Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lists?

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Acumen

 
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Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lists?

by Acumen » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:38 pm

I am trying to collect recent unguided West Buttress trip reports with complete itemized gear lists. Small teams and especially solo. Having a hard time finding many from the last few years.

Been thinking about a trip for the last few years, 2016 might be it. I am not necessarily planning on trying to do the trip solo, really just appreciate the insight and completeness as far as planning and gear that solo reports provide.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by 96avs01 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:11 am

Have you looked through the trip reports for West Butt on Cascadeclimbers.com? I know there's some good ones over there, not sure how extensively they detailed their gear list. I can probably pull up our gear list from 2006 if you really have trouble finding something.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by Acumen » Thu Feb 12, 2015 7:39 am

Yeah, there are some great trip reports on there, but not quite what I am looking for. A few pieces of gear are mentioned in some but I really would like to see some itemized lists of literally every piece of kit brought including model. I would also like them to be as recent as possible since a lot of great gear has come out in the last few years.

Basically I know what items gear lists will include, but am trying to find details and reports on specific systems that people have brought up, especially solo.

Another thing I am very interested in is summit day pack contents, which seem to vary greatly.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by ExcitableBoy » Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:18 pm

Acumen wrote:Yeah, there are some great trip reports on there, but not quite what I am looking for. A few pieces of gear are mentioned in some but I really would like to see some itemized lists of literally every piece of kit brought including model. I would also like them to be as recent as possible since a lot of great gear has come out in the last few years.

Basically I know what items gear lists will include, but am trying to find details and reports on specific systems that people have brought up, especially solo.

Another thing I am very interested in is summit day pack contents, which seem to vary greatly.

Not to be a dick or nothing, but if you need to ask these very basic questions, maybe you should rethink the whole soloing Denali plan.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by splattski » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:21 pm

I'm not sure what 'recent' means, but we went unguided. Didn't summit, but that's another story. Here's the TR from 2009, where I provide some gear info, but not everything, and definitely not brand and model:
http://www.splattski.com/2009/denali/index.html

If you want to see the real deal, read Bradford Washburn's book about the West Butt in 1951. It's not about the gear (in my opinion, it almost never is). Leather boots, flannel shirts. First ascent!
http://www.amazon.com/Mount-Mckinleys-W ... 0974067415

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by Acumen » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:28 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:if you need to ask these very basic questions, maybe you should rethink the whole soloing Denali plan.

I agree 100%, but I wouldn't consider these basic questions, just trying to find what systems people have used and liked. For example there are many summit approach plans that are all equally valid and mostly comes down to personal choice and I have not settled on one yet. Trying to find as many detailed lists as possible before I do in case one jumps out to me as perfect.

Right now I am leaning toward a staging plan with 2 tents, 2 stoves and 2 packs. Could be done with a group or solo, doesn't matter. Not planning to or hoping to do it solo, but having a plan/gear list for solo it seems to me it is easier to add on weight saving alternatives for more people then the other way around. A double wall, whitegas and cook tent for up to 14k. Single wall, tent cooking with a hanging inverted canister for 17k night before hopeful summit with 4-5 days contingency food & fuel. Summit pack for summit day.

I could easily see traveling heavy taking only 1 double and bringing it to 17k cooking in the vestibule with whitegas. I also could take the cook tent up to 17k with either the single or double wall for comfortable waiting. I could also easily see traveling light, skipping overnight on the 17k entirely and just having a contingency camp stashed there and 2/3 walk up acclimation days instead starting the summit push from 14k.

I would be happy with any of those options and people seem to successfully do them all, just need to pick one as best for me.

@Splattski Yeah I've actually read your report already. Great stuff!I've got Washburns Climbers Guide on the way, will add his logbook to the list for after. Looks interesting, thanks!

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by ExcitableBoy » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:23 pm

Acumen wrote:I agree 100%, but I wouldn't consider these basic questions, just trying to find what systems people have used and liked. For example there are many summit approach plans that are all equally valid and mostly comes down to personal choice and I have not settled on one yet. Trying to find as many detailed lists as possible before I do in case one jumps out to me as perfect.

So, it seems like you are looking for advice on expedition logistics/strategy and the gear requirements for that strategy?
Acumen wrote:Right now I am leaning toward a staging plan with 2 tents, 2 stoves and 2 packs. Could be done with a group or solo, doesn't matter. Not planning to or hoping to do it solo, but having a plan/gear list for solo it seems to me it is easier to add on weight saving alternatives for more people then the other way around. A double wall, whitegas and cook tent for up to 14k. Single wall, tent cooking with a hanging inverted canister for 17k night before hopeful summit with 4-5 days contingency food & fuel. Summit pack for summit day.

I could easily see traveling heavy taking only 1 double and bringing it to 17k cooking in the vestibule with whitegas. I also could take the cook tent up to 17k with either the single or double wall for comfortable waiting. I could also easily see traveling light, skipping overnight on the 17k entirely and just having a contingency camp stashed there and 2/3 walk up acclimation days instead starting the summit push from 14k.


There are certainly many climbers with more Alaska Range experience than myself, but here is what I think.

Take 1 pack (~5000 cubic inches). Doesn't need to be huge as you will do some combination of sled pulling and double carrying. I used a 75L pack, which worked out well.

1 sled that you pick up at KIA.

1 white gas stove (with maintenance/repair kit and extra pump) We were at 17K in early June, and it was -30 F. Too cold for canister stoves to be reliable. Plus, the whole system is set up for white gas. You pay your air taxi (highly recommend TAT) for the gas and pick it up when you register at the ranger hut at KIA.

1 tent. Whatever tent you take (single wall/double wall) it should have a vestibule. Something like the MH EV2 would be ideal - light enough for 1 person, roomy enough for 2.

Single carry and pull a sled to 11k. (We took 2 days and skipped the 10k camp, but this seemed a bit fast) also cached our sleds, skis, and some extra food and gear here
Double carry to 14k (We carried a cache to 14k, returned to 11k, rested a day, and then moved to 14K)
Double carry to 17k (We made a acclimatization climb to the top of the fixed ropes, rested a day, carried a cache to 17k, rested a day, and then moved to 17K)
Certainly if you are fit and properly acclimated a one day trip from 14k to the summit is feasible.

The exact gear you take will depend on what time of year you go. April and early May is much colder than late May and June and requires warmer bags and parkas.

My big fear, and it should be yours, is falling into a crevasse. I broke through three bridges on the well trodden trail of the WB. On another AK trip my partner fell all the way into a crevasse on the Ruth Glacier while on skis.
Last edited by ExcitableBoy on Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by 96avs01 » Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:31 am

I agree with most everything EB wrote, except that an EV2 is roomy enough for 2. For a couple of days, sure, for a couple of weeks, no thank you. We took a TNF Mountain 24 + MH EV2 for a team of 3 and it was quite nice with nobody feeling they didn't have adequate space.

And to his last point about crevasse fall, I too punched one foot through a snow bridge on the lower glacier.

One last piece of advice, we found traveling at night was far more enjoyable than enduring the midday heat on the lower glacier.
Last edited by 96avs01 on Fri Feb 13, 2015 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by splattski » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:01 pm

I think the ideal gear and schedule on Denali is highly variable. The mountain rules.

You'll read about people spending endless hours digging out their tents. We received less than 2" of snow our entire trip.
You'll read about incredibly cold, brutal weather. I have a friend who summitted in nothing more on top than a light long john top.
There's stories of crevasse falls in this thread, and my friend with the long johns told me that almost everyone in his group fell in one at least once. The only crevasse we really had to deal with was the berggie on the headwall.
I've seen some wonderful videos of powder skiing. I don't think our skis left even a dent in the snow.

I'm not sure I have any advice here except be prepared for anything. Even with all those people on the mountain, it's still an adventure.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by ExcitableBoy » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:26 pm

96avs01 wrote:I agree with most everything EB wrote, except that an EV2 is roomy enough for 2. For a couple of days, sure, for a couple of weeks, no thank you.


We camped next to John Varco and Cameron Lawson at 14K. John was sponsored by MH, and helped design the EV2. They had an EV2, which I was checking out (this was 10 years ago mind you), and John told me on Annapurna III they had three climbers in it. The middle guy stuck his feet in the vestibule and slept with his head towards the other two guys' feet. But I think 96avs01 is right, you will likely have a lot of tent time so something with a little elbow room is very welcome.

Also, I would spend at least as much time planning your food as gear. Eating became a welcome distraction and a varied menu is nice. Bring a small back packing fry pan so you can make pancakes and things like that.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by 96avs01 » Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:42 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:Also, I would spend at least as much time planning your food as gear. Eating became a welcome distraction and a varied menu is nice. Bring a small back packing fry pan so you can make pancakes and things like that.


Couldn't agree more. There's still items that I refuse to eat since our trip (e.g., Butterfingers), but things with more variety (e.g., M&Ms) are still palatable.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by Jesus Malverde » Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:16 am

splattski wrote:I think the ideal gear and schedule on Denali is highly variable. The mountain rules.

ExcitableBoy wrote:My big fear, and it should be yours, is falling into a crevasse. I broke through three bridges on the well trodden trail of the WB. On another AK trip my partner fell all the way into a crevasse on the Ruth Glacier while on skis.

Acumen,
Gear and food planning are fine (and important), but they won't mean a hill of beans if you (or your team mates) can't get you out of a crevasse.
You can have the best gear, best food, fullest belly, best weather on a trip, but it's all forgotten when you are staring down into frozen death (not a fun place).
I'd just like to emphasize EB's Big Fear, because it's mine too.
If you are going with a small team (say, just two on a rope), I would practice, practice, practice crevasse rescue. Hell, practice regardless of how many are on your rope or in your group. You can't rely on other independent rope teams, rangers, etc. being there if you or a team mate take a fall.
I came back with brusied ribs, short term nerve damage in both hands and a lifetime scar on my left knee (thanks to that headwall crevasse Splattski mentioned).
And to this day, I think I got off easy. Hell, the fall I took was two hours from the end of trip to KIA on the sledder's highway. I never let my guard down, honored the mountain whilst there, but Denali still demanded some payment for an otherwise excellent trip. Not trying to be a keyboard commando or scare here, just want you to have a great trip and be back safe and sound. :)
Good luck! It's an experience for sure...

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by Chris Simpson » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:30 pm

This May will be our first go at Denali. We have adequate gear, not the best. We are a 2 person team who are attempting the WB unguided. We will each be carrying an MSR XGK-EX stove (in case one fails, obviously), service kit and extra pump, a First Ascent Katabtik tent (3 person = 10lbs), Marmot CWM Membrane - 40 bag, Marmot Col - 20 bag, thermarest Z lite sol closed cell and pro lite plus inflatable, BD guide gloves, TNF Himalayan mitten & OR alti mitt, MHW Ablsolute 0 down parka (2013 MODEL = $314 on EBAY :D) and MHW Nilas, Marmot Nano AS hardshell, MHW compressor pants, REI brand soft shell pant (forget the name), Marmot Coness hardshell (full zip) Koflach Arctis Expe, Purple Haze overboots, Lightning ascent snowshoes, MHW BMG 105 (2013) Petzl Sum tec adze and hammer, bd couloir harness...... and blah blah bah blah blah a million times over because while we have all the right cool gear it doesn't do any good inside a crevasse. I sit in front of my TV tying one handed knots without even thinking about it. All I do is practice knots in my spare time. I walk the fire roads which are bone dry completely rigged. I take it off, and put it back on, take it off, put it back on, rig z pulley, go through the motion, rig z pulley, go through the motion. Hangar 18 indoor gym for prusik practice over and over and over. It all has to be second nature. The only thing I have not been able to do is make a snow cave. Its impossible with no snow. Even in the sierra (Mt. Whitney) there is not enough snow to make a cave. Shasta will do though.

We are strong climbers and are going with intent to summit in 5-10 days but have allocated 22 days to get it done. If we feel really great we go straight to 14 camp from BC. If the weather is is good that is.. it all depends on weather. Although it is good to have a set plan, it can all fall apart which is why we are going with the intent to base our movement on health and weather... and if we aren't stuck in a crevasse.. or dead, or frozen.

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by ExcitableBoy » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:26 pm

Chris Simpson wrote:We are strong climbers and are going with intent to summit in 5-10 days

At least you don't have unreasonable expectations. :roll:

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Re: Unguided Denali (West Buttress) Trip Reports w/ Gear Lis

by Chris Simpson » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:33 pm

3 days? Ha j/k. Yea 5 - 10 days is ambitious. We shall see...

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