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…
The following is a general equipment list for a trip like our 12-day Mountaineering Course. Climbers joining Mountain Trip on a course will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that supersedes this list.
The following is a list of suggested gear for climbing in Alaska. Climbers joining Mountain Trip on an expedition will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that supersedes this list.
Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides, but they may not necessarily fit you. They are also weighted toward a couple companies that are industry leaders in exhibiting environmental and social consciousness. We frequently update our equipment list to keep it as current as possible and certain trips will require slightly different gear lists, so contact us for specifics.
Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.
- MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: Acceptable boots for Alaska fall into two categories, traditional double boots and triple boot systems with integrated gaiters. Either variety works well, however the latter versions are lighter and arguably simpler. 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. Consider your future mountaineering objectives when purchasing boots as well. Recommended Triple Boots: La Sportiva OLYMPUS MONS EVO, Boreal G1 Expedition, Scarpa PHANTOM 8000 or Lowa 8000 GTX
- Recommended Double Boots: La Sportiva BARUNTSE, or SPANTIK, Boreal G1 Lite or the Scarpa “INVERNO” with High Altitude Liners or aftermarket liners. A great upgrade to any plastic boot are the Denali Liners by Intuition. These are lighter and warmer than almost any stock liners. They are heat molded to fit your feet and are worth every penny. *** All double boots need Overboots and Gaiters, including the Spantiks Shop for Mountain Boots
- OVERBOOTS: Neoprene overboots such as 40 Below Purple Haze are best. O.R. and Wild Country insulated Overboots work well if they fit with your crampons. Supergaiters alone are not warm enough for Denali.
- GAITERS: Full height, such as Black Diamond GTX Frontpoint Gaiter or Outdoor Research “Crocodiles.” Full coverage “Supergaiters” work great as well. *** Do you really need gaiters? Check with us about this guide tip!
- BOOTIES**: Synthetic or down fill booties. These are great for camp and tent comfort and allow you extra opportunity to dry out your mountain boots. Guides Pick: Sierra Designs Down Booty
- SNOWSHOES: Atlas Summit Series or the basic MSR Denali both work well, although a nice “upgrade” feature is a heel riser, which really helps make the steeper hills a bit more manageable. 22-25 inch snowshoes will generally work fine. Guides Pick: MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoe ** available for rent
- SKI POLES: Adjustable poles work best and are easier to travel with, as they fit better in your duffle bag. Black Diamond Flick Lock poles are recommended as they are less prone to spontaneously collapsing. The small, “trekking” baskets on some poles are not large enough for use on soft snow, so make certain your poles have bigger, “snowflake” style baskets. Guides Pick: Black Diamond Expedition Ski Pole
You will need a total of five (5) layers for your torso and four (4) for your legs:
- BASE LAYER: (1 or 2 sets) Synthetic layers work well, such as Capilene 2 or 3 from Patagonia. There are some really nice Merino wool options on the market as well. Guides Pick: Patagonia Capilene 2 Crew
- LIGHT FLEECE: Top and Bottoms made from 100 weight or Powerstretch fleece. Again, a zip t-neck is important for ventilating. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Hoody
- STRETCH WOVEN PANTS: We used to consider this layer optional, but this “Soft Shell” layer is becoming indispensible, due to the broad comfort range it provides. Often pants made of Schoeller Dynamic or similar fabrics can be worn all the way to High Camp in lieu of less breathable “hard-shell” pants. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants
- FLEECE OR INSULATED PANTS: This layer must have side zippers! The best options for this layer are thick, “puffy” synthetic or down pants like the Patagonia Das Pants or Feathered Friends Volant Pants. These can be layered over your shell pants for easier and quicker layer changes. Guides Pick: Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant
- PRIMALOFT “PUFFY” JACKET: Size this to fit over your shell. We are fans of the puffy, Primaloft jackets because they are lighter and warmer than fleece and compress down much smaller. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket
- SHELL JACKET & PANTS: They should be large enough to go over your pile clothing layers and the pants must have full length side zippers. These do not need to be the burliest Gore-Tex pieces you can find! Many people are climbing Denali using lightweight, windproof, water resistant shells. Guides Pick: Patagonia M10 Jacket
- EXPEDITION DOWN PARKA (WITH HOOD): Marmot, Mountain Hardwear and The North Face all make good parkas, but because it is the lightest and warmest Down Parka we’ve ever seen, our Guides’ Pick is the Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka.
- VEST**: Fleece, puffy or down vest adds warmth to a light Expedition Parka. (OPTIONAL)
- T-SHIRT**: Synthetic long sleeve shirt for the lower glacier. Synthetics dry faster than cotton! (OPTIONAL)
- REGULAR UNDERWEAR: Two or three changes. Look for synthetics such as Patagonia Capilene. Ladies might consider additional changes.
- SOCKS: 3 – 5 sets of wool or synthetic medium/heavy weight socks. Make certain your socks fit with your boots! Guides’ Pick: Merino Mountaineering Extra Cushion Sock
- GLOVES: Light or medium weight fleece, Windstopper or even better: Schoeller fabric (one or two pairs). Guides’ Pick: Outdoor Research Vert Gloves
- INSULATED GLOVES: Warm, insulated gloves are the workhorse on Denali. Black Diamond Guide Gloves have removable liners for ease of drying. It’s hard to stress how much you’ll be wearing these, so do not skimp on this item. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Guide Glove
- 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 digits and they’re a bargain!
- WARM HAT: One warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or pile is fine. Your hat must provide ear protection.
- FACE MASK: Neoprene or Windstopper work equally well. Guides’ Pick: Seirus Neofleece Masque
- 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
- HAND WARMERS: Bring 6+ sets of these disposable insurance policies.
- GLACIER GLASSES: They must have side protection and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays. Guides’ Pick: Julbo Explorer Alti Spectron 4 Sunglasses
- SKI GOGGLES: For use while traveling during storms or during really cold spells. These must have double lenses and provide UV protection. Fogging is a real challenge, so the “Turbo Fan” goggles are worth the investment! Guides’ Pick: Smith Phenom Turbo Fan Goggle with Red/Sol X Mirror Lens
- EXPEDITION PACK: Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find a good expedition-sized back pack. Denali requires a 6000+ cu in. or 85+ liter pack to carry your gear, plus group food & equipment. The Mountain Hardwear BMG and the Osprey Xenith 105 are our two current favorites. Be sure to spend some time training with your pack so that you know it fits you and you are familiar with how to adjust it.
- LARGE ZIPPERED DUFFEL: (90 – 120L) for use as a sled bag. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work fine, although the Patagonia Black Hole Bag 120L is about the perfect sled bag. It is lightweight and darn near water proof, making it the ideal sled bag! Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Black Hole 120L
- EXPEDITION SLEEPING BAG: Rated to -20 to -40 Fahrenheit (-30 to -40 Celsius) Which to choose, down or synthetic? We prefer down bags because they are lighter, more compact, and have a longer lifespan than synthetics. Guides’ Pick: Marmot Col EQ -20 or Marmot CWM EQ -40
- COMPRESSION STUFF SACK: Granite Gear and Outdoor Research are both making nice, lightweight compression sacks. These are essential for sleeping bags and recommended for your summit clothes, such as your parka, mitts and warmest pants, so you might consider bringing two. Guides’ Pick: Outdoor Research UltraLight Compression Sack 20L
- (2) SLEEPING PADS: You will need 1 basic foam pad, and 1 inflatable sleeping pad. This system will keep you off the snow and the foam pad is good insurance against a popped inflatable pad. Guides’ Pick: Exped DownMat UL 7 paired with a Therm a Rest Ridge Rest SOLite(regular)
TECHNICAL CLIMBING EQUIPMENT
- ICE AXE: (with leash) 70-80 cm length works well for the West Buttress and go 10-20 cm shorter for technical climbs. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Raven Pro
- CRAMPONS: 10 or 12 point crampons that FIT YOUR BOOTS! The traditional wire toe-bail and the newer “Clip” models both work, but the “Clip” versions are more secure on top of overboots, and easier to use in cold conditions. Make sure they fit with your mountain boots and overboots. Fit is especially important with overboots! Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip Crampon
- HARNESS: Your harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Couloir Harness
- ASCENDERS: You need one full-sized ascender such as the Petzl Ascension, consider bringing a left-handed one for ease of use on the fixed lines. Guides’ Pick: Petzl Ascension Ascender
- CARABINERS: Bring three large locking carabiners and eight regular carabiners. Please do not bring “bent-gate” carabiners. These have certain limitations that do not make them appropriate for how we will use them. Mark them with colored tape for identification. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond OZ carabiners are very lightweight and the locking Black Diamond VaporLock Carabiner
- PERLON CORD: 50 feet of 5 or 6 mm for sled and pack tie offs. Guides’ Pick: Blue Water 6mm Cord
- CLIMBING HELMET: Make certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. Superlight foam helmets have a tendency to get crushed in your bag during travel. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS
- NOSE GUARDS: Beko makes nice nose protectors that keep the wind and sun from wreaking havoc on your skin.
- STUFF BAGS (for your own items plus one large one for a cache bag)
- (2)ONE QT. WIDE MOUTH WATER BOTTLES: Please do not bring metal bottles or small mouth bottles. Guides’ Pick: Nalgene Wide Mouth 1liter Bottle
- INSULATED COVER (1or 2 for your water bottles).
- LARGE PLASTIC CUP OR BOWL for eating (2-4 cup measuring bowl or Rubbermaid storage bowl work fine)
- INSULATED CUP 12 or 16 ounce for hot drinks. Guides’ Pick: The 16 oz Kleen Kanteen Insulated Bottle with the “Cafe’ Cap” gives you a drinking mug and a thermos in one!
- LARGE PLASTIC (LEXAN) SPOON
- 2 SMALL LIP BALMS (WITH 30+SPF): Two small tubes are easier to keep from freezing than one big tube.
- SUN SCREEN 3-4 OUNCES- two to four small tubes work better than one large tube
- TOILET PAPER: 1 or 2 rolls, depending on your technique
- TOILET KIT (Tooth brush & paste, floss, Handi-wipes, hand sanitizer, foot powder… keep it small)
- P-BOTTLE Wide-mouth, collapsible Nalgene Cantenes work great- they make a 96 ounce version! Ladies- look for an appropriate adapter available at your local outdoors store. These items are both tough to find in Anchorage so plan ahead!
- PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT (Blister kit, aspirin, antacids, lozenges, Ibuprofen). PLEASE CONTACT YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN FOR A LIST OF APPROPRIATE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS. THERE ARE SOME VERY USEFUL PRESCRIPTION DRUGS THAT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE AT ALTITUDE. CONTACT US FOR RECOMENDATIONS. OPTIONAL ITEMS
- CAMERA, with extra batteries and memory cards.
- BOOK(s) for storm day reading
- JOURNAL & PENCIL
- ALTIMETER WATCH. The Suunto Vector is a classic mountaineering altimeter watch.
- BUFF. A lightweight neck gaiter for sun, wind, and cold protection. These are a Guides’ Favorite!
- SPARE SUN GLASSES
- SWISS ARMY KNIFE
- PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYER (iPod, etc with charging system)
- SPOT GPS -This personal tracking and locator device tracks your location online, allowing friends and family to keep track of your progress on one of several maps.
EQUIPMENT ON THIS LIST IS AVAILABLE AT THESE RECOMMENDED ONLINE RETAILERS.
MAKE SURE YOU TRY EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU BRING IT TO ALASKA!!
CALL OR EMAIL US WITH YOUR MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING OR EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS.