Advanced Alpine Climbing Course
The Moonflower Buttress… Ham and Eggs Couloir… The Cassin… The Infinite Spur… All are routes shrouded in the mythology of alpine climbing. For the rock and ice climber or mountaineer who dreams of big routes on big peaks, we offer our Advanced Alpine Climbing Course.
This course is designed to teach the moderately experienced climber the more refined skills necessary to move efficiently up and down big Alaskan routes. Over 12 days we follow a curriculum which encompasses a refresher on aspects of glacier travel, and teaches a variety of anchor systems, climbing techniques and considerations for appropriate route finding. We then take the skills that participants have been working on and apply them on some challenging routes in the Alaska Range.
Participants in this course should have some experience climbing multi-pitch routes and should be able to competently follow WI IV ice pitches. Contact us if you think this might be a good choice for you to advance your climbing skills.
Follow Up Climbs
Alaska has big, serious mountains with big mountain weather, geography and acclimatization issues. The following itinerary represents a very basic outline of what could happen on a given day during the course of your Alpine Climbing Course. Many factors can, and probably will, contribute to cause the following schedule to change. Our guides know the mountains and may elect to stray from this itinerary for any number of reasons. This itinerary is based on a flight into the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna.
DAY 1: MEET IN ANCHORAGE. Team Meeting at 10 A.M. for an expedition orientation and equipment check. This is a very important meeting, which you must attend! Be sure to arrive in Anchorage early enough to make the meeting; which may require arriving a day early. We recommend staying
at the Earth B&B, which is conveniently located and Lori does a great job of looking after “her’ climbers. Reservations are available at: 907-279-9907. We will spend this first 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 an area such as 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 these basic skills in Talkeetna.
DAY 3-6: SKILLS. We will spend a lot of time covering many skills in the first few days. We will briefly cover the basics, such as glacier camping, and efficient campcraft, such as cooking and water production. We will review the knots that you’ve been practicing and build upon those to learn proper
rope techniques for belaying and rappelling. You’ll review snow climbing skills such as self arrest, glissading and how to efficiently use crampons and ice axes. You’ll review glacier travel, how to read glaciers to identify potential hazards such as crevasses and how to get out of them if you misread the terrain. We’ll spend a lot of time covering route selection and hazard evaluation. We’ll cover hard skills such as ice climbing, placing protection, and efficient use of running belays and different belay systems.
DAY 7-12: CLIMBING! The climbing options near the SEF Base Camp are almost endless. We have ice routes on the Mini-Moonflower Buttress of Mount Hunter, snow and rock options like the SW Ridge of Mount Francis, couloirs on Radio Tower Peak, or we can venture farther afield and climb on the Kahiltna Peaks, a few miles up glacier. Conditions and team abilities will dictate what the group attempts to climb.
DAY 12: Break camp and descend to Kahiltna Base Camp. We’ll fly out to Talkeetna and then drive back to Anchorage.
*** As with any mountain itinerary, this is subject to change for many, many, potential reasons.
Leashless ice tools:
Most hard routes these days are being climbed using modern, leashless tools, with some form of there to prevent dropping them. Leashless tools offer many advantages over traditional, leashed tools, in that they allow you to climb more fluidly and shake out pumped forearms more readily than when tied to your tools.
Light is right:
Pare your personal kit down to the absolute minimum. We’ll work with you in this regard, but you should consider throwing the old model of layering out the window, and adopt a clothing system that enables you to climb for hours on end without overheating, as is common when bundled under a layer of sweat-trapping Gore-tex.
Alaskan climbing inherently requires specialized equipment. The following list should be followed closely in order for you to be comfortable and safe on your course. Optional items are noted as such, but the rest of the list should be regarded as required equipment. Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience on the mountain. Please plan ahead with equipment purchased for your trip so you can be certain that your gear fits you well. The Kahiltna Glacier is not the place to discover that your pack is too long for your torso or that your boots give you blisters. Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides and are weighted toward companies practicing sane environmental practices, but they may not necessarily fit you. Call or email with any gear questions, we want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.
Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.
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: Atlas 1225 or 1230 Series, MSR Denali. Select one for your body weight, plus your pack.
- 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 The North Face 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. If you are planning to attempt Denali in the near future, you might get an Expedition Parka, otherwise a good down sweater will be fine. Call or email us if you have something you think might work, but are
not totally certain.
- 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! Many people are climbing in Alaska using lightweight, windproof, water resistant shells. Look for function and quality. This is a very important layer. Guides’ Pick: The Patagonia Jetstream Jacket is tough yet light.
- 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
- GLOVES: Softshell gloves made of Schoeller Dynamic or similar fabric (one or two pairs.)
- 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: (3000-4500 cu in. or 50+ Liters) There are many good options on the market in this size range. Guides’ Picks: Black Diamond Quantum 45 or 55, Cilogear Worksack 45
- LARGE ZIPPERED DUFFEL:(36-48″) 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): Outdoor Research makes nice light ones. Essential for expedition sleeping bags and one is recommended for your summit 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 TOOLS: 50cm tools are the norm these days. Leashes are still useful in the mountains, although leashless tools work well, too. Contact us if you’d like to use your new, sexy leashless tools. Guides’ Pick: the Black Diamond Venom is very light and is a versatile alpine tool.
- CRAMPONS: 12 point crampons that FIT YOUR BOOTS! Step in or “New-matic” work equally well, just make sure step-in versions fit with your overboots Avoid versions with vertically oriented side rails.
- 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.
- BELAY DEVICE: Choose one that works with skinny ropes. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond ATC Guide.
- 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
- 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
- FOOT POWDER
- NECK GAITER
- SPARE SUN GLASSES (If you wear prescription glasses)
- STAMPED POSTCARDS
- PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYER (go with a flash drive MP3 player
if you want it to work at altitude)
RENTAL ITEMS AVAILABLE
- SNOWSHOES ($50)
- SKI POLES ($20)
- CRAMPONS ($30)
- ICE AXE ($25)
- ASCENDER ($20 ea.)
- EXPEDITION PACK ($75-$100)
- SUMMIT PARKA ($60)
ALL 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 ALPINE CLIMBING COURSE OR EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS.