12-Day Alaska Mountaineering Course

Our 12-Day Alaska Mountaineering Course is very comprehensive and is designed to take climbers farther than just the basic skills addressed in our 7-Day Course. In addition to covering basic mountaineering skills, we also 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.

Generally, 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
  • Rappelling

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 well 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.

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 list of required gear for Alaska Range mountaineering courses with Mountain Trip. Climbers joining us on an course will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that may supersede this list.

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. Hiking up a glacier in the Alaska Range is not the place to discover that your pack is too small for your torso, or that your boots give you blisters. Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides. We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion about anything you are considering. There is a good selection of gear available in Anchorage, but please plan ahead for things that you might need in a particular size, as local shops do not always have every item in stock. Lastly, only bring quality gear that is in very good condition on your expedition.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Ice AxeA general use, mountaineering axe is sufficient for this climb. Some axes are much lighter than others, so select for weight as well as a size for your height. Most climbers do well with a 60 - 75 cm axe. On less technical routes, a longer axe can act like a walking stick on flatter terrain.
Climbing HarnessYour harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. As with most items on this list, choose a light weight harness.
CarabinersBring eight regular (non-locking) carabiners. Please do not bring “bent-gate” carabiners, as these have certain limitations that do not make them appropriate for how we will use them. Mark your 'biners with colored tape for identification.
Perlon Cord50 feet (15.25m) of 5-6mm accessory cord will be plenty to rig your sled and pack for glacier travel. This is readily available in Anchorage and should be considered disposable, as we'll cut it into several pieces.
Climbing HelmetMake certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. We have seen a couple super-lightweight foam helmets get crushed in duffel bags bag during travel, so protect your lid!
Prussik CordIn addition to our one, full-handled ascender, we will use one prussik loop for glacier travel. Bring __ feet of 6 or 7mm perlon cord for tying into a prussik loop. Your guides will assist with this in Anchorage.

Footwear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Mountaineering Socks for DenaliModern mountaineering boots do not require multiple socks as did boots some years ago. Most climbers prefer a medium to heavy weight, wool or wool/synthetic blend sock for use with mountaineering boots. Some climbers are fans of using a sock system of a very light synthetic sock with their heavier wool socks. Make certain that your socks do not make your mountain boots too tight, as this will result in cold toes. Denali climbers should bring 3 - 5 pairs of socks for your expedition.
Mountaineering BootsModern Mountaineering Boots fall into two categories, traditional double boots and the newer triple boot systems with integrated gaiters. Either variety works well, however the “triple boots” are lighter and arguably simpler. Whichever you decide to use, 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.

Guides' Tip: 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.
GaitersAny height gaiters will work for most trips, but tall versions like Black Diamond’s “Frontpoint Gore-tex” are better for snow and for protecting your pants while ice climbing.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Heavyweight GlovesWarm, insulated gloves are the day-to-day workhorses on cold peaks or for cold days of ice climbing. We prefer gloves with 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. Gloves should fit snugly, but not be too tight, and try them out before you purchase them, as some brand name gloves have pretty terrible dexterity.
Medium Weight GlovesMid-weight gloves have become increasingly popular in recent years, gaining traction on the traditional heavyweight gloves as the go-to hand protection on many trips. Appropriate gloves will have light synthetic fill and are often waterproof.
Light Weight GlovesWhen the sun comes out on a glacier, the temperature can soar. Light weight, soft shell gloves are great for keeping the sun off your hands, while still giving you a bit of protection from the wind and cold.
Buff Neck GaiterBuff is a brand of light weight neck gaiters that have grown to become a staple of every guide's kit. These are amazingly versatile, and can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter or pulled over your face for protection from the wind or sun. They come in many thicknesses nowadays, but we prefer the original weight for its versatility.
Summit MittensThick, warm mittens made from down, synthetic fill, or a combination of insulation are crucial for summit morning on many big, cold mountains. Most come with some form of retention straps, which can help reduce the chance of losing them to a gust of wind or in the event of a fall. Select a pair that fit well, with enough room to wiggle your fingers, but not so big that you cannot perform basic tasks while wearing them. Good mittens are expensive, but how much is one finger worth?
Warm HatBring one warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or fleece are fine, but your hat must provide ear protection from the cold. Windstopper fabric over your ears can greatly reduce your ability to hear things like rockfall or your rope mate calling to you.
Face MaskCheeks and the tip of your nose are notoriously difficult to keep warm, especially in a biting wind. Neoprene face masks do a great job of protecting those exposed surfaces.
Sun HatBaseball type or wide brimmed sun hats are required for protection against the intense sunshine found on many peaks. You can combine a baseball hat with a bandana for good sun protection or go for a wide brimmed version to protect your face, ears and neck.
Hand WarmersBring 4 -6+ sets of these disposable insurance policies, depending on where you are climbing. Make certain that your hand warmers are relatively new, as they do go bad over time.
Glacier GlassesGlacier glasses are most commonly used on big mountains, but some wrap around, sport-style glasses also work well. Whichever you bring, they must have side protection and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays. Increasingly, sun glasses are divided into categories of light transmission, and for snowy or glaciated climbs, you will want glasses rated to Category 3 or higher.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer BottomsLightweight synthetic or Merino wool bottoms are a good choice for this layer. Synthetic seems to wick a bit better and is the choice of most of our guides, but Merino tends to be more fragrance-free, and many people appreciate that quality. One pair is sufficient for overnight climbs and most expeditions, even longer climbs such as Denali and Aconcagua. Everest climbers should bring two pair.
Light Fleece BottomsAs the air thins and the wind picks up, you'll want a bit more insulation on your legs. Light fleece bottoms, such as the Capilene 4 bottoms from Patagonia are breathable and have a broad comfort range, so you can wear them all day long, even if the sun pokes out from the clouds. If you tend to run cold, consider thicker fleece, such as Powerstretch from Polartec, which most outdoor clothing manufacturers also use.
Soft Shell PantsWe are fans of soft shell pants for use in the mountains. Also known as stretch-woven pants, these are breathable and comfortable enough to wear day in and day out on most expeditions. They cut most of the wind and are water resistant, meaning you can often use them in place of waterproof (not very breathable) hard shell pants on many climbs. On peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, you can wear them in lieu of your hard shell pants for much of the expedition.
Hard Shell, Waterproof PantsIf there is a probability or good possibility of getting wet, you will need to have waterproof breathable pants. Also known as Hard Shell Pants, these should be as light weight as possible, and should have fully separating side zippers, so you can put them on and remove them over your boots. Gore Tex is commonly used, but there are a number of other materials that work fine. On some peaks, you might carry hard shell pants for the lower mountain, but switch to soft shell pants for the colder and drier upper mountain.
Down or Puffy Expedition PantsOn summit day or on a cold morning, having a warm layer to pull on over all your other leg layers is important. This layer should be down or synthetic (ie. Primaloft) filled and must have fully separating side zippers. Practice putting them on and taking them off while wearing your boots before you leave for your expedition.
UnderwearConsider synthetic or Merino wool for your underwear. Most longer trips, such as Aconcagua or Denali, typically require 3-4 pair, but choose your quantity based on your personal level of comfort. Ladies might consider bringing additional pairs.

Other

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Ski / Trekking PolesAdjustable poles work great and are easier to travel with as they fit better in your duffel bag. Black Diamond Flick Lock poles are recommended as they are less prone to spontaneously collapsing than some of the twist-tightening versions. 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 for any climb with glacier or snow travel.
Altimeter WatchAn altimeter watch can be fun to have on an expedition to keep track of your ascent and to watch for changes in barometric pressure.
Stuff SacksWe are fans of the very light stiff sacks made from Sil Nylon fabric. Bring enough for your clothes and personal items. Light, zippered stuff bags are really nice for toiletries.
MapsOur guides will have maps and/or GPS devices, but a good map can be fun to have along.
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
LighterIt is nice to have one lighter per tent, as cord always needs to be cut and melted.
Insulated Bottle Cover(s)Water bottles freeze when it gets cold. Crazy, but true! Extra clothing can help insulate bottles, but dedicated water bottle insulators do a much better job. Bring at least one.
Small KnifeA small knife or small multi-tool is also handy to have. One per tent is sufficient. There is emphasis on the word small when it comes to multi-tools!
Large Plastic BowlBowls are much easier to use and are much more versatile than are plates. Bring a 2-4 cup camping bowl or a plastic "Rubbermaid" style container for your mountain dining.
Personal Music PlayeriPods and the like are really nice on a long trip. At altitude, hard drive based devices stop working, so make certain that you bring a flash drive (solid state) music player. Also consider how you will keep it charged, and bring whatever is necessary to keep you in time to the beat.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Large Zippered DuffelYou'll want an XL sized (90 – 120L) duffel for your expedition. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work fine, although water resistant bags like the Patagonia Black Hole Bag 120L are nice for their toughness to weight ratio. A quality bag can work for a sled bag on Denali, a mule bag on Aconcagua and an all around travel bag.

Sleeping Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Inflatable Sleeping PadInflatable pads have improved tremendously in recent years. Whether you choose a self inflating pad or one that requires some pumping to inflate, select a pad that is warm and comfortable.
Foam Sleeping PadBringing two sleeping pads, one closed cell foam and the other an inflatable pad, will provide additional comfort and insulation, as well as a bit of insurance in case you have a catastrophic failure of your inflatable pad.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Expedition ParkaPatagonia, Feathered Friends, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, and The North Face all make good parkas. There are some synthetic options; however, down is recommended as it is lighter and less bulky. You do not need a full-on 8000meter parka for peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, but you should have a warm one with a hood. A suitable parka will be built with "box baffled construction."
Base Layer Top(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. One set it sufficient for most expeditions and for overnight trips, however; the choice as to whether to bring a second set is a personal one, based on your level of comfort with wearing the same clothes for days or weeks at a time.
Light Fleece TopYou'll want a light fleece top in a weight similar to Capilene 4 from Patagonia, or Powerstretch from Polartec. A rather deep zip t-neck really helps with ventilating and we are fans of a hooded version for this layer.
“Puffy,” Synthetic JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece and wind shell. We are fans of the puffy, Primaloft jackets because they are lighter and warmer than thick fleece and compress down much smaller. A hood is a recommended feature in this layer, but is not necessary.
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your fleece clothing layer. You do not need the burliest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions. Many people are climbing peaks such as Denali, Aconcagua and Everest using very lightweight, windproof, water resistant shells, rather than fully waterproof jackets. Other trips, such as Carstensz Pyramid, are notoriously wet and absolutely need waterproof layers. Long expeditions like Everest also need this layer. Contact us to see if your particular trip needs this layer for your trip.
Soft Shell JacketMany big, cold mountains do not require a fully waterproof jacket. Soft shell jackets are much more breathable and comfortable than Gore-tex, and we are fans whenever they are appropriate. Soft shell is a general term for highly breathable layers that still cut most, if not all of the wind. Some trips require a hard shell down low, but can be climbed using soft shells higher up on the mountain.
T ShirtSynthetic or lightweight Merino wool shirts can be a nice "extra" piece for the lower glacier n Denali. Synthetics dry faster than cotton! Long-sleeve "sun hoodies" are popular amongst our guides.
Wind ShirtMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. If you are not getting rained on or experiencing wet snow, perhaps you do not need a waterproof jacket? We are huge fans of very lightweight windshirts for peaks like Denali and Aconcagua. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. They can replace your hard shell on many mountains, saving you a half a pound or more.
VestA lightweight down or synthetic filled vest can be a nice addition for colder climbs or for those bringing a lighter weight expedition parka. We are fans of the ultralight down vests or the lightweight Nano vests from Patagonia. This is an optional layer for most climbers.

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for climbers who must cancel expeditions which they have planned for a long time. Team members must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning expeditions and dealing with governmental permits and regulations, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in the months prior to expedition departure dates. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all climbers. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all expeditions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• All Alaska Range courses require a $1500 deposit to secure a spot on the team. Your submission of a deposit constitutes your acceptance of this Fee Schedule, Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• All deposits for Alaska Range courses include a non-refundable $750 administration fee.

• Final payments for Alaska Range courses must be received 120 days prior to the Team Meeting Day.

• Failure to pay course fees by the date they are due constitutes cancellation of your spot on the team and forfeiture of your deposit.

• Any cancellation 120+ days before your Team Meeting Day will be refunded in full, less the administration fee.

• If you cancel 120-90 days before your Team Meeting Day, you are eligible for a refund of 50% of any monies paid, less the deposit.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 89 days prior to an expedition.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• If you register for a climb within 90 days of the Team Meeting Day, expedition fees will be due in full to secure your spot on the team.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel a course prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that expedition shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.

 

Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• Instruction and guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides

• Scheduled group transportation between Anchorage and Talkeetna

• Scheduled flights between Talkeetna and Base Camp

• All food while on the mountain

• All group equipment (tents, kitchen, ropes, sleds, snow pickets, shovels, group med kit, satellite phone, GPS tracker, etc)

• Custom dispatch blog for your climb, complete with audio posts from team members calling from the mountain

• Assistance arranging for post-climb activities in Alaska

 

Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Flights to and from Alaska

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list

• Meals while not on the mountain

• Lodging in Alaska before and after your course, although we can help you secure rooms in Anchorage at a negotiated rate – please inquire about this option.

• Travel and/or rescue insurance

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the Range due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides

• Costs as a result of force majeure

 

General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for an expedition with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on a course in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Team Meeting Day for your course. Transportation to the meeting point on your Team Meeting Day is to be provided by you. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your course. This probably means you will need to arrive the day before, as our Team Meetings for Alaska trips are held in the morning.  Expedition climbing is very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination. We suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility. Don’t worry about booking a room after your expedition. We generally don’t know how long we’ll be in the mountains, and we can help arrange lodging when we return to “civilization.”

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the climb and choosing a climb that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb.

While on the course, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from a course.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave an expedition due to an illness.

Airline Responsibility Passenger/Airline contracts are in effect while team members are on board any aircraft contracted for use in the expedition.

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