12 Day Alaska Mountaineering Course
Our 12 Day Alaska Mountaineering Course is very comprehensive and is designed to teach and build upon the basic skills addressed in our 7 Day Course. Additionally, we work on advanced climbing techniques and then apply these skills by climbing peaks in the Alaska Range. Strong beginner or intermediate climbers who want to brush up on the basics and take their mountaineering training to the next level would benefit from this challenging adventure. This course is physically demanding and participants should be prepared to push themselves on some of the climbing routes.
Our 12 Day Mountaineering Course is Denali specific, in that we will spend our time on the Kahiltna Glacier, following part of the route most Denali climbers follow for about 7 miles up glacier. This gives you a real taste of what it takes to ascend North America’s highest peak. We will climb neighboring peaks such as Kahiltna Dome, West Kahiltna Peak and Mount Francis, all of which provide stunning views of Denali looming to the north and east.
- All the skills covered in our 7 Day Course will be emphasized PLUS:
- Advanced anchor-building techniques
- Rock anchors and protection placement
- Lead and multi-pitch climbing
- Fixed lines and running belays
- Raising and lowering rescue systems
This is a very demanding mountaineering course that requires participants to be in excellent physical condition. Invest the time to train well beforehand and you will not only enjoy the course more, but you will gain the satisfaction of being a solid member of the team as you climb. Be prepared to carry a 50-60 lb pack and pull a 20-30 lb sled for up to five miles at a stretch. Be prepared for temperatures below freezing at night, with day time temperatures very comfortable and sometimes hot! Most of our course locations are below 8,000 feet, so you should not experience extreme weather like on Denali. Feel free to contact us for assistance in developing a mountaineering training routine that will be appropriate for you.
PREREQUISITES: This is a great primer for backpackers or weekend climbers who are considering making the transition into the bigger mountains. Previous climbing skills or glacier experience are not necessary.
Follow Up Climbs
ELBRUS: A fun glaciated peak at a relatively high altitude, with a wonderful cultural component to the trip as a bonus!
ACONCAGUA, via the Ameghino Valley route: this is a great introduction into a longer expedition at altitude
DENALI, via the West Buttress: if this course goes well for you, you should have a good sense of how you would fare on Denali.
DAY 1: MEET IN ANCHORAGE for a team meeting and equipment check. We’ll spend the day readying ourselves for tomorrow’s flight to the glacier. There is a lot to cover this day, so we’ll spend the day and this night in Anchorage.
DAY 2: TRAVEL TO TALKEETNA AND FLY TO THE GLACIER Team members will travel by van the several hours drive to Talkeetna. Everyone will need to register with the National Park Service prior to flying to the glacier. Weather permitting; we will fly into the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,200 feet that afternoon. Once on the glacier, everyone will pitch in to get our Base Camp established. Skills covered will include snow camping and other camp craft, as well as some anchor building. If we are delayed by weather and cannot fly, we can still cover a lot of skills in Talkeetna.
DAYS 3-6: SKILLS We will spend a lot of time covering many skills in the first few days. We will also cover glacier camping techniques and other aspects of efficient camp-craft, such as cooking and water production. We will go over the knots that hopefully you’ve been practicing and build upon those to learn proper rope techniques for belaying and rappelling. You’ll spend time going over snow climbing skills such as self arrest, glissading and how to use those sharp crampons and ice axes. You’ll learn how to travel on a glacier, how to read glaciers to identify potential hazards such as crevasses and how to get out of them if you misread the terrain. Finally, we’ll rig our sleds for travel and get ready for heading up glacier.
DAY 7: MOVE TO CAMP 1 Departing base camp, we’ll drop down the infamous Heartbreak Hill and onto the broad Kahiltna glacier. Our goal will be to move camp to a site at 7,800feet, near the junction with the NE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This is a moderate carry of about 5 miles and is a good shake-down for the upcoming days. We’ll pass by numerous crevasses and beneath some of the prettiest peaks in Alaska en route to camp. Conditions depending, we might camp closer to the East Fork of the Kahiltna for an attempt on West Kahiltna Peak.
DAY 8: If we focus on an ascent of Kahiltna Dome, we’ll break camp and head up Ski Hill to Kahiltna
Pass, where we will establish our High Camp for our attempt at Kahiltna Dome. This camp at 10,000 feet provides stunning views down the Kahiltna, especially in the evening when the peaks to the south light up pink and orange with alpenglow. This may be a tough day, as we will gain altitude as well as travel about three and a half miles along the Kahiltna. The route we followed to this point is the same as the normal approach for the West Buttress of Denali.
DAY 9-11: Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and if we get it, we will climb Kahiltna Dome, West Kahiltna Peak or other climbing options off the Kahiltna Glacier. We’ll pick a route that will provide really fun climbing and the views that unfold as we gain elevation will be truly breathtaking.
DAY 12: Break camp and descend to Kahiltna Base Camp. We’ll de-rig on the glacier and fly out to Talkeetna for the drive back to Anchorage.
*** As with any mountain itinerary, this is subject to change for many, many, potential reasons…
Items with ** are optional, but recommended.
- MOUNTAINEERING DOUBLE BOOTS: Boots fall into two categories, traditional double boots and boot systems with integrated gaiters. The goal is to have warm, comfortable feet! Try on a variety of boots as they all fit differently and get the one that fits well.
Recommended System Boots: LA SPORTIVA “OLYMPUS MONS EVO,” LOWA “EXPEDITION 8000 GTX”
Recommended Double Boots: LA SPORTIVA “NUPTSE” or “SPANTIK,” SCARPA “INVERNO” with High Altitude Liners or INTUITION Liners
- GAITERS: Double boots will probably require full height gaiters, such as Black Diamond GTX Frontpoint Gaiter or Outdoor Research “Crocodiles.” Full coverage “Supergaiters” work great as well.
- BOOTIES**: Synthetic or down filled booties. These are great for camp and tent comfort and allow you extra opportunity to dry out your mountain boots. Look for ones with good traction soles. (Optional, but pretty nice)
- SNOWSHOES: MSR Denali style snowshoes work well in the AK Range. Versions with a heel riser are nice, but not absolutely necessary.
- SKI POLES: Select a length for walking. Almost any ski pole will do, although adjustable poles work best. We like the Black Diamond Flick Lock poles as they seem less prone to spontaneously collapsing.
- DOWN PARKA: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear and Feathered Friends all make good parkas, but our Guides’ Pick is the Patagonia “Down Parka” as it is incredibly warm for its light weight. There are some synthetic options such as the Patagonia D.A.S. Parka and the Wild Things Belay Jacket, however; down is recommended as it is lighter and less bulky.
- SHELL JACKET & PANTS: They should be large enough to go over your pile clothing layers and the pants must have side zippers. These do not need to be the burliest Gore-Tex pieces you can find! Light weight is probably more important than super durable.
- PRIMALOFT JACKET: We really favor the puffy jackets over thick fleece, as we think they are more versatile and are warmer for the weight. Size this layer to fit over your shell. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia “Micro-Puff Hooded Jacket.”
- “EXPEDITION WEIGHT” FLEECE: Top and Bottoms made from 100 weight or Powerstretch fleece. A zip t-neck is good for ventilating. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia R1 Flash Top or R1 Hoody.
- STRETCH WOVEN PANTS**: Though optional, this “Soft Shell” layer is becoming increasingly popular due to the broad comfort range they provide. Often pants made of Schoeller Dynamic or similar fabrics can be worn all the way to High Camp in lieu of less breathable Shell pants. Guides’ Pick: Outdoor Research “Exos Pants.”
- BASE LAYER: Synthetic Top and Bottoms such as Capilene 2 or 3 from Patagonia (1-2 pair). The new Merino wool long underwear are really nice as well.
- T-SHIRT**: Synthetic or cotton t-shirt for the lower glacier. Synthetics dry faster! (Optional)
- REGULAR UNDERWEAR: One or two changes should do the trick, although ladies might want a few more. Look for synthetics such as Patagonia Capilene. Ladies might also want a couple synthetic sports bras.
- SOCKS: 2 – 3 sets of wool or synthetic medium/heavy weight socks. Make certain your socks fit with your boots! The new system boots don’t need as thick a sock as the boots of old
- LIGHT GLOVES: Gloves made of Schoeller fabric or a similar soft shell material work best.
- INSULATED GLOVES: Warm, insulated gloves are the workhorse in Alaska. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond “Guide Gloves” are bomber and have removable liners for ease of drying.
- SUMMIT MITTENS: Thick, warm, non-constricting mittens made of pile, Primaloft or down. Guides’ Pick: Outdoor Research “Alti Mitts.” They aren’t cheap, but are extremely warm (Divide the cost by 10 fingers!).
- WARM HAT: One warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or fleece is fine. Your hat must provide ear protection. Windstopper fabric reduces your ability to hear rock and ice fall.
- FACE MASK: Neoprene facemasks help keep your nose and cheeks warm when it gets blustery.
- SUN HAT: Baseball type or wide brimmed sun hat for the intense sunshine of the lower mountain. You can combine a baseball hat with a bandana for good sun protection, think synthetic and wide brim.
- HAND WARMERS: Bring 3+ sets of the disposable versions. Toe warmers work well too and can keep camera batteries warm on summit day.
- GLACIER GLASSES: They must have side protectors and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays.
- SKI GOGGLES: For use while traveling during storms or during really cold spells.
- EXPEDITION PACK: 6000+ cu in. or 90+ Liters. You’ll need a large pack in order to carry your gear, plus group food & equipment. The Arcteryx Bora 95 and Osprey Aether 85 both fit the bill. Guides’ Pick: Mountain Hardwear “BMG” BE CERTAIN THAT YOUR PACK FITS YOU! Get used to your pack; train with it!
- LARGE ZIPPERED DUFFEL: (5000 cu. in. +/-) for use as a sled bag. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work great although the Patagonia Stellar Black Hole Bags do a wonderful job of keeping your kit dry.
- EXPEDITION SLEEPING BAG: Rated from 0 to 20 degrees. Marmot, Mt Hardwear and The North Face all make great bags. Which to choose, down or synthetic? Down is lighter and less bulky, but cost a lot more. Synthetic bags are getting much better. Whatever you choose, be sure it is a quality product! Guides’ Pick: Marmot “Helium”
- COMPRESSION STUFF SACK(S): Granite Gear Air Compressor or Lowe Alpine. Essential for expedition sleeping bags, we also like them for our bulky clothes, such as your parka, mitts and warmest pants. The new ones made from Sil-Nylon are much lighter!
- 2 SLEEPING PADS: You need two pads, one closed cell pad such as a Ridge Rest or a Karrimat and a self inflating pad. Therm-a-Rest inflatable pads are among the warmest and most comfortable for their weight. Guides’ Pick: Exped “Downmat 7” paired with a full length Deluxe Ridge Rest. **There are some tricks that will help you with an Exped Downmat, so call or email for some advice!
TECHNICAL CLIMBING EQUIPMENT
- ICE AXE: (with leash.) A 70-80 cm length works well for Kahiltna Dome and the West Buttress. Guides’ Pick: the Black Diamond Raven Pro is very light yet has a durable steel pick and adze.
- CRAMPONS: 10 or 12 point crampons that FIT YOUR BOOTS! Step in or “New-matic” work equally well, just make sure step-in versions fit with your boots. Aluminum crampons are not acceptable.
- HARNESS: Your harness must have adjustable leg loops. The Black Diamond Blizzard and Alpine Bod harnesses are both lightweight and functional.
- ASCENDERS: You can pair one full-sized ascender such as the Petzl Ascension with a prussik loop for your feet or bring two full sized ascenders. Also be sure to have some 6 mm cord (10 feet +/-) or a Dyneema or similar material Daisy Chain for attaching your ascender to your harness.
- HELMET: Look for a lightweight climbing helmet that will fit comfortably over your warm hat.
- CARABINERS: Bring two locking carabiners and eight regular carabiners. Mark them with colored tape for identification. Please no bent-gate ‘biners! Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond “Neutrinos” are very lightweight.
- PERLON CORD: 60 feet of 5 or 6 mm for sled and pack tie offs.
ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS
- STUFF BAGS (for your own items, plus one large stuff sac for a cache bag
- CAMELBACK HYDRATION SYSTEM (optional)
- (2)ONE QT. WIDE MOUTH WATER BOTTLES
- INSULATED COVER (1or 2 for your water bottles).
- LARGE PLASTIC CUP for eating (2-4 cup measuring bowl or Rubbermaid storage bowl)
- INSULATED CUP for hot drinks
- LARGE PLASTIC (LEXAN) SPOON
- BANDANA(S) (These are always useful, so bring at least one)
- LIP BALM (WITH SPF)
- SUN CREAM (3-4 OUNCES)
- TOILET PAPER
- TOILET KIT (Tooth brush & paste, floss, Handi-wipes,…keep it small)
- SWISS ARMY KNIFE (optional)
- P-BOTTLE (wide mouth collapsible Nalgene work great- they make a 96 ounce version! Ladies bring an adapter and please practice before you come)
- PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT (Blister kit, aspirin, antacids, lozenges, Ibuprofen… **Contact your personal physician about prescription medications that may be appropriate for this climb. The Mountain Trip office can give you suggestions regarding what to inquire about)
- CAMERA, lots of film or extra memory card
- BOOK(S) for storm day reading
- DIARY & PENCIL
- ALTIMETER WATCH
- NECK GAITER
- SPARE SUN GLASSES (If you wear prescription glasses)
- PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYER(MP3 PLAYER, ETC)
RENTAL ITEMS AVAILABLE
- SNOWSHOES ($50)
- SKI POLES ($20)
- CRAMPONS ($30)
- ICE AXE ($25)
- ASCENDER ($20 ea.)
- EXPEDITION PACK ($75-$100)
- SUMMIT PARKA ($60)
ALL MOUNTAINEERING EQUIPMENT ON THIS LIST IS AVAILABLE AT AMH IN ANCHORAGE -
And you get a 10% discount. Check out their Web site: www.alaskamountaineering.com or call 907 272-1811.
FEATHERED FRIENDS WILL ALSO GIVE YOU A 10% DISCOUNT IF YOU
TELL THEM THAT YOU ARE JOINING US ON AN EXPEDITION
MAKE SURE YOU TRY EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU BRING IT TO ALASKA!!
CALL OR EMAIL US WITH YOUR MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING OR EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS.