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denali questions

PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:56 pm
by benjaminwu
hi everyone,

having completed kili (09), elbrus (10), and attempting aconcagua (dec 2011), the thought of potentially doing denali is beginning to creep into my mind. my question is how much training/prep is realistically needed to do the west butt route. rmi, img, and alpine ascents websites all seem to suggest that prior experience on rainier (or another training course in the U.S.) is a requirement to join their expeditions. a couple others are saying that it's not i wanted to get a few unbiased opinions.

given that i have done some glacier travelling from elbrus and have experience with crampons, ice axes and self it unreasonable to learn the rest of the stuff on denali (ie, crevasse rescue, use of ropes, etc.)?

also, with all of the end-of-season clearances, i'm looking to pickup a down parka. there seems to be mixed opinions based on the message boards and the few guide companies i've emailed - but is the Mountain Hardware Sub Zero SL parka sufficient? Or do I really need the Absolute Zero?


Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:27 pm
by ExcitableBoy
If you don't already have creavasse rescue skillz including roping up, ascending fixed lines, etc you will need to pick those up some where. If you are going with a guided outfit they may require you to take a course before doing a Denali summit attempt. Perhaps the Alaska based guides would be able to piggy back a skillz course with a summit attempt? I would reconsider a private trip if you don't already have solid crevasse rescue/rope use skills. As far as the parka question I'd say it depends on what year you go, what month you go, how many other layers you plan on wearing, if you are a warm or cold person, and so forth.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:25 am
by ScottyP
Kili, Elbrus and Aco don't have crevasses the likes of Denali. I would take a glacier/Denali prep school prior and consider a guided expedition. I have a fair amouint of glacier travel skills with several climbs on Rainier and Shasta (North Side) and I was glad I went with a guided group on Denali.

I brought a Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket and never wore it once. The weather on Denali can be extrreme from one hour to the next, we had reasonablt good weather with only two tent days and never lower than -20*.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:55 pm
by ExcitableBoy
One way or the other, you are going to need to pick up solid glacier travel, crevasse rescue, sled rigging, climbing on fixed ropes, etc before you attempt Denali.

My issue with the Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero parka is that it is just not a particularly high quality garment. My personal must haves for a down parka for Denali include:

800 fill or better
permantly attached hood
26 oz total weight, +/- 2 oz

Patagonia used to make a really nice parka that fit these criteria. Here is one for sale for $150. I would pick this up in a heartbeat if I planned to go back to Alaska or South America. ... ost1013214

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:58 pm
by radson
Type of jacket may depend on when in the season you will attempt Denali. I am going in 2 weeks, and I am pulling out the big guns. Personally I would rather carry a bit extra weight than be too cold.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:22 pm
by AndyJB444
Crevasses skills are going to be especially useful this year as I've heard they only measured ~9ft of new snow at base camp from this past winter...

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:39 am
by ScottyP
Friend of mine is at 11,200' on Denali and confirms lack of snow, at least down low.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 2:16 pm
by sneakyracer
Hi, I suggest the Outdoor Research Superplume Parka. I have one and its awesome. Has just the right features, its high quality and it isnt too heavy. Of course for camp I would add some insulated pants at sub zero temps.

There isnt much info out there in the Superplume so I took some pics and wrote a report comparing it to 2 other jackets I have here: ... superplume

Of course, there are several other very nice options.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:47 pm
by benjaminwu
so i spoke with a couple of the certified guiding companies. one of them in particular made what i thought was a good point - crevasse skills are good to have / can be learned on the mountain - and in the event of a real emergency, you'd hope your guide would be doing the rescuing (that's what you're paying them for). anyhow - i agree it may not be 100% ideal to be learning that on the mountain, but i also don't think it's necessarily a 'must-have' (as long as you're going with a guided group).

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:37 am
by Alasdair
I agree that crevasse rescue skills are not necessary (they are a good idea), but experience in cold weather and building camps is. Keep in mind that if you go with a company that really does not care what experience you have then you may be surrounded by equally inexperienced and unprepared people on the mountain. This may be fine on most other mountains, but if you have a weak team on denali it will lower your chances of getting up the mountain. If you show up unprepared your guide will likely turn you around. Most guiding companies will let you join a trip with a prep trip in alaska just before your actual trip. I will say that Kili and Aconcagua do not really prep you very much for denali. Also check out AAI out of Bellingham. They likely will make you do a prep trip, but you can do it before your climb in alaska. Going with a company that makes you do a prep trip is something you should be looking for rather than avoiding. It will make it more likely you dont have to go up there twice.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:15 am
by esmith
Piggy backing ...

I got it into my mind to try to climb Denali in 2013. I have some time to prepare but I need to plan ahead. I'm located in Southern California.

Suppose I can day hike Whitney later this month (tried it recently, got to 13000' before turning around, hope to get to the summit and back next weekend). Here are some training options I'm considering:

- A few overnighters in the Sierras in winter (like, for example, a trans-Sierra hike around Thanksgiving)
- Try some other nearby 14'ers like Palisades, Shasta and maybe Rainier
- Heavy emphasis on cardio, maybe trying to run a marathon next summer?

Do these make sense or would any of them be a waste of time?

Also, are there any other things that I should try? I'm thinking that some kind of Alaska-based training next year might be a good idea, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the time and money (it's a 10 hour flight for me just to get to Anchorage). Everyone keeps mentioning glacier travel, but there aren't any real glaciers in California.

Any suggestions?

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:37 pm
by ExcitableBoy
+! what Fletch said. A cheaper option than the Alaska skillz trip would be an extended 'expedition seminar' on Mt. Rainier with one of the guide outfits there.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:51 pm
by peterline

climbed and summited Denali in 2010. Only mountain climbed before that was Aconcagua, had no idea how to do knots, glacier travel, crevasse rescue. Was just as fit as you can get, went with a guided expedition and did great and learnt heaps.

I HIGHLY recommend Mountain Trip, they were outstanding

Have fun, it's a beautiful climb

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:31 am
by ScottyP
+1 for MT. Denali and Aco with them.

Re: denali questions

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:29 am
by benjaminwu
heading to acon in 2 days!! not with MT, but they're definitely the frontrunner for denali (if i go). would be curious to hear your comparisons of the physical demands of denali vs acon...

i'll come back to read this at the end of the month :)