The West Buttress – The Classic Route on Denali (Mt. McKinley): 20,310′

Join one of our small-sized teams, with a high guide-to-climber ratio, on the West Buttress of Denali—North America’s classic mountaineering objective. First pioneered in 1950 by the indefatigable Bradford Washburn, it has become the route of choice for most who choose to climb Denali due to its relative ease of access in this modern age of Air Taxis. Mountain Trip has helped more climbers achieve their Denali dreams than any other guide service. The legacy of Mountain Trip stretches back to before the National Park Service started the current concession system, and with the exception of 2020, Mountain Trip has been guiding climbers up the West Buttress each season since 1976.


Register for a West Buttress Expedition

For the 2022 climbing season, we will only allow climbers to join our expeditions who are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. This is an effort to best protect our staff and our climbers from adding an infectious airborne disease to the typical stresses and challenges of climbing Denali.

Our West Buttress expeditions begin at 7,200 feet on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. They follow the Kahiltna north before ascending up onto the West Buttress proper. Though it’s not one of the most technical routes on the mountain, climbers must use a variety of mountaineering techniques to make their way around crevasses and up moderately steep terrain. The route culminates on summit day by following an incredible knife-edged ridge to the highest point in North America.

Denali is a place of superlatives. Carrying the heaviest pack of your life in the thin air of altitude at such a northern latitude can make West Buttress expeditions very physically challenging. Extreme winds, heavy snowfall and arctic cold all conspire to make it a serious undertaking. If you want to climb Denali, you need to be in top physical shape and prepared to suffer with a smile. To help you better prepare for the physical challenges of Denali, we provide a 24-week custom Mountaineering Training program designed by the professional coaches at Uphill Athlete to all of our Denali climbers (including guides!), so you can be confident that you will be in great shape, and your teammates will be as well.

Mountain Trip is a small company and we like it that way. It enables us to give personal, attentive service, and to provide our climbers with the most experienced guides on the mountain. No other Denali guide service has our stringent guidelines for whom we allow to lead West Buttress expeditions on the mountain. Our lead guides have a minimum of five Denali ascents under their boots—some have 20, 30, or more. Our office staff includes Denali guides who can answer your questions from their personal experience and love to talk about climbing big, cold mountains. Give us a call and climb Denali with us! All Denali expeditions are run by Mountain Trip Alaska, LLC, which is an authorized concessionaire of Denali National Park and Preserve.

Denali is a big, serious mountain with big mountain weather, geography and acclimatization issues. The following itinerary represents a basic outline of what could happen on a given day during the course of a Denali expedition. Many factors can—and likely will—contribute to cause the following schedule to change. Our guides know the mountain and may elect to stray from this itinerary in order to give you the best possible shot at getting to the summit.

DAY 1: MEET IN ANCHORAGE. Our Team Meetings are generally scheduled at 10 a.m. for an expedition orientation and equipment check. This is a very important meeting, which all climbers must attend. Be sure to arrive in Anchorage early enough to make the meeting, which may require arriving a day in advance. Our trip fee includes two night’s accommodation at the Lakefront Anchorage (formerly the Millennium Alaska Hotel), which is conveniently located and offers free airport transfers.

Ski Plane on the SE Fork of the Kahiltna_2DAY 2: TRAVEL TO TALKEETNA AND FLY TO THE GLACIER. We provide transportation to Talkeetna for all of our Denali climbers, using our own vans and trailers so we are not tied to a third-party’s schedule. The drive takes a bit more than two hours, and we’ll stop for coffee and snacks along the way. Once in Talkeetna, we’ll need to unload, organize, and weigh all of our equipment and supplies in preparation for our flight to the glacier. We will also finish the registration process with the National Park Service (NPS) and attend a pre-climb orientation provided by one of the NPS climbing rangers. After finalizing all the NPS admin steps, we’ll fly to the glacier, weather permitting. Once on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, we’ll be busy establishing our camp for the night.

Hiking up the Kahiltna Glacier_2DAY 3: SINGLE CARRY TO 7,800′ CAMP. 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 about 7,800′, near the junction with the NE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This is a moderately tough day of about 5 miles and is a good warm up for the upcoming days. Throughout the expedition we will typically follow the “climb high, sleep low” technique for better acclimatization; however, the altitude difference between Base Camp and 7,800′ Camp is minimal enough to permit us to generally “single-carry” this stretch. On the late May and June expeditions, we may climb early in the morning to avoid excessive heat and soft snow conditions on the lower glacier.

*Quick Stats: 8 km / 5 miles, with 365 m / 1,200’ of elevation gain. Climbing Time: ~ 4.5-6 hours.

DAY 4: HAUL LOADS UP TO KAHILTNA PASS. We’ll head out of 7,800′ Camp and carry loads up the 1,800′ Ski Hill. Several options exist for campsites between 9,000′ and 11,000′, depending upon weather, snow conditions and team strength. This is a moderately difficult carry of 7-9 miles round-trip, with 2,000′-3,000′ of elevation gain and a return to 7,800′ Camp for the night.

*Quick Stats: 12.87 km / 8 miles round trip, with 670 m / 2,200’ of elevation gain and loss. Climbing Time: ~ 6-8 hours.

11200 foot Camp_2DAY 5: MOVE EVERYTHING TO 11,000′ CAMP. Our second camp is often in the 11,000’ basin at the base of Motorcycle Hill. This is an incredibly beautiful location that basks in alpenglow when the sun travels around the north side of the mountain.

*Quick Stats: 7.64 km / 4.75 miles one way, with 1,036 m / 3,400’ of elevation gain. Climbing Time: ~ 5.5-7 hours.

DAY 6: BACK-CARRY DAY. This is an “active rest day” during which we drop back down and pick up the cache we left near Kahiltna Pass. It also helps give us another day to acclimatize before moving higher.

*Quick Stats: 2.4 km / 1.5 miles round trip, with 365 m / 1,200’ of elevation loss and gain. Climbing Time: 1.5 hours round-trip.

DAY 7: HAUL LOADS AROUND WINDY CORNER (13,300′). Steep snow climbing up the 1,000′ high Motorcycle Hill rewards climbers with spectacular views. The total distance for the day is about four miles round trip with a little over 2,000′ of elevation gain. Fun climbing with crampons and an ice axe gets you around Windy Corner where the upper mountain comes into view. Have your camera ready!

*Quick Stats: 6.43 km / 4 miles, with 700 m / 2,300’ of elevation gain. Climbing Time: ~ 6-7 hours round-trip.

Camp 3_2DAY 8: MOVE CAMP TO 14,200′. This is usually a long, hard day. Our next camp is generally located at the well-equipped 14,200’ Camp in the expansive Genet Basin. Loads are getting lighter and the air is getting thinner. Upon arrival, everyone will need to pitch in to build our camp as we need to fortify our tents due to the possibility of severe winds.

*Quick Stats: 4 km / 2.5 miles, with 914 m / 3,200’ of elevation gain. Climbing Time: ~ 5-7 hours.

DAY 9: BACK-CARRY DAY. This is another “active rest day,” during which the team will descend from Genet Basin to the Windy Corner cache and bring everything up to 14,200′. We’ll spend the afternoon going over climbing techniques that we will use in the upcoming days.

*Quick Stats: 1.6 km / 1 mile round-trip, with 213 m / 700’ of elevation loss and gain. Climbing Time: ~ 1.5 hours round-trip.

Climber on the Headwall_2DAY 10: CLIMB UP THE HEADWALL TO THE RIDGE. Our goal is to cache supplies up on the ridge above us and return to 14,200 feet. Climbing up the “Headwall” (the section of route with fixed lines running from 15,500′ to 16,100′) with a heavy pack makes this one of the more strenuous days of the trip because of the steep terrain, heavy pack and thinning air. The views from the ridge can be as breathtaking as the rarefied air!

*Quick Stats: 3.8 km / 2.4 miles round-trip, with 670 m / 2,200’ of elevation gain and loss. Climbing Time: ~ 5-7 hours.

DAY 11: REST DAY. It is often prudent to take a rest/acclimatization day prior to moving up to High Camp.  Many climbers feel this day really helps their acclimatization.

DAY 12: MOVE TO HIGH CAMP. Weather and team strength will again determine this decision. While there is a camp site at 16,100′, it is very exposed, so we usually push for the 17,200′ site, which is more secure and the better choice for camp. This is a really tough day, as our loads are big and some of the the terrain we will negotiate is steep. Rewards for our work are in the awesome climbing along the ridge. Weaving in and out of the rocks and occasionally walking a knife-edge stretch, combined with big exposure, make this day one of the most memorable of the route.

*Quick Stats: 3.21 km / 2 miles, with 914 m / 3,000’ of elevation gain. Climbing Time: ~ 6-8 hours.

DAY 13: REST DAY. Moving to 17,200’ and getting High Camp established can be a huge day, so we usually take a rest day before attempting the summit.  Circumstances could mean that we do not take this rest day, but if possible, we prefer to take it.

Summit Ridge_2DAY 14: SUMMIT DAY. If the weather is favorable, we’ll push for the summit. It is important to be patient on a big peak like Denali and we will only try for the summit when the weather is good; meaning mostly clear and calm. Our guide staff is the most experienced on the mountain and your guides will make this sometimes difficult decision. The round-trip climb will take eight to twelve hours or more. Usually you will depart camp early (7-10 a.m.), climb up to Denali Pass (18,000’) and follow the route past Arch Deacon’s Tower and the Football Field to the slopes leading to the Summit Ridge. On this spectacular ridge you can often see down into the Ruth Glacier with views of beautiful peaks such as the Moose’s Tooth, Mount Huntington and Mount Hunter.

*Quick Stats: 8 km / 5 miles round-trip, with 914 m / 3,000’ of elevation gain and loss. Climbing Time: ~ 9-12+ hours

Summit_2***Summit Day is Serious***

The weather needs to be good and everyone attempting the summit must have demonstrated that they can reasonably give it a shot. This is often the most grueling day of the expedition (some climbers say of their lives!). The guides have the ultimate decision as to when the team will make a summit bid. The guides also have the discretion to decide that a team member has not shown that he or she is capable to make a summit bid. Such occurrences are rare; but remember getting everyone home healthy is the primary concern.

DAYS 15-16: DESCENT. The descent from High Camp takes one to two days, depending on the team’s strength and motivation to get home. The descent can beat you up more than the ascent, as we often shoulder our heaviest loads of the trip hiking down from High Camp to Camp 2. Weather dictates when we can fly out to Talkeetna for food and showers. Not much beats a steak and salad at the West Rib Tavern after working hard on Denali!

DAYS 17-23 CONTINGENCY DAYS. We build seven “contingency days” into our schedule. Denali has a well-deserved reputation for arctic weather, and it is common to take weather days at some point on the mountain.

DAY 24: RETURN TO ANCHORAGE AND FLY HOME. We will provide group transportation back to Anchorage and you can make plans to fly home as early as this evening. If you are staying in Alaska, we are happy to assist in making any necessary lodging reservations; however, lodging after the climb is not included in trip cost. This is a true transition day from the intensity of the mountain to the relative “big city” life of Anchorage.

Mountain Trip has a long history of thinking outside the box as we continuously try to offer our climbers the best possible experience on Denali. In 2013, we began offering smaller, 6-climber/3-guide teams. We feel that having a 2:1 ratio of climbers to guides on our teams can really benefit the success and security of a Denali expedition. During the age of coronavirus, our small cohorts of climbers have an added benefit compared to traditional 12-climber expeditions. Based on the positive feedback we have received over the years, we only offer 2:1 ratio teams because we think our model provides a much better experience for our climbers.

Expectations

This information is extremely important for anyone considering climbing Denali with Mountain Trip or any guide service.

Partnership

When you engage a guide service to help you have a great experience on a mountain like Denali, you are entering into a partnership with that company and its staff.

Climbing Denali requires everyone associated with the expedition to commit to significant preparation before the climb. It also requires a high level of cooperation amongst team members during the climb. Every participant has a job to do, at each step of the journey (literally!). The actions of each member can directly affect the other members of the team. If each participant does his or her job in a satisfactory manner, then the entire team will have a good experience, regardless of whether or not the team has an opportunity to stand on the summit.

The Role of the Mountain Trip Office

At Mountain Trip, we are tasked with providing the logistics, support and experienced staff to help each of our climbers have a great experience on Denali. We achieve those goals through a combination of our 40+ years of institutional knowledge, a commitment to supporting our staff through good wages, educational and equipment assistance, and a never-ending process of reflection and self-evaluation.

Some of the first steps we take as a company to set our teams up for having great experiences are to 1) help manage everyone’s expectations of what climbing Denali is like, and 2) help ensure that a climb of Denali is an appropriate choice for each of our climbers. To that end we strive to:

  • Provide helpful and realistic information on our website and in our marketing.
  • Try not to “sugar coat” Denali, because it is important that every prospective climber understand that the mountain can have many moods, including some that are unforgiving.
  • Provide a realistic expectation of what workload is required to have a successful ascent of the peak.
  • Explain what skills are required to climb the mountain, and which of those skills are ones that we can generally teach and refine while on the expedition.
  • Engage each participant (climbers and guides) in a high level of clear, open and honest communication.
  • Develop and maintain a Risk Management Plan to support the decision making of our guides in the field.
  • Provide our guides with tools (education, training, equipment, etc.) to perform at the highest levels of the industry, including helping them have a clear understanding of both Mountain Trip and National Park Service protocols and requirements.

The Role of our Guides

Our guides are tasked with numerous responsibilities, including:

  • Facilitating good communication amongst your team.
  • Possessing and maintaining requisite mountaineering skills.
  • Maintaining current medical certifications.
  • Preparing the food and equipment for your climb.
  • Making objective hazard assessments and strategic decision-making.
  • Observing and evaluating team members throughout the expedition.
  • Treating each climber in a respectful and supportive manner.
  • Helping each climber with technical skills they need to learn or refine while on the climb.

The Role of our Climbers

Our climbers are similarly tasked with responsibilities, including:

  • Being willing to participate in open and honest communication from the initial contact with our office.
  • Fulfilling the requisite paperwork and financial obligations necessary to join an expedition in a timely manner.
  • Assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for the expedition.
  • Arriving in Anchorage in sufficiently good physical condition to fully participate in the expedition.
  • Dedicating the time to develop a base of skills sufficient for participating in the expedition.
  • Advocating for themselves regarding skills they need or would like to work on during the expedition.
  • Conducting themselves respectfully with all other team members and with other climbers.
  • Communicating with guides and team members while on the expedition.

When is it time to say, “No”?

Each year, we advise prospective climbers that Denali might not be a good choice for them at the time after discussing their previous experience and/or level of fitness. We do this because we want each climber who joins us to have a great experience, and it does not serve anyone to bring a climber on an expedition for which he or she is not sufficiently prepared.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to help our climbers choose appropriate trips, we occasionally find climbers who arrive on the Kahiltna Glacier lacking some degree of preparation. We have opportunities to teach some skills at the lower camps on the mountain and we conduct a variety of skill reviews and help climbers brush up before heading higher on the mountain, because as we get higher on Denali, everything becomes harder and more serious. The vast majority of the time, we can help them or support them sufficiently, so that they end up having a great experience in a manner that does not negatively impact other climbers on the team, but this is not always possible. It is ultimately the responsibility of each climber to arrive with the appropriate level of skills, experience and fitness.

Looking back over the past decade of trip reports and feedback from guides and clients, we see that less than 2% of the time, we find that we have someone on a Denali team who cannot, for one reason or another, participate sufficiently to safely climb the mountain. Please note that we use the word “safely” very carefully, because ultimately, climbing a big, cold mountain like Denali is not inherently “safe,” and our use of the term is limited to the assessment our guides make in judging how that climber might fare on the upper mountain, based on the climber’s demonstration of those skills. As guides, and the administrators of a guide service, we do our best to mitigate risk, but if a team member does not demonstrate sufficient skills, fitness or ability to climb higher, he or she might create an unacceptable risk to the guides and to the team, resulting in the team member being turned around and not attempting the summit.

Therefore, we have decided to attempt to be as clear and transparent as possible about our expectations of our climbers. In the rare instance that a climber is just simply unprepared for the rigors and risks of the upper mountain, we want everyone to have some clear benchmarks to refer to in our decision-making about whether or not to let that climber continue up the mountain.

Basic Benchmarks for Having a Successful Ascent

Each group will take some time to practice technical skills on the glacier, but prior to advancing up the mountain, climbers must demonstrate a minimum level of mastery of certain techniques. Each stretch of the route has specific hazards, skill requirements and objectives unique to the terrain we will encounter. We have plenty of time to work on skills during the initial days of the climb, and will review many of the basic mountaineering skills necessary to climb the peak. But before moving to the 14,200′ Advanced Base Camp, each team member must demonstrate the following:

  • The physical conditioning necessary to move appropriately through steep and often hazardous terrain.
  • The ability to perform basic personal maintenance (clothing selection, application of sunscreen/lip balm, hydration, eating, hygiene), with minimal guide input and guidance.
  • A high degree of familiarity with the appropriate use and function of your clothing and equipment, also with minimal guide assistance.
  • Demonstrate a high degree of familiarity with basic mountaineering techniques such as the rest step, French Technique, front pointing, running belays, and roped glacier travel techniques.
  • Exhibit a willingness and ability to be a team member, meaning that each climber must help establish camps, and carry a fair share of the group loads.
  • The ability to move between camps at a reasonable pace. This is, of course, highly subjective, but 40+ years of institutional knowledge has shown us that there are some average times that it takes to move between camps. For example:
    • From Base Camp to the 7,800’ Camp, when making a “single carry” in good conditions, it should take about 4-5 hours.
    • From the 7,800’ Camp to the 11,000’ Camp, it should take about 6-7 hours.
    • The carry up to 13,700′ and back to 11,000’ should take between 6-7 hours round-trip.

At the 14,200’ Camp, we will review the use of ascenders on fixed lines, and on passing “running belays,” as these skills are generally not used below the headwall, which climbs from 15,600’ to 16,200’. Before moving up to High Camp at 17,200’, each climber must demonstrate everything listed above, plus:

  • The ability to efficiently use an ascender and negotiate the fixed lines when you carry loads up to the ridge above 16,200’.
  • The capacity to maintain an average time (in good conditions) of carrying up the fixed lines to our cache site at 16,400’ and returning to the 14,200’ Camp. Round-trip is between 6-8 hours.

After arriving at High Camp, we will have a lot of hard work to establish our camp before retiring to our tents. Most of the time, we take a rest day after moving to the 17,200’ level, and, if the weather permits, we can continue to work on skills on this rest day, because we want everyone to feel prepared for the trip to the top. Before attempting the summit, climbers must demonstrate everything listed above, plus:

  • The ability to pass running belays with thick gloves and mittens, as we’ll pass dozens of snow pickets en route to and from the summit.
  • The physical conditioning necessary to help carry group summit-day equipment.
  • The physical capacity to maintain an average pace of 7-8 hours en route to High Camp, because summit day could easily take 12+ hours round-trip.

What if …?

If a climber decides not to continue up the mountain, or if it is determined that continuing higher is not an appropriate choice, we will do our best to accommodate the climber. Any decisions made at the time will be in the best interest of both the team and the climber. We cannot promise that we can descend at a given point in time or that we will have an option available that will allow you to remain on the mountain as the team climbs higher. Our options will be driven by numerous factors that are present at the time, and we will endeavor to communicate the decision making process with you.

The intent of this information is not to stress anyone out, but rather to help every team member have a clear understanding of what it takes to successfully climb to the top of North America. The information above is intended to give each participant the tools necessary to assess how you are doing, relative to where you are on the mountain. We want every climber to succeed and to have a great experience on the mountain, and we are really good at helping achieve those goals, but we need each climber to do his or her part.

We encourage any prospective Denali climber to contact us with any and all questions, and to do your best to prepare yourself for your adventure. Have fun out there!

Inclusions and Exclusions for Denali West Buttress

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources.

• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides (we require any guide wishing to lead a Denali climb to have 5 previous expeditions on the mountain—most of our lead guides have 10+ trips).

• Up to two nights lodging (shared room) at the Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage before your climb.

• Airport transfer as provided by the Lakefront Hotel.

• Team transportation in Anchorage for last-minute shopping on the day of your Team Meeting.

• Round-trip, 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.

Uphill Athlete 24-week Mountaineering Training Program.

• 25% Discount on Patagonia clothing and equipment.

• 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.

• Any additional lodging including post expedition lodging.

• Meals while not on the mountain.

• Travel and/or rescue insurance.

• Mountaineering special use fee ($295 for climbers 24 years old and younger; $395 for climbers 25+ years old) and Denali National Park entrance fee ($15).

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the mountain due to illness, other problems or by choice. Costs may include, but are not limited to: additional lodging, shipping costs to return gear to you, and transportation.

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

• Customary gratuities for guides.

• Costs as a result of force majeure

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 expeditions require a 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 Denali expeditions include a non-refundable $1,500 administration fee. (We highly recommend you consider Trip Cancellation insurance to protect the administrative fee, if not the entire cost of your climb.)
  • Final payments for expeditions 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 the event that the expedition is cancelled based solely on an internal administrative decision by Mountain Trip (Internal Cancellation), all monies, except for nonrefundable administrative fees, collected by Mountain Trip from team members for the canceled expedition shall be refunded within 30 days. That is the extent of our financial liability for such cancellations. This Internal Cancellation provision shall not apply when external factors that force Mountain Trip to cancel an expedition against its will, including, but not limited to, international political upheaval, terrorism, drought/famine, epidemics/pandemics, and/or cancellations imposed by foreign or domestic governments or permitting agencies (External Cancellation). All External Cancellations shall not be subject to a refund unless such cancellation occurs prior to the deadlines set forth in the Refund and Cancellation policies stated above.

2022 Season Covid-19 Policy (Effective July 6, 2021)

For the 2022 Denali season, Mountain Trip Alaska requires that all climbers be fully vaccinated prior to departing for Anchorage. A person is considered fully vaccinated greater than or equal to two weeks after completion of a two-dose mRNA series or single dose of Janssen vaccine. (May 25, 2021 CDC Guidelines)

All climbers joining Mountain Trip Alaska for expeditions in Denali National Park and Preserve will be required to sign a Covid-19 Declaration stating all of the following:

  • You are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • You are not displaying any symptoms of Covid-19.
  • You are not waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test.
  • You agree to comply with all Mountain Trip Alaska Covid-19 specific guidelines and protocols.

The following applies only if all expedition fees are paid by the date they are due:

If Mountain Trip cancels your expedition due to External Cancellation factors resulting from coronavirus more than 90 days prior to the Team Meeting date, Mountain Trip will credit 100% of your paid expedition fees toward a future program with Mountain Trip or refund all monies paid except for the non-refundable administrative fee.

If Mountain Trip cancels your expedition due to External Cancellation factors resulting from coronavirus 90 days or less prior to the Team Meeting date, Mountain Trip will credit 75% of your paid expedition fees toward a future program with Mountain Trip or refund 50% of your expedition fee.

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 for which you are responsible.

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 of the “What’s Included” tab. 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 providing Mountain Trip staff and guides with an accurate representation of your fitness level, climbing ability and the condition of your personal equipment.
  • You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb. Climbers joining scheduled expeditions are responsible for carrying his or her portion of group loads, and to contribute to camp construction and the day-to-day team work.

For the 2022 Denali climbing season, you are required to sign a Covid-19 Declaration stating all of the following:

  • You are fully vaccinated against the Covid-19.
  • You are not displaying any symptoms of Covid-19.
  • You are not waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test.
  • You agree to comply with all Mountain Trip Alaska Covid-19 specific guidelines and protocols.

While on the expedition, team members are responsible for maintaining 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 onboard any aircraft contracted for use in the expedition.

No Guaranteed Outcomes

While it is one of our goals to help every climber on every Mountain Trip expedition reach the summit, Mountain Trip cannot guarantee you will reach the summit. Any number of factors, including weather, conditions encountered on the route, your personal level of fitness or ability, the abilities of your teammate(s) or any number of other circumstances, might result in you and/or your team turning around before reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to any reason associated with mountaineering, such as weather, team dynamics, route conditions, avalanche and rockfall hazard, or due to your lack of fitness or preparation, are not the responsibility of Mountain Trip, and will not result in a refund or a rescheduling of your expedition.

The following is a list of specific required gear for climbing Denali with Mountain Trip. Unless an item is listed as *optional, it is required to participate. Your guides will do a thorough gear check in Alaska prior to departure; any gear or clothing that is not determined to be adequate will need to be replaced at the discretion of the guides. Climbing gear needs to be in good condition. If your helmet is cracked it’s time to buy a new one. Only bring good gear that is in very good condition, as it will all get tested, perhaps to the extreme!

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 your gear fits you well. 7,800′ on Denali is not the place to discover 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.

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. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.

Print Equipment

Footwear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
BootiesLightweight down fill booties both work well on expeditions. These are great for camp and tent comfort and allow you extra opportunity to dry out your mountain or ski boots.
Mountaineering Socks3 - 5 pairs of good wool socks. Try a couple of different weights as that will affect the fit of your boot.
OverbootsDouble mountaineering boots require overboots for the potential extreme cold of the upper mountain. We prefer snug fitting neoprene overboots, such as the ones from 40 Below. Overboots are required for the La Sportiva Spantik and G2 SM boots, but not the Olympus Mons.
Custom InsoleA custom insole can help fine tune the fit of your boot, support your feet. A good fitting boot will be warmer and prevent blisters.
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. Remember "double" boots require overboots! With "triple" boots it is all built in.

Recommended Triple Boots: La Sportiva OLYMPUS MONS EVO, Millet Everest, Scarpa PHANTOM 8000

Recommended Double Boots: La Sportiva SPANTIK or G2 SM, Boreal G1 Lite
All double boots

GaitersGaiters are required unless your pants fit tightly around your boot, many boots have built in gaiters.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Expedition Down ParkaThis is an important layer so don't skimp! You do not need the heaviest 8000meter parka for peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, but you should have a warm, baffled parka with a hood.
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers. Long sleeve or short sleeve base layers work well.
Light Fleece HoodyLight/mid weight fleece (or wool) top with a hood. You will wear this over your light weight base layer.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece hoody and wind shell, and it is often layered underneath your expedition parka. Synthetic is easier to deal with and not worry about getting wet than a similar down filled layer. A hood on this layer in mandatory! *** Guides Tip! Use two lightweight puffy layers in the early season or if you are worried about being cold. A Micro or Nano Puff jacket with a Ultra Light Down Jacket or Vest allows versatile layering options.
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your light puffy jacket layer. You do not need the burliest/heaviest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions.
Soft Shell Wind JacketMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. We are huge fans of very lightweight softshell wind jackets for high, dry, cold peaks. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. This layer is used in addition to your more waterproof hard shell jacket.
Vest (optional)A lightweight down or synthetic filled vest can be a nice addition and add some warmth with little weight. This is an optional layer for most climbers.
Sun Hoody (optional)A Sun Hoody is a great lightweight layer to help protect you from the intense UV at high altitude. It's a go-to layer for our guides, as it both keeps the sun off your skin and helps keeps you cool. Highly recommended, but **OPTIONAL

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Bottoms(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers.
Light Fleece BottomsAs the air thins and the wind picks up, you'll want a bit more insulation on your legs. This should be a slightly warmer layer that can go over your base layer bottoms when it gets cold.
Soft Shell PantsSoft Shell pants are the workhorse on Denali, you'll be wearing these day in and day out on most expeditions. 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 PantsWhen it's raining a soft shell pant just isn't enough and you'll need a waterproof "hard shell" pant, Gore-Tex or equivalent. These should be as light weight as possible, fully separating side zippers will help to get them on without taking off your boots. 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.
Puffy Insulated Expedition PantsOn summit day or on a cold morning, you will need a warm layer that can go over your baselayers and softshell pants. This layer should be down or synthetic (ie. Primaloft) filled and must have fully separating side zippers. Practice putting these puffy pants 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.

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.
Medium Weight GlovesA Mid-weight glove will generally be a softshell type glove with some light synthetic insulation.
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.
60 Second GlovesVery light weight, liner-style gloves have earned the nickname "60 Second Gloves" on cold mountains, because you can wear them under your mittens to provide a modicum of protection for briefly pulling your hands from your mitts in order to perform tasks like clipping ropes through carabiners. Choose the lightest synthetic or Merino wool gloves you can find, and consider them to be somewhat disposable, as they are not generally very durable.
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. 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.
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 BUFF 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 GlassesGood, dark (Category 4) glacier glasses are a must for high altitude climbs. They must have side protection and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays.
Ski GogglesThese are necessary for use while traveling during storms or during really cold and windy weather. These must have double lenses and provide full UV protection. Fogging is a real challenge, so goggles that actively vent are worth the investment. Julbo's Aerospace or Airflux have a slick venting system or Smith makes battery-powered "Turbo Fan" models. 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.
Nose GuardBeko makes nice nose protectors that keep the wind and sun from wreaking havoc on your skin.

Sleeping Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Denali Sleeping BagA good Denali sleeping bag should be down filled and rated between -20 F (-29C) to -40 F (-40C). If you sleep cold, consider the warmer bag. A Down filled sleeping bag is required, synthetic bags are not acceptable. Sleeping bag systems or over bags are generally a compromise and not recommended. Mountain Equipment makes some of the best down bags on the market, but can be hard to find in the US. Contact our friends at Jagged Edge in Telluride for custom orders!
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.
Compression Stuff SackGranite Gear, Outdoor Research and others are all 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.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Backpack for ExpeditionsDenali and Mount Vinson climbs require a larger capacity pack than do most other expeditions. Climbers need to have a pack with a minimum volume of 85 liters, and bigger is better for most climbers. You'll need enough capacity to carry all your personal gear, plus your share of the group food and equipment.
Large Zippered DuffelYou'll want an XL sized (90 – 100L) duffel for your expedition. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work fine, although water resistant bags like the Patagonia Black Hole Bag 100L are nice for their toughness to weight ratio. A quality duffel bag can work for a sled bag on Denali, a mule bag on Aconcagua and a great all around travel bag.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Ski / Trekking PolesAdjustable poles work great and are easier to travel with as they fit better in your duffel bag. 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.
AscenderYou need one full-sized ascender such as the Petzl Ascension to clip into the fixed lines on the route, and to use for crevasse rescue applications.
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.
Alpine 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.
Locking CarabinersBring three locking carabiners. Screwgate or auto-locking 'biners work equally well, although the new magnetic gate versions seem like they might be less prone to freezing closed. Select light weight carabiners.
Accessory/Prussik Cord25-30 feet of 6mm-7mm accessory cord will be used to create a prussik, rig your ascender, and extra for setting up your sled for glacier travel. We will go over this in our pre-trip training.
Climbing HelmetMake certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. The super-lightweight foam helmets are great, but can get crushed in your duffel bags during travel, so protect your lid!
CramponsSelect a pair 12-point Mountaineering Crampons that fit your boots well. Step-in or strap versions work equally well; just make sure they fit your mountain boots and overboots. You may need to lengthen your crampons to accommodate your overboots, please make sure you can make this adjustment in the field. Aluminum crampons are not acceptable for expeditions.
Primary Attachment Locking CarabinerFor your primary attachment to the rope, we will us a "triple action" locking carabiner. Triple Action (TriAct) carabiners will not come unlocked while you are traveling on the glacier. You only need one of these carabiners.
Double Length Runner (48″)Double Length (48") runner. Nylon runners are pretty versatile and utilitarian. For glacier trips they can be used as a chest harness. For technical climbs (Carstensz Pyramid, rock climbing trips in Colorado) please bring 2.

Glacier Travel

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
SnowshoesSelect lightweight snowshoes for your trip in a 22-28 inch length. The addition of a heel riser is welcome when ascending steeper hills, but is not necessary. You won't need optional, add-on tails, which add length to some models. We rent high quality MSR snowshoes, please contact the office to reserve!

Other

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
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.
Cache BagA cache bag is just a very large stuff sack 30 liter+ capacity. Do not being a river trip-style drybag for this purpose, but rather a lightweight stuff sack made from coated nylon or Sil Nylon. Your cache bag stuff sack needs to be large enough to contain your down parka, pants, overboots, summit mitts, and a bit of other gear.
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.
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 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.
Insulated Cup or MugA 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 SpoonA 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 ScreenSmaller 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.
P-BottleWide-mouth, collapsible Nalgene Cantenes work great- they make a 96 ounce version, which will come in handy during long storms or if you take Diamox. Ladies- look for an appropriate adapter available at your local outdoors store. These items can both be tough to find in Anchorage so plan ahead!
Toiletry KitTooth brush & paste, dental floss, Handi-wipes (1 per day on average), a small bottle of hand sanitizer, perhaps some foot powder… keep it small!!!
Toilet PaperDepending on your technique, you'll want 1-2 rolls, each packed in a quality zip-lock bag.
Personal Medical KitMountain Trip's guides will have fairly comprehensive medical kits developed by our Medical Director, but we encourage each climber to bring a small, personal kit. Items to consider bringing include: blister treatment and prevention, pain relievers, and antacids. Presctiption medications should be based on consultation with your personal physician. Suggested drugs for altitude expeditions include: Diamox (acetazolomide) 125 mg, Decadron (dexamthazone) 4 mg, Nifedipine XR 30 mg, and a couple of antibiotics for respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
Journal (and pencil)Expeditions can be a great time for reflection and a journal can be a nice way to wax poetic or just keep track of what you did each day. Keep it small and leave the leather bound version at home.
Book(s) or E-ReaderThere is a lot of "down time" on an expedition, even when you have good weather. An expedition can be a good time to catch up on reading!
CameraSmall, light weight point and shoot cameras are most popular among climbers. Be sure to bring extra memory and batteries!
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.
MapsOur guides will have maps and/or GPS devices, but a good map can be fun to have along.
LighterYour guides will have plenty of lighters, but it is nice to have one lighter per tent, as cord always needs to be cut and melted.
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!
Personal Music/Video DeviceiPhones or iPods and the like are really nice on a long trip. Consider how you will keep it charged, and bring whatever is necessary to keep you in time to the beat.
Satellite Tracking/Texting DeviceSatellite linked devices such as the Garmin inReach have been increasingly popular, as you can send and receive text messages with it. Again- consider how you will keep it powered over the course of your expedition. These new devices will allow you to send and receive text messages nearly anywhere in the world! It is a fun way to keep in touch with the family and let them follow along on your journey. They are not required, and Mountain Trip guides carry several forms of communication devices including satellite based communications that we can use in case of an emergency situation.
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
Solar Panel/Battery *optionalIf you are planning to charge your iPhone, inReach, or other electronics on the expedition you will need a good, small solar panel. We recommend using the panel to charge a battery and then charging your devices from the battery. This is definitely some extra weight, so keep it light and maybe share a panel and battery with your tentmate!
Pee FunnelThis is a women's specific tool for expeditions and winter trips that gives women the ability to pee standing up like men. This also creates a little more privacy and protection from the elements when on a rope team. We prefer this hard-sided version.
  • May 8 – 31
  • May 11 – June 3
  • May 14 – June 6
  • May 18 – June 10
  • May 22 – June 14
  • May 26 – June 18
  • May 29 – June 21
  • June 2 – 25
  • June 5 – 28
  • June 9 – July 2
  • June 15 – July 8 SKI ascent
  • June 18 – July 11 SKI ascent
  • June 20 – July 13
  • June 22 – July 15
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