Heidi Rader stands on a narrow rock ledge, admiring the wilderness landscape far beneath her heels. Studying the cracks and formations above, she rearranges the chocks, cams, slings and carabiners on the rack of trad gear slung over her shoulder. Preparing to lead the next pitch of the towering granite spire, she reflects on the remoteness of this rugged arctic peak. The nearest village lies nearly 100 roadless miles away. Heidi smiles at her sister, Krista, and says “Climbing!”
Heidi’s account of one wilderness adventure, “Savage Beauty: Climbing to Sublime in the Arrigetch”, appears in the May 2012 issue of Alaska Magazine. The story is accompanied by sister Krista Heeringa’s breathtaking photos. Heidi loves to be outdoors in all seasons. Alaskan summers find her rock climbing, cycling, paddling and working in her Little Alaskan Garden. She loves hunting and picking berries in fall, backcountry skiing in winter, and mountaineering in spring.
Heidi has summited Denali and attempted Mt. Logan, the tallest peak in Canada. She is well acquainted with alpine routes and summits in the Deltas of the eastern Alaska Range. These peaks lure Fairbanks’ climbers with their accessibility. Weather and snow conditions often deny their summits.
“It’s sort of a love/hate relationship with the Deltas. I’ve realized that you pretty much need to go on three trips to experience one bluebird, perfect trip out there. But, of course, they keep drawing me back… I’ve done a fair amount of peak-bagging in the Deltas. You’ve got those peaks that you’ve tried five, six times and always get blown out of the mountains. The Hayes Range and Deltas, I’ve grown to love most of the time, and hate some of the time.”
“I can ski, run, and bike out my door and not see another soul for hours. In comparison, going to college down in the states, outdoor adventurers seemed more tame. In Colorado for instance, I don’t think you can get further than 7 miles from a road. It’s different in Alaska. You can go for months without hitting roads and by the time you see people, you’re glad to. …Although the quality of the rock and routes doesn’t compare near Fairbanks to other places, for me, the wilderness aspect is part of why I enjoy climbing.”
When she is not out adventuring, Heidi serves as the Tribes Extension Agent and Director for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference. Much of her work with rural Native Alaskan villages promotes healthy, sustainable subsistence and agricultural practices. Among her favorite outreach programs is “K’enaanee Kkaazoot!”, which means “Skiing is fun!” in Koyukon Athabascan. Heidi recruits volunteers from UAF and the Fairbanks community to travel to rural Alaska Native villages in Interior Alaska, to share their knowledge and passion for Cross-Country skiing with the youth. They provide opportunities to learn a fun, healthy, outdoor activity that can also be used for non-motorized transportation.
Heidi and her husband, Chris, live on their own very small farm in a cabin that they built themselves on ten acres in Fairbanks. They harvest fresh food from the garden, eggs from chickens, and blueberries from their front yard. Last year, they even got a moose on their land.
“Perhaps my most creative outlet is growing things and cooking things that I’ve hunted, fished, grown, or gathered myself.”
Heidi authored The Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook, an unpretentious cookbook featuring Alaska Grown ingredients. Her recipes that make use of local, Alaskan ingredients in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. Many were developed using produce from their Little Alaskan Garden.
Heidi’s and Chris’s newest adventure is parenthood. They look forward to sharing wilderness trips with their newborn daughter, Kinsey. With Chris’s experience as a wilderness raft guide, and Heidi’s love of the mountains, Kinsey can expect a lifetime filled with grand Alaskan adventures.