Alaska Technical Routes
Mountain Trip began guiding technical climbs in the late 1970′s in the Ruth Glacier, leading the first ascent of Mt Johnson and routes on many other peaks. Over the years, we have led ascents of iconic peaks such as Mooses Tooth, Mt Foraker, Mt Hunter, Mt Russell, and Mt Deborah. Mountain Trip has also led numerous routes on Denali such as the Northwest Buttress, the Cassin Ridge, the West Rib, the West Buttress Direct and the South Buttress.
We love climbing technical routes. Each year we offer a selection of routes and we are always looking for a new peak to climb. These climbs are for experienced climbers only. Party size is limited, so please contact us well in advance of the season. Most technical climbs are made via private arrangements, so give us a call if you have a high and wild alpine dream that you are ready to pursue. We are climbers who are passionate about being in the mountains and love to share these wild places with other climbers.
Just as there are often many routes to a mountain’s summit, so to there can be many ways to pursue a dream of climbing big mountains. After decades of working with all manner of climbers and aspiring climbers, we have learned a thing or two about which routes are most successful. We like to think of climbing and mountaineering within the context of a continuum. We all start somewhere on the continuum and proceed further along, until we reach our goal, get sick of the whole enterprise or can just go no further.
There are no viable short-cuts to climbing big mountains. Hiring a mountain guide has rich traditions stretching back to the mid 1800’s, and has enabled mountain enthusiasts to pursue their passion for wild places without devoting their lives to the time and energy necessary to mount their own expeditions. Mountain guides allow aspiring climbers to more safely embark on the continuum and to follow it further than they might otherwise have the opportunity to do, however; at the end of the day, it was the personal effort and skill set of the individual climber than got them to the summit, or saw them fall short.
Each route on each peak demands a specific skill set, and we encourage all of our climbers to put in the time and practice to prepare themselves for their intended route. Bigger routes on higher peaks require more of an apprenticeship in the mountains, both to better manage the risk that often accompanies these routes, but also to protect your investment. As one of our climbing heroes, Don Whillans succinctly put it, “The mountains will always be there youth, the trick is for you to be there as well.”
If you are a recreational hiker or backpacker, you should focus on learning some snow skills and join a trip that will teach you if longer trips are something that you will enjoy. If you are intent on “going for it,” start with a shorter climb, like an ascent of Kilimanjaro or Mount Elbrus. These offer some insight into how you will feel at higher altitudes, with the benefits of being relatively short trips that are highly supported.
If you are a weekend “peak bagger” and backpacker, you may be ready to test your mettle on a longer expedition. Aconcagua is a nice choice because it has routes that are technically easy, and you can focus your energies on how your body does at increasingly high altitudes. Aconcagua is a great precursor for a Denali attempt because the duration of the climb is similar, but it is somewhat easier, overall. Summit day does feel similar, and might be a good gauge of how you will feel when you head to the top of North America
Are you a fit technical rock and/or ice climber who wants to climb a big peak? Are you a seasoned mountaineer in the Alps, New Zealand or the lower 48 states? What are your goals? For some, the goal is the summit, and an ascent of the Denali via the West Buttress is a great choice. For others, it’s all about the climbing, and they are willing to assume a greater risk of not standing on the summit for the challenge and quality of the technical climbing, so they might opt for the West Rib. The Sultana Ridge on Mount Foraker offers spectacular climbing in a stunningly beautiful and often exposed setting, yet usually sees less than a dozen attempts each year.
Seven Summit climbers have it easier, in some ways. But how should one proceed? A smart sequence might be one that increases the altitude and the physical demands of the ascent. Consider beginning with Kilimanjaro or Elbrus, moving on to Aconcagua, then Mount Vinson, Denali, Everest and Carstensz. Carstensz is so much different from the other six, that it could fall anywhere into the sequence, but it does require a skill set that is different, and will require some additional preparation. Financially, you might decide to climb Denali before Vinson, as some additional insurance in case you learn that you just can’t stand the cold.
Experienced, technically proficient ice and rock climbers, who want to push their limits on big alpine faces will find many lifetimes worth of challenges in Alaska. Mooses Tooth, Peak 11,300, Mt Huntington, and the most sublime line in the Alaska Range, the Cassin Ridge, are all within the reach of climbers who put in the time to hone their skills, build upon their successive experiences and train hard to be in peak physical fitness for their climb.
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. Pitch 4 on Ham and Eggs 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 great selection of gear available in Anchorage but please plan ahead and order any items that are size specific. Only bring down good gear that is in very good condition, as it will all get tested, perhaps to the extreme!
|Ice Axe||A 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 Harness||Your harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. As with most items on this list, choose a light weight harness.|
|Carabiners||Bring 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.|
|Climbing Helmet||Make 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!|
|Mountaineering Socks for Denali||Modern 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.|
|Trekking Socks||Trekking socks do not need to be as thick or warm as mountaineering socks. Most trekkers prefer a light to medium weight, wool or wool/synthetic blend sock for use with trekking shoes. Some trekkers are fans of using a sock system of a very light synthetic sock with their light socks. Make certain that your socks do not make your trekking shoes too tight, as this will result in cold toes. Aconcagua climbers should bring 2 - 3 pair for the trekking portion of the climb. Nepal trekkers should bring 4 - 5 pair.|
|Mountaineering Boots||Modern 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.
|Snow Shoes||Atlas Summit Series or the basic MSR EVO Ascent snowshoes both work well. A nice “upgrade” feature is a heel riser, which really helps make the steeper hills a bit more manageable. You won't need huge snowshoes, so 22-25 inch snowshoes will generally work fine.|
|Ski / Trekking Poles||Adjustable 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 travel.|
Head and Hands
|Heavyweight Gloves||Warm, 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 Gloves||Mid-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.|
|Buff Neck Gaiter||Buff 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 Mittens||Thick, 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 Hat||Bring 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 Mask||Cheeks 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 Hat||Baseball 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 Warmers||Bring 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 Glasses||Glacier 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.|
|Ski Goggles||These are necessary for use while traveling during storms or during really cold spells. These must have double lenses and provide full UV protection. Fogging is a real challenge, so the “Turbo Fan” goggles are worth the investment! Select a general purpose lens that will provide some protection in bright light, but not be so dark as to make them useless on a cloudy or flat-light day.|
|Base Layer Bottoms||Lightweight 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 Bottoms||As 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 Polartech, which most outdoor clothing manufacturers also use.|
|Soft Shell Pants||We 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.|
|Down or Puffy Expedition Pants||On 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.|
|Underwear||Consider 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.|
|Stuff Sacks||We 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.|
|GPS Tracking Device||Spot GPS devices have been the standard, but the DeLorme inReach has been increasingly popular, as you can send and receive text messages with it. We carry a tracking device on every trip, but you might consider bringing one as well. Again- consider how you will keep it powered over the course of your expedition.|
|Two (2) One-Liter Water Bottles||You 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.|
|Several Good Jokes!||"A Moose walks into a bar..."|
|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.|
|Large Plastic Bowl||Bowls 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.|
|Insulated Cup or Mug||A 12 - 16 ounce (350-500 Ml) mug with an attached lid will help keep you hydrated. The Kleen Kanteen Insulated Bottle with the "Cafe Cap" is pretty nifty, as it is a mug and a thermos all in one!|
|Lexan Spoon||A soup spoon made from Lexan will survive most trips and is more useful and versatile than a fork or even a "spork." Mark your spoon with your initials to keep spoon rustlers at bay.|
|Lip Balm (2 tubes)||Protect your lips! Bring two tubes of high quality lip balm with SPF.|
|Sun Screen for Denali||Smaller tubes work well, as they are easier to keep from freezing than is one big tube. You'll want to bring 3-4 ounces (85 - 110g) for the trip.|
Packs and Duffels
|Large Zippered Duffel||You'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.|
|Climbing Pack||Suitable climbing packs will be 30 - 45 liters in volume and have the capability of easily attaching crampons, and ice axes if used for a day of ice climbing. For day climbs, you do not necessarily need a super light alpine climbing pack, but for longer routes, you should consider the weight of the pack carefully. For a day of rock climbing, any pack in the 30 - 45 liter range will work. Alpine routes require larger (45L) packs that also let you strap your sleeping pad to the outside.|
|Inflatable Sleeping Pad||Inflatable 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 Pad||Bringing 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.|
|Expedition Parka||Patagonia, 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 Top||You'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 Jacket||Size 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.|
|Soft Shell Jacket||Many 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.|
|Wind Shirt||Many 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.|
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 technical routes 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 climbs include a non-refundable $750 administration fee.
• Final payments for climbs must be received 120 days prior to the Team Meeting Day.
• Failure to pay expedition 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 an expedition 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
• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides at a ratio appropriate for the route and team
• Airport transfers provided by the Millennium Alaska Hotel
• Up to two nights accommodation at the Millennium Alaska Hotel (shared room) before your climb. As we do not know when teams will require lodging after their climbs, we do not provide post-climb lodging, although we will help you secure rooms after you fly off the glacier.
• 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 expedition 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
• Additional nights’ accommodation in Alaska
• Mountaineering Cost Recovery Fee ($260 for climbers 24 years old and younger, $360 for older climbers) paid to the National Park Service at the time you register for your individual climbing permit.
• Travel and/or rescue insurance
• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the mountain 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 an expedition 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 expedition. 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 expedition. 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 expedition, 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 an expedition.
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.