denali. Parts you’ve seen before but others, like the photos from the little-known Neacola Mountains and Hidden Mountains, will be new to pretty much every reader.

In a very real sense, Carl set himself an impossible task. You cannot capture a mountain range, let alone a mountain range of this size, in a coffee table book. But that doesn’t keep this from being a very good, even remarkable book. Highly recommended.