I had a very bad experience with AMS the spring of 2019 and would strongly recommend you to not go with them if you want to summit Denali. We were a group of 7, one of us had to go back because of frostbite, the remaining 6 of us got very close to last camp before summit at 16,000 feet. That's when Con told us that he won't take all of us to summit because there weren't enough guides. He had decided from day one according to him that only 3 people from our group will summit and now because 6 of us had made it he was going to turn back 3 of us to base camp even if we were feeling great, had no issues and the weather was good. Things went downhill from there and the group lost confidence in the guides' abilities and willingness to lead us to the summit - all of us except one chose to go down and not summit with Con as our guide because we thought it was very risky. It was honestly one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my life being so close to the summit we have been training for.
Feel free to reach out to me, I am happy to share more of my experience. I am very sorry I chose AMS and I will regret this forever but I hope other climbers are aware.
Wanted to warn everyone that Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS) was a terrible experience and I would not recommend it to anyone!! I am a management consultant and a serious mountaineer (doing 4 mountains/ year with multiple international/ local companies) and have never had a worst experience.
We were 6 participants on an expedition to summit Denali on 23-May 2019 and 5 of us had to return one day before the summit because we did not trust our Lead Guide (Con Severis and Second Guide (Chris Welch) to take us to the top due to safety problems as well as horrible/ inhuman client service. All the trip participants are experienced mountaineers and have hired many international and local guide companies. We are all well-versed with safety, service and professionalism standards. The Denali trip did not meet these standards. Below are some high level examples of what we experienced:
>>Egregious Safety Concerns. There were numerous safety issues that put the participants at risk throughout the expedition. Just a couple of the examples include:
While guiding a roped team under strong wind conditions, the lead guide listened to loud music on his headphones, making him unable to hear his own roped team under strong wind conditions
While ordering an unnecessary and risky pass of another team, the lead guide demanded a client unhook from the fixed line and slide down a steep icy slope with only an ice axe.
>>Denial of Summit For No Reason. We were denied the summit for no reason -- when the weather was good, there were no health or capability concerns, and the guide ratio exceeded Denali’s standard guide ratio of 1:3.
>>Unacceptable Client Treatment. The treatment of the participants was unprofessional and offensive throughout the expedition. The guides frequently screamed at the participants for no reason. The guides insulted us, calling us "spoiled brats".
After this happened, the owner of AMS, Colby Coombs completely ignored our concerns, did not reply for two months to emails sent from everyone in the team and then sent the same email to each one of us saying that he trusts his guide, with no further explanation. Do not go with Alaska Mountaineering School, we missed the summit because of their unprofessionalism and also had the worst customer experience
Summit from medical camp (~4500m) on day 13
Skiing down rescue gully.
Climbed with Alpine Ascents International Jun 18 - July 8th. Summit day on July 4th was the warmest reported in years. The warm spell, however, made the final leg portion of the descent over the Kahiltna Glacier particularly treacherous.
Please see "Denali East Buttress Expedition" trip report for advice about the route. Flown to Sheldon Amphitheater on June 28, Spent 10 days climbing buttress (Bradford Washburn Route). Summited Denali July 17th. Back at Sheldon Amphitheater July 21st.
We were 24days on the mountain summited on day 21.
Summited after 2nd try on same expidition.
Great views, great summit partners.
Extremely cold mountain...
Basin Camp - summit - Basin camp 7h 50min.
We ascended the moderate terrain to the crest of the summit ridge before the final 300’ of exposed ridge to the top of North America. The view up was anything but easy but we pushed on in the increased winds and zero visibility. After some time saw floating benchmark on what was the summit of the highest point in North America. What a day in my life!
Three of us, climbed the West Buttress route, and made it. It was supposed to be our rest day at 17,000', but the ranger inform us of a big Storm approaching. We Summited as the storm was just hitting us. 'Ran-down' and Made it to 14,000' as the blunt of the storm hit.
Summited after being abandoned by my team on day 15 of my expedition. Shared the summit with John Waterman on his birthday, which made the experience more special. Would love to climb again in better conditions and perhaps a harder route than the West Buttress (summit was cloudy with no vis!) Amazing experience, demanding mountain.
Summited on sunny day, mild wind only.
8 days on the way up, two down.
11th day on the mountain
23 days on the mountain with successful summit. Awesome.
Summitted 7 days after landing on the glacier. Pushed the summit from 14 camp with ski equipment. Ditched the snowboard and skis at 18,600', just above Denali pass. Summit and back from 14 camp mostly unroped. Roped up for the Autobahn on the descent. 19hrs camp to camp.
Double carried the lower west rib. Descended the West Rib cutoff to 14 camp on the buttress and ended up getting stuck there for a week before we had to head back down.
Summited via the West Buttress Route with American Alpine Institute Team 6 at 8 PM on June 21, 2015. 17 total days on the mountain were dominated by an epic two-week high pressure system that brought us one perfect day after another after enduring some early heavy snow. Fun group including myself, five Aussies and one chap from the UK in addition to three American guides. Trip of a lifetime. State Highpoint #50!!!
Spent 18 days on the mountain total. We were bogged down at KIA for about 6 days due to weather and other issues, got established at 11 camp, bogged down for 4 more weather days, and then finally got established at 14. After a couple aclimazation days, bagged the summit in about 10 hours round trip from 14 camp. If you have the stamina, way more efficient to summit from 14 rather than shlepping up to 17 and trying to camp. Wonderful trip. State highpoint #30.
Third try a success! I love this place. It giveth and taketh away.
Snowed everyday, but had a blast. Next year I hope to make it all the way!