Climbing Denali

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denali

 

Denali (Mckinley) 6,194m

 

Denali has the highest base to peak rise out of any of the 7 summits, any mountain in the world for that matter. It rises 5,500 metres  out of the surrounding plains to its high point of 6,168m. A dubious and later proven false claim at the first summit was made by Dr Frederick Cook on 1906.  The first recorded ascent therefore, was achieved by Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum on June 7th 1914. Since then, the mountain has a summit rate of around 52%.

 

The mountain is usually referred to as ‘Denali’ by climbers, the name originally given by the local Athabascan people. The official name ‘Mckinley’ was given by gold prospector William Dickey, after presidential hopeful William Mckinley. The name was officially adopted when Alaska established Mt Mckinley national park in 1917.

 

It is renowned for its incredibly cold and brutal weather, -73 degrees celsius being the lowest recorded temperature on the mountain.

The first serious attempt to climb the mountain came when 2 Alaskan prospectors reached the lower North Summit (19,470 feet), after climbing for 18 hours. The crew, called the Sourdough Expedition, were climbing novices who spent 3 months climbing to win a bet with a bar owner who said it would never be climbed. They wore homemade crampons,snowshoes, Inuit mukluks, overalls, parkas, and mittens. On summit day, they carried doughnuts, caribou meat, 3 flasks of hot drinks, and a 14-foot-long spruce pole and an American flag.

RECOMMENDED READING

 

The Ascent of Denali: Hudson Stuck

Into the Wild: Jon Krakauer

Call of the Wild: Jack London

To the Top of the Continent: Frederick Cook

 

KEY PHRASES TO LEARN

 

For the most part they speak English in the U.S so you shouldn’t have any problems if you are reading this guide.

Before Climbing

GETTING THERE

 

Anyone not from Alaska has to fly into Ted Stephens Anchorage International airport, the closest international terminal.

From Anchorage there are several ways to get to the town of Talkeetna, where the expeditions launch from.

-Hire a car. Cars can be hired from the airport.

-Taxi. Companies such as Talkeetna Taxi offer transportation from around $240.

-Train. Service offered from Anchorage to Talkeetna through Alaskan Rail Road which takes around 3 hours.

 

If you’re using a guide, you will likely meet up in Talkeetna and travel to the base of the mountain via a ski-equipped aircraft.

 

VISA

 

Citizens of the countries listed below are eligible for the visitor waiver program (VWP) for stays of upto 90 days with the U.S.A.

 

A Andorra  Australia  Austria

B Belgium Brunei

C Chile Czech Republic

D Denmark

E Estonia

F Finland France

G Germany Greece

H Hungary

I Iceland Ireland Italy

J Japan

L Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg

M Malta Monaco

N Netherlands New Zealand Norway

P Portugal

S San Marino Singapore Slovakia Slovenia South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland

T  Taiwan

U United Kingdom

 

Citizens of all countries not mentioned above must apply for a visitor visa by scheduling an interview at your local U.S consulate. The application fee is $160 and non-refundable. This is also valid for up to 90 days and a return ticket out of the U.S must be provided.

 

 

WHEN TO CLIMB

 

May, June and July are the most popular months to climb and generally the only ones which guides operate in. Earlier in the season, it is colder and later in the season it’s a lot mushier and less stable. It’s an individuals choice therefore to pick their poison.

 

 

CHOOSING A ROUTE

 

The most common route by far is the West Buttress Route, accounting for over 90% of climbers. Other options are the more technical West ridge, the Cassin Ridge and the Muldrow glacier.

 

Western Buttress

 

Accounts for over 90% of all climbers on the mountain. Sometimes termed the ‘scenic loop’ due to it’s relative ease compared to the other, more formidable routes, the West Buttress is still no walk in the park. You will be carrying more gear over a higher elevation gain than anywhere else in the world. Climbers are also travelling over crevasses, steep snow slopes and exposed traverses. As a result, the success rate is estimated to be at 50%.

 

On this route it’s common to set up basecamp at 7,200 feet and establish 4 higher camps on the way to the summit, a total vertical gain of 13,500 feet (over a distance of approximately 14 miles). Although traditionally taking around 17 days to complete, expeditions usually allow for 21, accounting for the temperamental weather conditions that inhabit Denali.

 

 

West Rib

 

Considered a big step up from the popular West Buttress route, the West Rib sees far fewer crowds as a result of its higher difficulty. There are more crevasses, steeper snow/ice slopes and greater risk of avalanche, putting many a climber off attempting even attempting it.

 

The West Rib typically follows the Western Buttress route up until the northeast fork, where the base of the route begins. This then follows a prominent ridge right up to the summit of Denali.

 

Alternatively, some climbers prefer to follow the Western Buttress route right upto 14,000 before traversing around to the West Rib. This is a common approach when conditions are unstable around the northest fork where the route typically commences.

 

 

Cassin Ridge

 

First climbed in 1961 by Italian alpinist Ricardo Cassin, the Cassin ridge is only recommended for highly experienced climbers. Lying on the southeast flank of the mountain, the route follows an 8,000’ ridge right up to within a short distance of the summit. This route is rarely part of guided climbs.

Anyone thinking of attempting this is likely not reading this guide but if you are, the Cassin Ridge resource appears to be one worth checking out for a detailed route description.

 

CHOOSING A GUIDE

 

The National Park Service has authorised only 6 guide services to operate on Denali. “Any individual or group that is found to be guided by an unauthorized guide will have their registration voided, be removed from the mountain, and issued a citation”

As a result, there is no price competition and expedition costs of all the approved guides are within $100 of each other.

All guides listed below are fairly similar in their services provided which includes the following:

-Round trip flight to Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp
• All group camp supplies, such as tents, stoves, etc.
• All group climbing gear
• All meals during expedition (while on the mountain)
• All guide fees

 

Details of the approved guides are listed below;

Alaska Mountaineering School
P.O. Box 566
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-1016
Fax: (907) 733-1362
www.climbalaska.org

-West Buttress $7,400   (6 climbers with 2-3 guides)

-West Rib $8,400 (4 climbers with 2 guides)

 

Alpine Ascents International
109 W. Mercer St.
Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: (206) 378-1927
Fax: (206) 378-1937
www.alpineascents.com

-West Buttress $7,300 (3:1 climber to guide ratio, groups of 6 or 9)

 

American Alpine Institute
1515 12th Street
Bellingham, WA 98825
Phone: (360) 671-1505
Fax: (360) 734-8890
www.alpineinstitute.com

-West Buttress $7,300 (3:1 climber to guide ratio, group of 9)

 

Mountain Trip International, LLC
P.O. Box 658
Ophir, Colorado 81426
Phone: (970)369-1153
Fax: (303) 496-0998
www.mountaintrip.com

-Western Butress $7,400 (9 climbers with 3-4 guides)

-West Rib $8,500

 

N.O.L.S.
P.O. Box 981
Palmer, AK 99645
Phone: (907) 745-4047
Fax: (907) 745-6069
www.nols.edu

 

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.
P.O. Box Q
Ashford, WA 98304
Phone: (360) 569-2227
Fax: (360) 569-2982
www.rmiguides.com

-Western Buttress $7,400

-Upper West Rib $8,500 (Climber to guide ratio of 2:1)

 

TRAINING & PREPARATION

 

*Note- This routine below assumes you have a decent base level of fitness, as it starts 6 months out from the expedition. You should have been doing some moderate physical activity at least 3-4x per week prior to commencing this. If not, spend 2 months prior building up to training 4 days a week and get comfortable with that proposition.

#Climbing/hiking at altitude will be the best possible type of training. The below program assumes you live at sea level and don’t have access to any significant elevation gain.

 

Example Training Schedule
6 MONTHS OUT 5 MONTHS OUT 4 MONTHS OUT 3 MONTHS OUT 2 MONTHS OUT 1 MONTH OUT
MON STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH
TUE CARDIO: 30 mins CARDIO: 40 mins CARDIO: 50 mins CARDIO: 1 hour CARDIO: 1:15 CARDIO: 1:30
WED STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH STRENGTH
THUR OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF
FRI CARDIO: H.I.I.T CARDIO: H.I.I.T CARDIO: H.I.I.T

 

STRENGTH

CARDIO: H.I.I.T

 

STRENGTH

CARDIO: H.I.I.T

 

STRENGTH

CARDIO: H.I.I.T

 

STRENGTH

SAT HIKING HIKING HIKING HIKING: 4+ hours HIKING: 5+ hours HIKING: 6+ hours
SUN OFF OFF OFF HIKING: 4+ hours HIKING: 5+ hours HIKING: 6+ hours

 

Strength

Strength training for Mckinley may be the most important out of any of the summits due to the large loads in both backpack and a sled being towed behind you. It is therefore essential to not only build sufficient leg strength but hips, back, core and shoulders.

 

A sample weights Routine would be as follows:

 

Squats- 3 x 12-15

Deadlifts- 3 x 12-15

Step Ups- 3 x 12-15

Pullups- 2 sets max reps

S/S

Dips- 2 sets max reps

Rows- 2 x 10-12

S/S

DB Press- 2 x 10-12

Ab Circuit- 3 sets

Fitball Planks- 1:00

Fitball Bridges- 1:00

Med Ball Double Crunch- 20

Russian Twists- 50

 

Cardio

Cardio is your aerobic fitness, your bodies ability to effectively utilise oxygen taken in. At altitude, the oxygen levels available for the body to absorb are a great deal less than at sea level. As such, it is necessary to get your heart and lungs in adequate condition to handle the rigours of altitude upto 5,…m and trekking uphill for upto 3 weeks, the length of a typical expedition.

The best form of cardio you can do (besides hiking up mountains) is on stairs or a stairmaster at the gym. Alternate between running up and down and using a heavy pack.

For variety, incorporate running and swimming to keep it enjoyable and prevent boredom.

 

H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training).

A great incorporation into any training program where the goal is to increase the red blood cell count and improve oxygen efficiency. This is where a short burst of intense activity (1-2 minutes) is followed by an equal period (or slightly longer) of recovery. A great option is to find a long hill or group of stairs that will take you no longer than 3 minutes to reach the top. Once at the top, slowly jog or walk back down before sprinting as fast as you can back up again. These sessions should last no longer than 40 minutes due to their intensity. (If you find you are not exhausted after 40 minutes you haven’t worked hard enough!)

 

Hiking

Aimed at getting you accustomed to trekking for multiple hours a day over varying terrain. Ideally this will be amongst mountainous terrain at altitude, however not everyone lives in close proximity to such landscape in which case a hilly path will do. If even that is hard to find, try a beach (walk up and down sand dunes along the way).

 

Try and do all hiking with a heavy backpack, building upto a weight of 60 pounds, equivalent to what you would be using on Mckinley. It is a completely different ballgame with heavy weight on your back so it is essential to get used to this.

In addition, it is a great idea to try and get used to pulling a sled or something equivalent to get you used to this unique challenge that Denali presents.

climbing_denali

Planes making a glacier landing to drop climbers at basecamp

 

ITINERARY

 

Below is a sample itinerary based on examples from several guide companies (Source: Mountain Madness,

Day 1: Team Meeting

Our team meeting takes place at 10 A.M. for an expedition orientation and equipment check. This is a very important meeting, which you must attend! Be sure to arrive in Anchorage early enough to make the meeting; which may require arriving a day early. Included in our expedition fees are two nights lodging before the expedition at the Earth B&B, which is conveniently located near downtown Anchorage. We also provide transportation within Anchorage to pick up last minute items on the day of our team meeting.

 

Day 2: Travel to Talkeetna  Elevation: 7,200 feet / 2195 meters

We provide our own shuttle service for team members to travel the several hours to Talkeetna. Everyone will need to register with the National Park Service prior to flying to the glacier. Weather permitting; we will fly into the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,200 feet that afternoon. Once on the glacier, everyone will need to pitch in to get Base Camp established so we can proceed with our on-glacier expedition orientation that will cover the following topics: glacier travel, crevasse rescue, sled rigging, rope management and camp site procedures.

 

Day 3: Carry loads to 7,800’ camp Elevation: 7,800 feet / 2377 meters

Departing base camp, we’ll drop down the infamous Heartbreak Hill and onto the broad Kahiltna glacier. Our goal will be to move camp to about 7,800 feet, near the junction with the NE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This is a moderately tough day of about 9 miles round-trip and is a good shake-down for the upcoming days. Depending on the team and weather we may or may not carry loads and return to Base Camp. Throughout the expedition we will typically follow the “climb high, sleep low” technique for better acclimatization, however the altitude difference between Base Camp and 7,800′ Camp is minimal enough to permit us to generally “single-carry” this stretch. On the late May and June expeditions, we may be doing our climbing early in the morning to avoid the excessive heat and soft snow conditions on the Lower Glacier.

 

Day 4: Haul loads to Kahiltna Pass Elevation: 7,800 feet / 2377 meters

We’ll head out of 7,800′ Camp and carry loads up the 1,800′ Ski Hill. Several options exist for camp sites between 9,000 & 11,000 feet, depending upon weather, snow conditions and team strength. This is a moderately difficult carry of 7-9 miles round-trip, with 2- 3,000 feet of elevation gain and a return to 7,800′ Camp for the night.

 

Denali Camp

11,000’ Camp on Denali (Photo:The Darkroom)

 

Day 5: Move upto 11,200’ camp

Our second camp is often in the 11,200’ basin at the base of Motorcycle Hill. This is an incredibly beautiful camp that basks in alpenglow when the sun travels around the north side of the mountain

 

Day 6: Pickup cache from Kahiltna

This is an “active rest day” during which we drop back down and pick up the cache we left down near Kahiltna Pass. It also helps give us another day to acclimatize before moving higher.

 

Day 7: Haul Loads upto Windy Corner Elevation: 13,300 feet / 4054 meters

Steep snow climbing up the 1,000′ high Motorcycle Hill rewards you with spectacular views. The total distance for the day is about 4 miles round trip with a little over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Fun climbing with crampons and ice axe gets you around Windy Corner where the upper mountain comes into view-have your camera ready!

 

Day 8: Move upto 14,200’ camp Elevation: 14,200 feet / 4328 meters

This is usually a long, hard day. Our next camp is generally located at the well equipped 14,200’ camp in the expansive Genet Basin. Loads are getting lighter and the air is getting thinner. Hopefully everyone will have enough energy left to help get camp in as we need to fortify this camp due to the possibility for fairly severe weather.

 

Day 9: Pickup windy corner cache Elevation: 14,200 feet / 4328 meters

This is another “active rest day,” during which the team will descend from Genet Basin to the Windy Corner cache and bring everything up to 14,200 feet. We’ll spend the afternoon going over climbing techniques that we will use in the upcoming days.

 

Day 10: Climb up headwall

Our goal is to cache supplies up on the ridge above us and return to 14,200 feet. Climbing up the Headwall (the section of route with fixed lines running from 15,500 to 16,100 feet) with a heavy pack is one of the more strenuous days of the trip because of the steep terrain, heavy pack and thinning air. The views from the ridge can be as breath taking as the rarefied air!

 

Day 11: Rest Day

It is often prudent to take a rest/acclimatization day prior to moving up to High Camp.

 

Day 12: Move to High Camp Elevation: 17,200 feet / 5243 meters

Weather and team strength will again determine this decision. While there is a camp site at 16,100′, it is very exposed, so we usually push for the 17,200‘ site which is more secure and the better choice for camp. This is a really tough day, as our loads are big and the terrain is steep in sections. Rewards for our work are in the great climbing along the ridge. Weaving in and out of the rocks and occasionally walking a knife edged stretch, combined with big exposure to create one of the most memorable parts of the route.

 

Day 13: Rest Day

Moving to 17,200’ and getting High Camp established can be a huge day, so we usually take a Rest Day before attempting the summit.

 

Day 14: Summit Day Elevation: 20,320 feet / 6195 meters

If the weather is favorable, we’ll push for the summit. However if the weather is not good we will not go. It is important to be patient! We will only try for the summit when the weather is good, meaning mostly clear and calm. Our guides are the most experienced on the mountain and will make this sometimes difficult decision. The round trip climb will take eight to twelve hours or more. Usually you will depart camp early (7-9 a.m.), climb up to Denali Pass (18,000’) and follow the route past Arch Deacon’s Tower and the Football Field to the slopes leading to the Summit Ridge. On this spectacular ridge you can often see down into the Ruth Glacier with views of beautiful peaks such as Mooses Tooth, Mt. Huntington and Mt. Hunter.

The weather needs to be good and everyone attempting the summit needs to have demonstrated that they can safely give it a shot. This is often the most grueling day of the expedition (some climbers say of their lives!). The guides have the ultimate decision as to when the team will make a summit bid. The guides also have the discretion to decide that a team member has not shown that he or she is capable to safely make a summit bid. Such occurrences are rare; but remember– your safety is our primary concern.

 

Day 15-16: Descent

The descent from High Camp takes from one to two days, depending on the team’s strength and motivation to get home. The descent can beat you up more than the ascent, as we often have the heaviest loads of the trip as we go down from High Camp to Camp 2. Weather dictates when we can fly out to Talkeetna for food and showers. Not much beats a steak and salad at the West Rib Tavern after working hard on Denali!

 

Day 17-21: Contingency Days

We build five “contingency days” into our schedule. Denali has a well-deserved reputation for arctic weather and it is common to take weather days at some point on the mountain.

 

Day 22: Return to Anchorage

We will provide group transportation back to Anchorage and assist in making any necessary lodging reservations, however any lodging after the climb is your responsibility. As we cannot predict when we will come off the mountain, we cannot make arrangements for lodging ahead of time. This is a true transition day from the intensity of the mountain to the relative big city life of Anchorage.

 

Note on Itinerary: Although we do our best to follow the schedule listed, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control. The biggest factor that will determine our progress on the mountain, especially in establishing Camp 3 and our summit attempt(s), will be the weather. Denali weather is notorious for unforgiving and unpredictable conditions.

 

 

 

 

REQUIRED GEAR LIST

 

*Sourced From Alpine Institute website

 

Outerwear

 

  • -Base Layer Top: Bring two. This will be your base layer and should be lightweight or silk weight synthetic or wool. Bring at least one that is white or light in color for use on the lower glacier (reflects sunlight as opposed to absorbing it). Synthetic and wool only, no cotton.
  • -Base Layer Bottom: Look for the same features as your Base Layer Top. One pair is usually sufficient.
  • -Undergarments: Also known as underwear, most climbers wear them underneath their base layer. 1-3 pairs depending on personal preference for changing.
  • -2nd Layer Top: A lightweight fleece or wind shirt. A chest pocket is a helpful feature of this multi-use layer.
  • -Expedition Weight Bottoms: A thicker pair of long underwear bottoms that will serve as an additional insulating layer for use in colder temperatures. This layer will go on top of your base layer, but under your softshell pants. One-piece suits (Farmer-John/Union Suit) are popular but require more planning and effort when answering the call of nature and work best with other layers designed for using the bathroom without removing layers. Windproof/Windstopper pants are heavier and less functional and will not work for this layer.
  • -Soft Shell Jacket: Thin, light, stretchy, breathable but wind and snow-resistant layer that is comfortable to wear is ideal. This will be your action layer and the outer layer that you spend the most time in. Hoods are optional but highly recommended. Size your jacket to be trim fitting, but large enough to fit over your base and second layers. Light to moderate insulation/thickness is recommended. This layer will go over your base and expedition layers, but under your shell and parka if wearing this layer in combination with those layers.
  • -Soft Shell Pants: Look for the same features as your Soft Shell Jacket. This will be your outermost layer most of the time for your legs. A thigh pocket is a useful feature for storing small items. Your base and expedition weight layers need to fit under these pants comfortably.
  • -Light Insulating Layer, Top: The goal for this piece is to add warmth to your internal layering system. Depending on your clothing system, and the environment you are in, you may fit this layer underneath your shell gear (e.g. fleece sweaters) or over your shell gear (lightweight insulated jackets). If choosing fleece, pick modern fleece garments with waffle-grid patterns and avoid windproof fleece – it is not breathable enough. The weight and design of this piece will vary based on the other items of climbing that you are bringing.
  • -Parka (Expedition Weight w/ Hood): These jackets come in many shapes, sizes and temperature ratings. If you tend to get cold easily, opt for a slightly warmer and more substantial parka. Otherwise, choose a lightweight down parka that is still baffled, includes a hood, and offers sufficient coverage over your waist.
  • -Insulated Pants: Sized to fit over your soft shell pants and long underwear layers on the bottom, these pants are the last line of defense in extremely cold temperatures. Hip to full-length side-zips are a critical feature. Fleece is undesirable because it picks up snow, is bulky, and low-loft with respect to its weight. Down or synthetic fill pants are preferred and lighter weight, but require more care to not get them wet and/or frozen. The warmth of this layer will vary based on the temperatures expected at the time of your trip.
  • -Shell Pants: Made of a waterproof/breathable material, your lightweight shell bottoms must have full or hip-length side zips. This garment should be extremely lightweight and packable. A zipper fly is a nice, but optional.
  • -Shell Jacket: This layer needs to be made of waterproof/breathable construction and ultra-light. Your shell should be sized to comfortably fit over your other base and mid-layers (minus your parka). Choose the lightest, most packable shell that will still get the job done. Avoid extra pockets (one or two chest pockets is all you need), 3-layer Gore-Tex, and hanging linings. Your hood should fit over your climbing helmet (if you plan on bringing one – i.e. non-West Buttress routes).

 

Head/Hand/Footwear

 

  • -Socks: Bring three complete changes, more if you know you have very sweaty feet. If you plan to wear 8000 meter boots or Intuition liners, bring several light to mid-weight socks and one pair of heavy/warm socks. Adjust your sock system ahead of time to perfect your boot fit.
  • -Gaiters: Knee height is required. Check the fit of the gaiter to your boot in advance to make sure the coverage is adequate. Not required for those with integrated boots.
  • -Overboots: Required for all boots except integrated boots. Please verify these fit over your boots and that your crampons stay on without fail. Guiding services point out that Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero overboots and OR Brooks Range overboots have not performed well on past expeditions. 40-Below Overboots are the lightest, warmest, most functional and highly recommended.
  • -Glove Liners: You wear these for much of your time on the mountain. They need to be dexterous and comfortable, but not necessarily very insulating. Bring one pair.
  • -Mid-weight Fleece/Schoeller Gloves: The most desirable glove is one that is comfortable and dexterous, so that it can be worn all day. It should be durable enough (leather/synthetic palms) to handle ropes, jumars and ice axes. These come in different weights, so choose the thickness that works with your glove system. Bring one pair.
  • -Expedition Gloves: Composed of heavy-duty waterproof shells with extremely warm liners, these modular gloves should have removable liners. These gloves must be dexterous enough to handle ropes, carabiners, and jumars. Gauntlets should extend to mid-forearm.
  • -Expedition Weight Mittens: Make no compromise with these as they are the first and often last defense against frostbite. These are expedition weight modular mittens, down or synthetic, with a storm-proof shell. You want your mitts to be extremely warm and thick. This is more important than dexterity. Gauntlets should extend to mid-forearm. These need to be large enough to allow for liner gloves to be worn underneath. Attach keeper loops to them.
  • -Beanie Hat/Toque: A warm hat that will fit under your climbing helmet (optional) and over your balaclava/buff. Fleece, wool, or similar fabrics are best. Your cold weather head/face system should not leave any skin exposed. When wearing your warm hat, balaclava/face mask, and goggles, there should not be any gaps in your clothing where wind and snow might penetrate close to the skin level. The outside edge of your goggles is a common place for climbers to overlook and as a result, get frostbite. Have a friend double check your system to make sure you have complete coverage.
  • -Warm Hat: Big, puffy and warm. Windstopper fabric can be a good idea but makes hearing difficult. This hat will primarily be used while sitting around camp or in very cold and windy conditions.
  • -Balaclava/Buff: Balaclavas are thin to medium weight thickness hat plus face mask combos. You should be able to pull it over your face to the base of your neck so that it completely covers the head except for an opening for the face.
  • -Sun Hat: A baseball cap or visor serves well. Models with a tail are recommended for increased sun protection.
  • -Nose Protection: Designed to protect your nose from the sun, this is a cloth nose guard that fits onto your glacier glasses (Beko is a company in Santa Barbara CA that makes these). Try the fit on your sunglasses; they should fit well without pushing the frames off your nose.
  • -Glacier Glasses: Choose a model with 100% UVA/UVB protection and side shields. If you have an extra pair, bring them too. Note: Those using contact lenses should also bring a pair of prescription glasses in the event that your contacts or solutions are lost or damaged by freezing.

*Contact Lens Care and Precautions: Most contact lenses are perfectly acceptable for climbing trips at altitude and in very cold conditions. If you plan on wearing contact lenses on Denali, you should be familiar with the intricacies of long-term maintenance and care in these conditions. You should plan on bringing at least two spare pairs of lenses and a few small bottles of whatever solutions you will require. Bringing a pair of glasses as a backup or to give your eyes a rest is a good idea as well.

 

-Ski Goggles: For use in high winds and heavy snow. These should be lightly tinted but not so dark that the will reduce visibility in low light conditions. They should block 100% of UV light. If you wear prescription glasses, these must fit comfortably over your glasses.

 

Boots

 

  • -High Altitude/Cold Weather Mountaineering Boots: Double boots are required. They should be designed for extended use in temperatures at least as cold as -40F. Modern synthetic integrated boots (those with a built in overboot/gaiter) are suitable for this climb. For traditional plastic boots, thermo-mold liners are warmer, lighter, and more comfortable than standard liners. If you have heat-moldable liners in your boots already and you have worn them for several trips, you may want to have them re-fit to ensure that the foam has not compressed and the temperature rating has been retained.

 

Tents

 

  • -Four Season Expedition Tent: Tents come in various shapes and sizes, so eventually you’ll have to find something that works best for you and the number of people in your group. Most people will spend a considerable amount of time in their tent, so you’ll want to error on the side of comfort and safety. But weight will always be a concern especially for a two man team. Most parties on the mountain have large, heavy, and sturdy tents. Durability is the most important factor – as such, your trip (or worse) is essentially over if something happens to your tent that cannot be repaired.

 

Packs

 

  • -Large Internal Frame Pack: Choose the pack that fits your body type best. This pack must be at least 5500 cubic inches in size; larger is better if possible. An external frame is not adequate or functional. Avoid bells and whistles like large, full-length zippers, separate sleeping bag compartments, etc. Many top-brand packs weigh up to 8 pounds, but there are a few better ones that weigh closer to five or six pounds. It is very important that your pack be in good working order and not prone to failures of any sort. Packs are a hugely important item and a climber may not be able to continue due to a pack failure.

 

Bags

 

  • -Sleeping Bag: Down Only. Synthetic bags are not acceptable due to their size and weight. Bags should be rated to -30F (-34C) for the early and mid-May expeditions; to at least -20F (-28C) for expeditions in June. If you know you sleep cold take this into consideration when purchasing/selecting your bag.

 

  • -Sleeping Pads: Two are required. One should be a full-length 1/2″ thick closed cell foam pad. The second pad can be either a closed cell pad or an inflatable pad. It can be ¾ length or full length. Your inflatable pad should be a modern, lightweight, and packable version. Newer pads are less bulky and can be folded in half when rolled so that they take up only a tiny portion of your packs volume. Old Thermarests with metal valves are not acceptable as the valves freeze.

 

Technical Gear (“Sharps”)

 

I will not go into this too much because each expedition is a bit different, but essentially you should have the following items (at a minimum):

 

  • -Expedition Climbing Harness: This harness should fit over bulky clothing. Bring the simplest, lightest harness you can find. Black Diamond Alpine Bod harnesses are the standard on the West Buttress route. You will not need any padding on the waist or legs. Adjustable leg loops are key for changing pants. Make sure that your harness fits comfortably in combination with your fully loaded backpack. Some models have features that cause wear and tear on your waist and hips when used with a heavy pack.
  • -Climbing Helmet: Guiding services require a helmet for this expedition (over the many years a few people have been hit by falling rocks near the Polo Field – as such the guiding services require a helmet for liability reasons). As such, choose the lightest weight helmet that still fits your head shape well.
  • -Ice Axe: A variety of axes are suitable, but bring one that is 65 cm max; 55cm to 60cm is preferred. A wrist loop/leash is not required or recommended. Many climbers insulate the head of their ice axe with a small piece of foam or similar material. In colder temperatures, heat can be lost conductively through your glove when gripping the cold axe. This insulation should be small enough to not affect the performance of the ice axe or your ability to grip it, swing it, and self-arrest.
  • -Steel Crampons: Modern new-matic crampons are recommended. Step-in crampons are easier to put on with cold fingers, but they can be harder to work well with overboots. Strap-on crampons provide more reliable attachment to boots with overboots. Regardless, be sure your crampon, overboot, and boot combination work well together. You should also bring crampon adjustment tools if your crampons require them. Your crampons should be suitable for steep ice climbing. Aluminum crampons are not functional on Denali.

 

  • -Trekking Poles: Two are required. Even if you don’t normally use trekking poles, on this expedition in particular, they are invaluable in helping with balance while carrying heavy packs on showshoes.
  • -Snowshoes (or Skis): They should be equipped with an integral crampon and/or aggressive traction on the bottom of the snowshoes. Snowshoes can be sized smaller than is typically recommended by manufacturers since deep snow is not common on the climbing route. Large profile basic models made by Tubbs, Atlas, and Sherpa do not work well and are not recommended. Models by MSR are proven and quite durable. Length should not exceed 25-28 inches.
  • -Personal Gear: Caribiners (4-10, w/lockers), Slings (thinner spectra/dyneema slings are not recommended because they are hard to remove knots from with gloves on), Prusiks (2-3), Pulley, Pickets (1-2), Ascender, Ice Screws (1-8), Ice Tools (1-2), Belay Device, etc.
  • -Group Gear: Ropes (45-50m, 9mm), Shovels, Ice Saws, Wands, Sleds, Medical Kit, Stoves, Pots, Fuel, etc

 

Duffel

 

  • -Duffel Bag: Your large duffel should have a full-length zipper and be of durable construction (this duffel will be used in the sled while on the lower mountain). A second duffel or travel bag will be needed to store your town clothes and personal items while on the mountain (usually at a secure storage locker at the airport where you departed on your flight onto the glacier).