DENALI VIA THE WEST RIB
An aesthetic line sweeping up alongside the massive South Face of Denali, the West Rib is a challenging route for climbers with good technical experience, wishing to push themselves on what definitely qualifies as a “Big Route.” Steeper, more exposed, more committing, and more serious than its neighbor, the West Buttress, the Rib is all about the climbing. Complex glacier travel is requires to access the base of the route, which quickly rears back to provide 50 -60 degree snow and ice climbing.
Since its first ascent in 1959, the West Rib has continued to provide beautiful alpine climbing in a spectacular setting. Its rich history and moderately technical terrain still attract the best climbers as they hone their skills. The first winter and first winter solo ascents were made by climbers who guided for Mountain Trip.
Mountain Trip has been guiding climbers up technical routes on Denali since the early 1980’s. We love this type of climbing. The Rib demands that our guides combine their technical skills with their depth of Denali experience to give committed climbers the best chance of climbing a beautiful line on a huge peak. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Follow Up Climbs
Alpine or expedition style?
There are generally two ways to attempt the Rib. One is to hike out of base camp will all your kit and climb the route expedition style, ferrying loads between camps, while you acclimatize on the route. Another style involves ascending the West Buttress route to gain acclimatization and to perhaps put a cache in at the high camp on the Rib. The team then descends back to the North East Fork of the Kahiltna at about 7,800 feet to access the route and climb it in alpine style. There are pros and cons to each method, and conditions of the route may ultimately dictate which style we pursue. The itinerary below reflects an alpine style attempt.
Day 1: Meet in Anchorage
Day 2: Drive to Talkeetna/ Check in with the NPS/ Fly to Base Camp
Day 3: Move to Camp 1 at 7,800 ft (2380 m).
Day 4: Carry to 10,000 ft (3048 m) and return to sleep at Camp 1.
Day 5: Move to Camp 2 at 11,200 ft (3413 m)
Day 6: Back-carry kit from the cache at 10,000 ft and return to sleep at Camp 2
Day 7: Carry supplies around Windy Corner at 13,500’ (4551 m). Sleep at Camp 2.
Day 8: Move to Camp 3 at 14,200 ft (4328 m)
Day 9: Back-carry gear from Windy Corner and sleep at Camp 3 on the Buttress.
Day 10: Carry supplies to cache at 16,400 ft (5000 m) on the West Rib and return to Camp 3 to sleep.
Day 11: Move down to NE Fork
Day 12: Move up the NE Fork to the base of the Chicken Couloir
Day 13: Fix lines up the Couloir
Day 14: Move up to Ice Dome camp
Day 15: Continue up the Rib!
Day 16: Keep climbing up the Rib to High Camp at 16,400 ft (5000 m)
Day 17: Rest Day
Day 18: Summit Day!
Day 19-24: Contingency days for weather etc.
The following is a list of required gear for climbing the West Rib with Mountain Trip. 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 Northeast Fork 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, 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.
Keep in mind that this is alpine climbing. Keep your kit light weight!
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: Acceptable boots for Denali fall into two categories, traditional double boots and 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 System Boots: LOWA “8000 GTX ”, LA SPORTIVA “OLYMPUS MONS EVO”
- Recommended Double Boots: SCARPA “INVERNO” with High Altitude Liners, LA SPORTIVA “NUPTSE” OR “SPANTIK”. 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. ___
- SKI POLES: Select a proper length for hiking. Almost any ski pole will do, although adjustable poles work best! Black Diamond Flick Lock poles are recommended as they are less prone to spontaneously collapsing.
CLOTHING 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 Top and Bottoms such as Light or Mid-Weight Capilene from Patagonia. There are some really nice Merino wool options on the market as well. Patagonia has a nice entry called Wool 2.
- “EXPEDITION WEIGHT” FLEECE: Top and Bottoms made from 100 weight or Powerstretch fleece. A zip t-neck is important for ventilating. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia R1 Flash Top or the R1 Flash 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 Micro Puff Pants or Feathered Friends Volant Pants. These can be layered over your shell pants for easier and quicker layer changes.
- 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 or the Outdoor Research Chaos Jacket
- SHELL JACKET & PANTS: They should be large enough to go over your pile clothing layers and the pants must have full lenght 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.
- EXPEDITION PARKA (WITH HOOD): Marmot, Mountain Hardwear and The North Face all make good parkas, but our Guides’ Pick is the Patagonia Down Parka. 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.
- 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!
- REGULAR UNDERWEAR: One or two changes. Look for synthetics such as Patagonia Capilene.
- SOCKS: 2 – 4 sets of wool or synthetic medium/heavy weight socks. Make certain your socks fit with your boots!
- GLOVES: Light or medium weight bunting, polypro, 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.
- 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.
- 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 8+ sets of these disposable insurance policies.
- GLACIER GLASSES: They must have side protection and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays.
- SKI GOGGLES: For use while traveling during storms or during really cold spells.These must have double lenses and provide 100%UV protection.
- EXPEDITION PACK: Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find a good expedition-sized back pack. Denali requires a 6000+ cu in. or 90+ liter pack to carry your gear, plus group food & equipment. The Dana Designs Terra Plane, Gregory Denali Pro and Osprey Aether 90 all fit the bill. BE CERTAIN THAT YOUR PACK FITS YOU! Get used to your pack; train with it!
- LARGE ZIPPERED DUFFEL: (36-48″) for use as a sled bag. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work fine, although if you can find the Patagonia Stellar Black Hole Bag you will be thrilled. It is lightweight and darn near water proof, making it the ideal sled bag!
- EXPEDITION SLEEPING BAG: Rated to 30 below. Marmot Cwm, Col and Mt Hardwear Ghost are all great bags. Which to choose, down or synthetic? We prefer down bags because they are lighter, more compact, and have a longer lifespan than synthetics, but the new synthetics are getting a lot better. Guides’ Pick: Weighing in at just 4 pounds, the Valandre Odin is a -40 degree bag which is also suitable for Antarctica. It’s lighter companion, the Freja, is a -22 degree bag that only weighs 3 lbs 6 oz!
- 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.
- 2 SLEEPING PADS: You need two pads, with one being a closed cell pad such as a Ridge Rest or a Karrimat just in case you poke a crampon through your air mattress. Therm-a-Rest inflatable pads have been among the warmest and most comfortable, but the new Exped pads from Outdoor Research are really nice. Guides’ Pick: Exped 7 paired with a Deluxe, Full-length Ridge Rest
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! Step in or “New-matic” work equally well, just make sure they fit with your mountain boots and overboots. Fit is especially important with overboots! Black Diamond Guides’ Pick: Sabretooth Clip with ABS
- HARNESS: Your harness needs to have adjustable leg loops. Black Diamond Blizzard or Alpine Bod harnesses are both lightweight and functional.
- ASCENDERS: You need at least one full-sized ascender such as the Petzl Ascension. This can be paired with a second, handled ascender or with a lighter weight version such as a Petzl Tibloc, a Wild Country Ropeman or simply bring a prussik cord for your feet. If you opt for only one full sized ascender, consider bringing a left-handed one for ease of use on the fixed lines.
- CARABINERS: Bring two 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 Neutrinos are very lightweight.
- PERLON CORD: 50 feet of 5 or 6 mm for sled and pack tie offs.
- CLIMBING HELMET: Unfortunately, even Alaska is not beyond the reach of Global Warming and there is now a stretch of the West Buttress route that necessitates the wearing of a climbing helmet. Get the lightest one you can find and make certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Tracer
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)
- CAMELBACK HYDRATION SYSTEM (optional, but if you bring one, also bring an insulated tube and mouthpiece) This DOES NOT replace your Water Bottles!
- (2)ONE QT. WIDE MOUTH WATER BOTTLES: Please do not bring metal bottles or small mouth bottles.
- 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 plastic cup for hot drinks
- 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,… 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 lots of film or digital and no film
- BOOK(s) for storm day reading
- JOURNAL & PENCIL
- ALTIMETER WATCH
- HAND LOTION
- FOOT POWDER
- NECK GAITOR (check out the light weight versions from Buff)
- SPARE SUN GLASSES
- SWISS ARMY KNIFE
- EXTRA ACCESSORY STRAPS** (generally only needed for smaller sized packs)
- PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYER (CD, MINI DISC, MP3 PLAYER, ETC with extra batteries)
- CELL PHONE (Due to antiquated cell phone infrastructure in this part of Alaska, only a small number of phones actually work from Denali. As of 2006, only phones capable of receiving ANALOG signals could function from the mountain.)
TRAVERSE CLIMB ONLY
- MOSQUITO REPELLENT
- HEAD NET
- TRAIL RUNNING or LIGHT HIKING SHOES (For river crossings and the walk out to Wonder Lake)
RENTAL ITEMS AVAILABLE
- SNOWSHOES ($50)
- SKI POLES ($15)
- CRAMPONS ($30)
- ICE AXE ($25)
- ASCENDER ($25)
- EXPEDITION PACK ($50-$100)
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 in Seattle will also give you a 10% discount if you tell them you are joining one of our expeditions.
MAKE SURE YOU TRY EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU BRING IT ON DENALI!!
CALL OR EMAIL US WITH YOUR EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS.