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Denali

Tips on climbing Denali

                 

 

 
Detailed information Denali is in the Denali National park and the government has made an excellent booklet about everything you need to know about climbing Denali. The booklet can be found online here. Please read this booklet carefully and do not underestimate the climb. Following is an abstract of the booklet to give you a quick overview with additions from us, but do read the booklet as well if you are serious about climbing Denali and your safety.
Visa & permits, Rules & regulations:  None required for entering the USA as a tourist from most countries, check your local American Embassy for details; 

You do need a permit to climb Denali, which should be applied for 60 days in advance: 

  • Registration: (more detailed info here)The following is mandatory for Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker: Each expedition member must register with the Talkeetna Ranger Station at least 60 days in advance. The group's forms (download a PDF version here) should all be sent together. Since the rangers deal with over 300 expeditions each year, each party must have a distinct name which should be used on all correspondence. Registration forms are available from the Talkeetna Ranger Station, or download a PDF version here.
  • A Mountaineering Special Use Fee of U$D200 will be charged to each expedition member attempting Mount McKinley or Mount Foraker.

    This fee is paid in two installments as follows:
    DEPOSIT - A non-refundable, nontransferable deposit of $25 U.S. currency is due when you submit your completed registration form. Payment for this deposit may be made by money order, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover credit card. Personal checks will not be accepted as payment.
    BALANCE - The remaining balance of $175 U.S. currency will be due when you check in at the Talkeetna Ranger Station. Payment for the remaining balance may be made by money order, US currency, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover credit card. Personal checks will not be accepted as payment. Additionally the $10 national park fee will be charged.

  • Check In: All Denali and Mt. Foraker climbers must stop by the Talkeetna Ranger Station for an orientation and briefing prior to their departure for their expedition. This briefing will include information about sanitary practices and current weather, avalanche and glacier conditions. All other backcountry users should register and attend the orientation. Backcountry permits are required for any overnight use on the northside and can be obtained at the Backcountry Desk located in the Denali Visitor Center.
  • Check Out: Upon your return from the mountains you must immediately check out with the Talkeetna Ranger Station.
    Garbage: EVERYTHING taken into the park must be brought out of the backcountry when you leave. Do not leave any permanent caches on the mountain. Abandoning surplus food, fuel, wands, and other equipment in caches or disposing it in crevasses is prohibited. By regulation, all garbage must be carried off and taken out of the park. KEEP THE MOUNTAIN CLEAN
  • Human Waste: Follow the instructions provided by rangers on proper human waste disposal. Use pit toilets where provided. Elsewhere, biodegradable bags are used for latrines. Plan on bringing additional bags for this use. Citations are given for improper disposal of garbage and human waste - more on human waste disposal...
  • Guiding: If you plan to climb with a guide, make sure the guide is authorized to operate within Denali National Park and Preserve. There are seven guide service companies authorized to provide this service. If you have questions about your guide, please call the Talkeetna Ranger Station. Unauthorized guiding is illegal and your climb could be cancelled at any time. Fines can be imposed and criminal charges will be brought against the unauthorized guides.

Note from 7summits.com: To clarify: it is completely allowed to go on an unguided expedition, but when you take a guide along, it must be one from the companies below. This is a monopolized situation with clear price agreements and you will therefore have to pay $4500 and up for their services.

Authorized  guide services Alaska Mountaineering School
Alaska-Denali Guiding
P.O. Box 566, 3rd Street
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-1016
Fax: (907) 733-1362
email: climbing@alaska.net

www.climbalaska.org


Alpine Ascents International
121 Mercer St.
Seattle, WA
Phone: (206) 378-1927
Fax: (206) 378-1937
email: climb@alpineascents.com

www.alpineascents.com 


N.O.L.S.
P.O. Box 981
Palmer, AK 99645
Phone: (907) 745-4047
Fax: (907) 745-6069
email: admissions@nols.edu

www.nols.edu  

American Alpine Institute
1515 12th Street
Bellingham, WA 98825
Phone: (360) 671-1505
Fax: (360) 734-8890
email: info@aai.cc

www.mtnguide.com 

Mountain Trip
P.O. Box 111809
Anchorage, AK 99511
Phone: (907) 345-6499
Fax: (907) 345-6499

mttrip@aol.com

www.mountaintrip.com

 

Rainier Mountaineering
P.O. Box Q
Ashford, WA 98304
Phone: (360) 569-2227
Fax: (360) 569-2982
email: info@rmiguides.com

www.rmiguides.com 

Climbing Seasons Snow and weather conditions for climbing major Alaska Range peaks are usually best from May through July. Colder minimum temperatures and strong northwest winds commonly occur in May. Late June and July are warmer but more unsettled. By late July, travel on the lower glaciers is made difficult by melting snow bridges over crevasses and by more inclement weather with heavier snowfall and increased avalanche danger. The highest success rates occur in June. April is an excellent month for many of the lower peaks with conditions often cold and clear while the winter extremes still linger on Denali and Mt. Foraker. The coldest weather on Denali is found from November through April with average temperatures ranging from -30F to -70F recorder at the 19,000 foot level. It is not uncommon to find it -50F at the 17,200 foot camp in early May.

(from the Denali park website)

Addition: Going really late in the season will probably mean that you won't be able to get picked up again as the planes won't be able to land on the exposed glaciers; this means a 10 day walk through the forest!

Acclimatization, minimum time needed for ascent (from the Denali park website) It requires one to two weeks to become well acclimatized to a given altitude on Denali (depending on the individual). Individuals also lose this acclimatization in the course of a few weeks. Talkeetna is close to sea level which is a major disadvantage for someone who has established some acclimatization and is waiting to fly in. The longer they wait, the more acclimatization is lost. Several days spent high on peaks before your arrival will not be enough to transfer that acclimatization to your climb here. You will lose that acclimatization in transit.

Limit your ascent to 300 meters (1,000 feet) per day at elevations above 3000 meters (10,000 feet). The following schedule is the fastest recommended rate of ascent of the West Buttress given ideal weather. Expeditions should plan on 21 days.

Day 1: Base camp 7200 feet (2200 meters)
Day 2: Base of 'Ski Hill' 7900 feet (2400 meters)
Day 3: Upper Kahiltna 9600 feet (2900 meters)
Day 4: Camp 11,000 feet (3350 meters)
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Bergschrund 13,000 feet (3960 meters)
or past Windy Corner 13,500 feet (4115 meters)
Day 7: Basin 14,200 feet (4330 meters)
Day 8 through Day 11: Rest in Basin, acclimatize and carry high sleep low.
Day 12: Move to 16,200 feet (4940 meters) Ridge Camp
or 17,200 feet (5240 meters) High Camp
Day 13: Rest
Day 14: Summit
Many other factors figure into this, including the weight carried, weather, and each member's health. The extra rest days at 14,200 feet (4330 meters) have proven to be critical before ascending higher. Allow 3 to 5 days food and fuel at high camp.

How to get there? How to get to Alaska?

Alaska is the biggest state of the USA and shares its borders with Canada and Russia. The main city is Anchorage, with about a quarter of a million residents. You can get there by plane, boat or via land.

  • Plane
    This is of course the fastest and easiest way to get to Alaska. There are few if any direct flights from abroad, so it is needed to fly to one of the big cities in the west first: Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Francisco are major hubs. Expect to pay from $100 up for a one way ticket from Seattle.
  • Boat
    There are ferries leaving from Prince Rupert, Canada and Bellingham, Washington, but they only go as far as Haines, Alaska because of the dangers of the open sea near Anchorage. From Haines you can continue by car, it's about another 1200 km/ 750 miles. It is beautiful, but expensive (Car + passenger about $750 one way, Passenger only about $250 one way). But even with these steep prices, reservation is needed!
    Call Alaska Marine Highway: 0800-642-0066
  • Car
    One of the most interesting ways to get to Alaska is travel the famous Alaska Highway or Al-Can highway, about 4000km or 2500 miles from Seattle. Although called a highway it will not be you average line of smooth road… Bring extra tires!

How to get to Talkeetna?


From Anchorage you can take the train, bus, shuttle, car or plane to Talkeetna, the base for all Denali climbs. The train is nice but rather expensive, about $80 one way; the same price for a return by a shuttle bus. 

 

The Alaska Railroad
P.O. Box 107500
Anchorage, AK 99510
Phone: (907) 265-2494
Toll Free (800) 544-0552
www.akrr.com

Denali Overland Transportation
P.O. Box 330
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 773-2384
Toll Free: (800) 651-5221
Fax: (907) 733-2385
www.denalioverland.com

Alaska Park Connection
P.O. Box 22-1011
Anchorage, AK 99522
Phone: (907) 245-0200
Toll Free (800) 208-0200

info@alaska-bus.com

Talkeetna Shuttle Service
P.O. Box 468
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-1725
Toll Free: (888) 288-6008
Fax: (907) 733-2222

tshuttle@alaska.net 

 

How to get to Denali?

This is the most fun part; as most people don't have the time to travel through the woods and over the lower glacier they rent a plane and are being dropped off at Base camp! This is an exhilarating trip of about 35 minutes, an adventure in itself! There are several air taxi's who have little price difference.

 

Fly Denali
PO Box 1152
Talkeetna AK, 99676
Phone: 907-733-7768
Toll Free: 866-733-7768
fax: 907-733-2437
email: flydenali@yahoo.com

www.flydenali.com  

 

K-2 Aviation
P.O. Box 545
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-2291
Fax: (907) 733-1221
E-mail: info@flyk2.com 
www.flyk2.com 

Talkeetna Air Taxi
P.O. Box 73
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-2218
Toll Free: (800) 533-2219

Fax: (907) 733-1434
E-mail: info@talkeetnaair.com
www.talkeetnaair.com

 

Hudson Air Service
P.O. Box 648
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-2321
Fax: (907) 733-2333
E-mail:hudson@mtaonline.net
www.hudsonair.com 

 

 
Where to Stay? Anchorage

In Anchorage there are several hotels and B&B's, depending on the size of your wallet; we checked out the International Backpackers Hostel, which is about $15 pppn (but the taxi might cost $20), but both the caretaker and the other guests (no climbers) were completely bonkers and we didn't feel safe enough to leave our gear out of sight! It is also away from the city center. 

There is also a youth hostel downtown, but we haven't visited that one yet as it is only open from May 15.  Any comments about them from other climbers are welcome!

A much better place to go is the Earth Bed and Breakfast: The B&B is run by Margriet & Bill and it is a great home for climbers, both before and after the climb. There is a spacious garden where you can organize your stuff before the trip and there is a nice living room and breakfast (included) table where you can relax and exchange stories afterwards.
It is just a few minutes of walking to the heart of Anchorage; Margriet speaks Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, French and English fluently! Don't forget to ask Bill (who is a professional guide and can organise really cool trips for you!) about this crazy Iditasport race, many hundreds of miles through Alaska, in the winter, on a mountain bike!
It costs about $40 pppn, including breakfast and shower/bath, depending on the season and room; For more info call Margriet van Laake: 1001 W. 12th Avenue Anchorage, Alaska 99501; Phone 1-907-279-9907 Fax 1-907-279-9862 Email: earthtrs@alaska.net or check out their site!


Talkeetna: 

Use the bunkhouse of the Talkeetna Air Taxi (free of charge when you book their airtaxi) or just camp outside their buildings for free. AMS has a campground in Talkeetna.

There is also a hostel with rooms and bunks in Talkeetna: http://www.akhostel.com/ 

Denali: Hey, what are you coming for! You can camp anywhere on the mountain, but not spots are safe... bring your crevasse probe!

Food and drinks: Salmon is what the bears eat, and so can you! Beware: you cannot bring Freeze-dried meat into the country! Only commercially canned meat and meatless freeze-dried food can be brought in!

There is no need to bring fuel, the air taxis are not allowed to fly passengers and fuel at the same time, so they stock plenty of fuel in the basecamp. You can pay the air taxi, get dropped off and pick up the fuel when you land at the glacier.

Vaccinations: One good thing about climbing is a western country is that no needles are needed in your behind.
Politics and other hazards: Although some people are still paranoid about the Russian border being close, this is probably one of the safest areas in the world. There are some native groups protesting against the taking and abusing of their land (oil), but nothing violent.
Language:  If you understand this sentence, you won't have a problem, although on Denali you will many other tongues as well.
Money:  US $ (as on the other 6 summits…). Alaska is very expensive, even for US standards, so bring plenty..