The seven summits, the highest peaks of the 7 continents: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson, Carstensz! Trips, Statistics & information!
Back to Basecamp... Back to Basecamp...

Denali trips

A typical trip to the Summit of North America, 6194m


West Buttress, introduction:

The West Buttress route can be climbed by anybody with some experience and a good shape, but is a dangerous route and should not be underestimated!

Route and Itinerary

The most commonly used route on the mountain has a high summit rate. The route is mostly non technical, except for the headwall (40-50 degrees ice, fixed ropes in place) and the Denali Pass (30-40 degrees ice, no fixed ropes, we will place protection). The biggest problem on Denali is the weather and the cold: the storms can be brutal, the temperature amongst the lowest on earth (see also the gear list).

Following is an outline of a typical expedition, it's a guideline only as the exact itinerary will be determined on the spot by the team leader as weather, physical shape of the climbers etc can alter the schedule. If there is no wind, the temperatures are actually quite high and therefore you will possibly travel at night and sleep during the day. If the weather is bad, you will stay on one spot longer and try to do exercises or just read and acclimatize...

Also, before 11,000ft camp there are a few spots where camps are usually made, but there are also endless opportunities to make a safe camp in between, so  might make in between camps or skip camps , depending on the situation. Climbing Denali is all about adapting to the circumstances, you have plenty of days to do everything safely.

you will travel on snowshoes for safer travel (less chance of plunging through a snow bridge) and will be roped up, wearing your harness.


Day # Activity
1 Arrive in Anchorage. Group meeting and briefing. Spend the night in Anchorage, B&B included.
2 Private Shuttle Anchorage - Talkeetna in the morning. Arrive in Talkeetna, check in with your bush pilot service. Also check in with the National Park Service, attend their briefing and questioning about your climb and finish paying for your climbing permits ($150 per climber). Sort your gear in preparation for travel to the Kahiltna Glacier via bush plane. If the weather is good you will leave the same evening for Denali Basecamp, a great trip! Check in with the basecamp manager, get your reserved fuel and sleds and make camp for the night, basecamp, 7200ft.
3 Pack up camp, make a small cache for your return (some food and stuff you brought but did not need after all :-).  you fix our gear on your sleds and leave for camp I with all our gear. If you arrive from Talkeetna today you get your sleds and fuel and leave for camp I as well.  The first part is actually going down (Heartbreak Hill), this is the place where most expeditions give up! Your sled will annoy you as it tries to go down before you are ready to do the same... Sleep in Camp I, 7800ft
4 Carry excess food up "Ski Hill" to a 9700ft cache, return to camp
5 Move the rest to 9700ft camp, sleep there.
6 Carry all your stuff to 10,000 or 11,000 camp, depending on strength of group and conditions
7 Rest day, relax, read and enjoy the view, start sorting gear for tomorrow
8 Carry to 13,500 camp, around Windy corner and return to 11,000 camp for rest. This is a hard day as you will feel the effects of altitude when ascending Motorcycle hill and the weather can be harsh near Windy corner. Probably you will be leaving your snowshoes behind if it's icy and continue with crampons.
9 Rest or move to 13,500 or 14,200 camp. Depending on the conditions encountered yesterday and the results on your general well-being you rest or move up. you can move up to your cache at 13,500 (small camp) or continue past the cache to Medical camp, 14,200ft. This is also called Medical camp as there are medics and rangers here.
10 Rest day or pick up cache at 13,500ft
11 Rest day, maybe an afternoon hike to "The edge of the world", a rock near the edge of a 300ft cliff with great views of your route so far and Mt Foraker.
12 Rest day, acclimatize, sort gear for your summit attempt.
13 Acclimatization hike and cache to 16,200. Here you ascend the "Headwall" a 40-50 degrees slope, where fixed lines and Jumars are being used to ascend. This is a hard day as the altitude will kick in... If you get to the top of the headwall, you will cache some food, fuel and gear for your summit attempt.
14 Rest day, acclimatize, sort gear for your summit attempt.
15 Move to High camp, 17,200 ft. you climb the fixed ropes again, pick up some of the cached food and fuel and continue along the '17k ridge' towards the 17,200 ft basin where you will camp. This is one of the hardest and most beautiful sections with amazing views and golden photo opportunities...
16 Rest day, if the conditions are perfect and everybody is fit you might do a summit attempt, but most likely you will need an acclimatization day. Pick up rest of cache at 16,200 and return to 17,200
17 Summit day! On the longest day of the year you will see with your own eyes that Denali is the highest point and that the sun never sets.. 17,200 - 20,320 - 17,200: you start traversing towards Denali pass, a dangerous stretch and you will use running belays. On Denali pass (18,200) you turn towards the slope that slowly leads up towards Archdeacons Tower at 19,650ft and the summit plateau aptly named the "football field". Here you ascend the last wall towards Kahiltna Horn and continue traversing along a very narrow summit ridge towards the highest point of North America! As the sun does not really set these weeks you can climb whenever the time is right: morning, afternoon or evening, whenever the weather allows us. you will celebrate on the summit, depending on the conditions, shoot your pictures or even make a call if possible. you will not stay too long, as the return journey needs your full attention.
18 Extra summit day, depending on the weather
19 Extra summit day, depending on the weather
20 Extra summit day, depending on the weather
21 Extra summit day, depending on the weather
22 (or the day after returning from the summit) Descend to the 14,200 ft Basin camp or to 11,000ft camp, depending on conditions
23 Descend to 7,200 Basecamp, check in with the basecamp manager and try to arrange a flight back to Talkeetna. Depending on the weather you either dig up your cache and stuff it in your backpacks and fly out, or dig the cache up and eat it!
24 Extra flight day in case of bad weather: fly to Talkeetna, shower at the Laundromat, eat  Denali Pizza, celebrate until late at the Fairview Inn! Stay in bunkhouse in Talkeetna.
25 Shuttle from Talkeetna - Anchorage, eat in Town, sleep in B&B, If you summit early you will arrive back in Anchorage earlier
26 Wake up in Anchorage, enjoy breakfast, say goodbye to your new friends, fly home 


Gear List:

You should bring the following personal gear (+ clothing for the city and bar...):


 Clothing, Denali:  Camping gear
4-6 pr Socks, Mountaineering/ Expedition
few pr Socks, Liner
1 pr Double-plastic Boots, (Scarpa Inverno or similar) 
1 pr Overboots (Brooks ranger, 40 Below, K2-Superlight)
1 Long Underwear Set, Lightweight synthetic
1 Long Underwear Set, Mid-weight synthetic
1 Long Underwear Set, Expedition synthetic 1 thin fleece sweater (optional: windstopper jacket)
1 thick fleece or down Vest
1 Jacket, Gore-Tex Shell
1 Down Parka with compression sack
1 Pant or Bib, Gore-Tex Shell
1 fleece pant (Down pant additional for in camp if you get cold easily)
1 Balaclava/facemask, windproof
1 Neck Gaiter
1 Mittens, Down, Dry-loft shell or similar system (fleece mittens with Gore-tex shell will also do)
1 Glove Shell, Gore-Tex
1 Glove, Fleece, Windstopper
2 pr Glove Liner
1 Cap/Hat, Sun
1 Bandana
1 Backpack, Expedition size (6,000+ cu in)
2 Duffel Bags, Large; low weight or waterproof is preferred 
2 Locks
Nalgene 1L Water Bottle with insulator 1 3l camelbag, preferably insulated
1 Water bottle insulator
1 Pee Bottle, about a liter, wide opening.
1 Sleeping Bag (-20 dg F, -30dg C or better)
1 Sleeping Bag Liner
1 Compression bag (for sleeping bag)
1 Therma-Rest or similar self inflating Sleeping Pad, 3/4 or full length (weight!)
1 Z-Rest or similar closed cell pad, full length; thi sis additional to the Thermarest!
1 Therma-Rest Seat Kit or light camp seat
 1 Bivy Sack
Assorted stuff sacks and waterproof (trash) bags for caching.
Climbing gear  General stuff
1Pickel/Axe, Glacier
1 Pair Crampons, 10 point minimum, must fit your boots with/without over boots, bring adjustment tool if needed.
1 short prussik rope (1m/3ft), 4 long prussik ropes (for rescue and sleds)
1 Ascender, Jumar or Petzl Tibloc
3 Locking Karabiner, at least one of them an HMS 1 Long Sling, 6 foot
1 short sling, 3 foot 

4 Karabiners (1 quickdraw and 2 biners), wiregate or similar
1 Climbing Harness
1 Pulley, for rescue
1 Pair of snowshoes. Must fit your boots and must have crampons or be able to use your own crampons (for example Grivel Violinos (lightweight)) 
1 Pair adjustable trekking poles

Glasses: 1 glacier Glasses, with nose guard, Cebe or similar
1 Pr. Sunglasses, Cebe or similar (glacier strength: 4000)
1 ski goggles, double lens to avoid fogging

Cooking/Eating Gear
1 Mug, Insulated w/top
1 Bowl
1 Spoon, Titanium or hard plastic
2 Lighters
Personal spices

Repair Kits/Spares
1 Therma-Rest Repair kit
1 Camera Battery, Lithium or solar charger
Personal Stuff  Personal medication/food/snacks/drinks
1 Sunscreen, spf 23+
1 Lip Balm, moisturizing for ski/mountaineering
1 Leatherman, swiss army knife or similar
1 charged Cellular phone if you have a subscription that works in Denali park 1-2 charged spare batteries for phone
1 Altimeter watch
1 Compass (besides the one on your watch)
Toiletries 1 Journal & pen
Camera and extra, extra film :-) 

3 Rolls Toilet Paper, Wash/Wipes

Kleenex for cleaning glasses etc.


Personal medication; if you insist on using diamox, you will have to take it yourself; bring plenty of aspirin or similar. 2 emergency chemical Heat pads 30 Anti-acid pills 25 multivitamin pills emergency blanket 

Snacks: 1-2 candybars per day, snickers, twix, powerbars, peanut crunch etc; also powergels and other high calorie stuff. Test them at home and while under physical stress. Taste is important! 

Drinks: caffeine is bad for your acclimatization. Herbal tea is therefore preferred. we will not bring coffee, if you cannot live without your kick, please bring instant coffee Bring powdered energy drinks for at least the 10 'active' days (Isostar)

Group gear
Kitchen Sets w/spices, Pot Lifters
1 10-Liter Pot (melting snow for water) 
Dragon-fly Stoves 

Food for all days
Fuel Fuel Bottles
Expedition Tents
Tent poles & stakes
Tent repair kit
Pole repair sleeve
General purpose repair kit 

Pickets, ice screws, extra slings Shovels & Snow saws 

Crevasse probing pole

alarm Clock


Tie-wraps, plastic
Sewing kit
Duct Tape
Denali Guide Book 

Radio Transceivers (CB radio) 

First Aid Kit 

Sleds Wands for marking caches and trails

Recommended viewing:

Please see the Video/DVD page here for a review of the instructional video for Denali.

Recommended reading:

See the 7summits books page: Reading the Denali books and the instruction books such as Mountaineering: the freedom of the hills will prepare you for the Denali trip. Below are some direct links to the most important books.


Book cover

Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue4.5 out of 5 stars
by Andy Selters. The bible of glacier travel; The Herald - Everett, WA: "Nothing is better than taking a class at the glacier, or learning one-on-one from an expert, but GLACIER is the next best thing."

Back Country Magazine "This superb primer is now larger and sports new photos and excellent drawings that illustrate the technical aspects of travel in glacier country."
(Reviews of this book available at

Mountaineering : The Freedom of the Hills by Don Graydon (Editor), Kurt Hanson (Editor), MountaineersSociety

Everything you need! This updated edition of the mountaineering classic is an essential reference for novices and experts alike. Chapters are devoted to in-depth discussions of outdoors fundamentals; climbing techniques for rock, snow, and ice; safety procedures and emergency response; geology and weather; and appendices for climb ratings and supplementary reading, among other topics. Detailed sections on navigation, ropes, knots, and protection include drawings, diagrams, and maps. Enjoy the freedom of the hills to the fullest with this thorough guide.

Paperback - 528 pages 6th Rev edition (October 1997)4.9 out of 5 stars
Mountaineers Books; ISBN: 0898864275 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.47 x 9.03 x 7.29

Denali's West Buttress: A Climber's Guide to Mount McKinley's Classic Route By Colby Combs, photography by Bradford Washburn; the ultimate guide to the normal Route! Before, during and after climbing the West Buttress (normal) route, this was my bible. Don't leave home without it!

(5 out of 5 starsrating at Amazon)

Denali Climbing Guide  by R. J. Secor contains all the possible Denali routes you can think of, with some general info, For experienced Denali climbers who want more than the West Buttress. Contains B&W photos and  sketches. 

From Amazon (4.5 out of 5 starsrating):

Mount McKinley: The Conquest of Denali
by Bradford Washburn & David Roberts, (4.5 out of 5 starsrating at Amazon.)

 I met Brad Washburn in Boston in 2000 (93 years old) and he is still going strong. This book contains some of the best mountain photographs ever made and deserves a reserved spot on your coffee table! In between the pictures is the story about climbing Denali, but every time I wanted to read it, I got caught up in the pix...

Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mt. McKinley
by Art Davidson 

This book makes you think twice before saying the words 'Winter' & 'Denali' in one sentence...

Amazing story of courage and survival, but also a good reminder of Denali's power and therefore also a good read before you decide on a 'summer climb'.