Tucker Chenoweth and Leighan Falley

Sep 13, 2011
Outside Magazine

Tucker Chenoweth & Leighan Falley    Photo: David Hanson

Tucker Chenoweth & Leighan Falley

Tucker Chenoweth, 36
Lives in: Talkeetna, Alaska (born in Boulder, Colorado)
Profession: NPS Mountaineering ranger, executive director of Alaska Avalanche School
Favorite part of your work: The camaraderie of the folks I work with and helping people
Least favorite: Being the executive director, being in charge. I like the practitioner part a lot better.
What do you like to do in your free time: I like to climb with my beautiful wife on warm granite
If you could travel anywhere: Right now it’s probably Nepal, next summer.
If you could write a book: It’d be called You’re not Going to Believe This: The Circus on Denali
The last meal you ate: Cheesy grits with hot sauce, instant coffee
Are you religious: Just to the mountains
Any regrets: Not climbing Longs Peak in Colorado with my dad before he was unable to do it
Trick of the trade: Scotch. Good scotch.

Leighan Falley, 30
Lives in:
Talkeetna, Alaska (born in Fairbanks, Alaska)
Profession: Mountain guide
Favorite part of your work: Getting to be on the High One (Denali). Getting to see Tucker up here at high altitude.
Least favorite: Having to clean up other people’s poo
What do you like to do in your free time: Go climbing with my handsome husband on warm granite
If you could travel anywhere: China, for climbing
If you could write a book: A friend and I were talking about writing a book called Alaska Range Dispatches.
The last meal you ate: Cheesy grits with hot sauce, instant coffee
Are you Religious: Spiritual about the mountains, especially this one
Any Regrets: No, my life’s been pretty good.
Trick of the trade: Marrying a climbing ranger

Tucker and Leighan met in Colorado on a ski hill. Tucker was ski patrol, and Leighan was skiing too fast. She yard-saled on a slope one day, and three other ski patrollers went right past her because she was known to be a fast-drivin’ downhiller. They must have thought she needed to learn a lesson. As Tucker says, back then “she equated speed with skill.” But Tucker stopped and made sure she was OK.

They became friends and eventually found themselves working on Denali around the same time, Tucker with the park service and Leighan as a guide. Now they are married and spend part of their year sharing a tent and hot-sauced cheesy grits at Denali high camps.

This year they overlapped at 14 and 17 camps, Leighan with her guided clients and Tucker with his patrol. When a three-man helicopter rescue from the 19,000-foot Football Field below the summit occurred on Tucker’s summit day, we at 14 Camp were worried about Tucker’s health and temperature. He’d been in windy, negative temps for hours, treating the patients at 19,000 feet. So we made certain that Leighan, who was also up at 17 Camp, knew he’d be coming in late and would be a wreck from the rescue. It was nice and rare to be able to call someone’s spouse to be sure the tent was warm and the water hot when her husband returned from his dangerous workday saving lives below the summit.

Tucker and Leighan’s time together at the high camps this June was the most they’d seen each other in three months, since their work has them spread out from Argentina to Alaska in the winter and spring. When they finished their professional obligations on the mountain, they reconnected in Talkeetna for a day or two, then flew back onto Denali, still acclimatized, and skied up to 14 Camp for a personal attempt up the Cassin Route. The weather denied them, but they enjoyed the mountain, for a time, on their terms.

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