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Denali Guide Experiences

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Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:30 pm

Planning a guided climb of the West Buttress Route the first three weeks of June 2015. Right now, based on a few recommendations, option A in terms of the guide service I am going to use is Alaska Mountaineering School. $7000 land cost for 2014 with a good guide-client ratio.

http://www.climbalaska.org/schedule.html

But I am not 100-percent locked in at this point and remain interested in hearing about other experiences that SPers have had with whatever guide service they used. So please post any positive or negative experiences you may have had.

(Also, I am aware that I am a weak sister with money to blow for doing a guided climb of the dog route ... so no need to point that out. :wink: )
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Fletch » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:14 pm

I used American Alpine Institute. Frankly, I don't use anything else these days. They were absolutely first class. I made some great friends (both guides and clients) on that trip that I still climb with 6 years later. I found them to be humble, patient, like able, and extremely qualified, both as climbers and leaders. I think the owner, Dunham does a great job with that outfit and his Denali trips are certainly a highlight...

And just remember, on Denali, they don't carry your shit. They cook the meals, but you do the dishes. They make decisions on the weather, as they should --- especially if you're not from Alaska. But other than that, you'll be climbing the mountain as if you would normally. I enjoyed my rope mates and thought the guides were great too. I still look back on that trip with extreme fondness and would do it again someday for sure... Although the Rib looks too good to pass up... :).

Sorry if it sounds like an advertisement, but they have been very good to me over the years. Can't say enough...
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Jesus Malverde » Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:48 am

Catamount,
Speak of the devil, AAI just posted this route profile today on the West Buttress:
http://blog.alpineinstitute.com/2014/03 ... enali.html
Have a great time on Denali..Yer gonna love it. :)
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:47 am

Thanks, Fletch and Jesus. AAI has been kind of running in the 1A position behind AMS, but I didn't have any personal recommendations so to speak. Land cost is the same for this year. Good food for thought.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Jesus Malverde » Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:40 pm

catamount,
FWIW,
My Denali mountain guide service recommendations:
1. Mountain Trip/ Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS)
2. American Alpine Institute
Note, that Mountain Trip and AMS often share mountain guides between companies (not on the mountain, but as employees for the season).
You can't go wrong with AAI either.
You may get a better deal with Mountain Trip as the last time I checked (it's been a couple years), Mountain Trip included two nights stay in Anchorage and transportation to/from Talkeetna in their trip price (this may have changed). If I recall correctly this was several hundred dollars in savings. Some of the other authorized guide services start and end their trips in Talkeetna from what I remember.
What ever way you go and summit or no summit, it's still a trip of a lifetime.
Best,
JM
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby peladoboton » Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:31 pm

AAI is the right choice.

My first Ruth Glacier experience was with one of their guys and I can't believe how much I learned from him.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby ScottyP » Fri Mar 28, 2014 4:30 am

I have used Mountain Trip on four of the seven summits and have had great experiences. Give Todd a call and chat about what makes them different. Truly a small company feel that I did not het with other companies. Plus, their crew on Denali is top notch. Scott
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:12 pm

Jesus Malverde wrote:What ever way you go and summit or no summit, it's still a trip of a lifetime.


That's the attitude I am hoping to take to the mountain. There are lot of things you can control in life, but the mountains are not among them. Given the expense and time away from family, it will likely be my one and only attempt of Denali. I would hate to attach my feelings of success to the summit alone ... although I certainly plan to do everything I can to tilt the odds into my favor.

Thanks to all for the helpful advice. Keep it coming.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:21 pm

American Alpine Institute it is.

All registered for a trip from June 7 - 27, 2015. By signing up early, I got a 2015 trip at 2014 rates. Seemed like an easy decision.

Thanks again.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Jesus Malverde » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:27 pm

Catamount,
Congrats. Just making the mental commitment is often the biggest step..oh yea, now you gotta climb the thing.:)
You going with integrated gaiter boots or something like a 40-below overboot?
If don't already have some 40-below overboots and you need a pair of overboots for your trip, PM me and we can talk further.
Best,
JM
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:52 am

I have Koflach Arctis Expe double boots so I figure I will be going with 40-below overboots. So much stuff to get together, upgrade or borrow between now and then. Having a lot of time to plan is certainly an advantage. It's a good kind of stress.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Woodswalker » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:18 am

Hey Cat., I trust you have a good fitness regime in place.... :)
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:47 am

Catamount wrote:I have Koflach Arctis Expe double boots so I figure I will be going with 40-below overboots. So much stuff to get together, upgrade or borrow between now and then. Having a lot of time to plan is certainly an advantage. It's a good kind of stress.


In June you could get away with insulated supergaitors over your Arctis boots, which I personally prefer over full on over boots. Of course your guide service may mandate overboots.
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Catamount » Fri Apr 04, 2014 10:45 am

Woodswalker wrote:Hey Cat., I trust you have a good fitness regime in place.... :)


Swimming and running. Running and swimming. Seems to be a formula that works for me. Planning on ramping it up about six months out.

ExcitableBoy wrote:In June you could get away with insulated supergaitors over your Arctis boots, which I personally prefer over full on over boots. Of course your guide service may mandate overboots.


This is a good point. There is a pair of insulated supergaiters that I've been looking at but haven't bought for fear that they will be considered inadequate. The gear least clearly states overboots but maybe I will make an inquiry at some point.

https://www.mtntools.com/cat/techwear/Gaiters/mountaintoolssupergaiters.htm
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Re: Denali Guide Experiences

Postby Alpinist » Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:30 pm

My biggest concern about guide services is with regards to their ratio of guides to clients and the risk of turning a healthy rope team around because 1 person has a headache. I've seen this first hand and have also heard numerous stories from friends.

One of the guys on my Denali trip attempted it previously with a guide service. They were at high camp (17.2K) waiting out several days of poor weather. When the weather finally broke, the guides informed the entire group that they were out of time and had to go down. Nobody was even sick in that instance. They still had plenty of food/fuel and they were forced to head down because of the guide's schedule. There's was nearly a mutiny.

I would definitely ask how they make those decisions before you hire a guide service. Is there a set time to summit? Are there any extra guides to help sick members or do they turn an entire rope team back when 1 person (who you don't even know) gets sick.

Obviously, if someone is seriously ill their safety comes before a summit bid. I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm talking about someone with mild symptoms like headache or nausea that can be walked down by a spare guide. When you pick your own teammates and climb unguided, you accept the risk that you have to help each other if anyone becomes sick. You have a strong incentive to chose capable partners. However, when you pay $7K for a guided trip and you're climbing with a bunch of strangers, you hope the guides can shoulder the burden for those things so somebody who perhaps doesn't even belong on the mountain doesn't ruin your chance to summit.
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