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.
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
F Finland France
G Germany Greece
I Iceland Ireland Italy
L Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg
M Malta Monaco
N Netherlands New Zealand Norway
S San Marino Singapore Slovakia Slovenia South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland
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.
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.
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.
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
-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
-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
-West Buttress $7,300 (3:1 climber to guide ratio, group of 9)
Mountain Trip International, LLC
P.O. Box 658
Ophir, Colorado 81426
Fax: (303) 496-0998
-Western Butress $7,400 (9 climbers with 3-4 guides)
-West Rib $8,500
P.O. Box 981
Palmer, AK 99645
Phone: (907) 745-4047
Fax: (907) 745-6069
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.
P.O. Box Q
Ashford, WA 98304
Phone: (360) 569-2227
Fax: (360) 569-2982
-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
||CARDIO: 30 mins
||CARDIO: 40 mins
||CARDIO: 50 mins
||CARDIO: 1 hour
||HIKING: 4+ hours
||HIKING: 5+ hours
||HIKING: 6+ hours
||HIKING: 4+ hours
||HIKING: 5+ hours
||HIKING: 6+ hours
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
Dips- 2 sets max reps
Rows- 2 x 10-12
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 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!)
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.