Denali Weather and Forecasts for Climbers

The biggest variable that is completely out of your control as a climber, and will make the difference between a safe and successful climb (or an Alaska Range suffer fest), is the weather. There is nothing you can do to change the weather, but with good Denali weather forecasts you can maximize your opportunity to take advantage of good weather windows on the mountain and, more importantly, keep you out of trouble. The weather forecasting in Alaska, and particularly on Denali, is challenging for even the best forecasters. Huge and powerful weather systems coming across the Bering Sea, or warm wet systems coming up from the Gulf of Alaska, smash into the Alaska Range creating dynamic and hard-to-forecast winds and snowfall. Alaska is surrounded by ocean and sits up in the Arctic latitudes, and there just isn’t as much data for the weather models as you will get in the continental U.S.

Weather forecasting on Denali has improved dramatically over the last decade and there are some valuable resources out there, both free National Weather Service forecasts and paid forecasts by mountain weather forecasters. While you’re on the mountain you’ll get the daily radio forecast as announced by the Basecamp Manager. You’ll want an FRS/GMRS radio for the trip and they’ll broadcast on FRS Channel 1 at 8 p.m. every evening. It’s a bit of a radio social hour with the forecast, general announcements, and an evening trivia question where everyone chimes in. Even if you don’t need the forecast, it’s a great opportunity to connect with the community of Denali climbers.

Current Denali Conditions

  • National Park Service Denali Climbing information page. The NPS has compiled some good information, and during the season will do periodic climbing blog updates with information from the mountain.
  • Mountain Trip: Denali Trip Reports. During the season we do daily trip reports from each team on the mountain. This is a good spot to keep track of the movements on the mountain and how teams are progressing.

Denali Weather Forecast Resources

  • National Weather Service Denali Climbers Forecast. The NWS office in Fairbanks, AK publishes a forecast specifically for Denali climbers twice a day during the climbing season. This is a good resource and is the forecast that they will announce on the radio (FRS Channel 1) each night at 8 p.m.
  • Weather 4 Expeditions. This is a paid weather forecasting service by professional mountain weather forecasters. Mountain Trip has used the forecasts from Marc DeKeyser for more than a decade now for our Himalayan programs, including Mount Everest, and for the last five years Marc has been producing weather forecasts for us on Denali. He is the premier weather forecaster for Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, as well as for high-altitude mountaineering in the Himalaya, and is trusted by many guide services and private expeditions.

Denali veterans will always tell you that you need to stick your nose out of the tent and can’t just make decisions based on the weather forecast. The most important thing a good weather forecast can do for you as a climber is to keep you out of trouble. If you know that there is a big storm and high winds coming in 12 hours, don’t move up to High Camp from 14,000 feet. If a storm is coming in, it might not be the day to try to push for the top. Denali isn’t the place to push the weather; it’s a big mountain with a lot of consequences, not the local ski area.

Before you even leave for Alaska, read the forecasts and get familiar with the language they use and have an idea of what’s been happening on the mountain. While you are on the mountain, listen to the daily NWS forecast and consider subscribing to a paid forecast from a professional mountain weather forecaster. Mountain Trip pays for weather forecasts because we think it makes a difference and allows our guides to have the best information available to make the best decisions. It’s a game of marginal gains, but over the course of the climbing season it will make a difference.

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