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Denali

Alaska United States

  • Duration: 25 days
  • Climbs and Mountains
  • Extreme
  • Year round

About this Adventure

The highest mountain in North America. It’s in Alaska, and well over 6000m / 20,000 feet - and that means cold. One of the coldest high mountains on earth. It’s also very massive. Many know it from the famous Ansel Adams image: Wonder Lake in the foreground, a vast glistening expanse of snow and rock, making the mountains round it look like mere pimples. Also called McKinley after an early 20th-century President, the mountain is more often referred to by its Native American name: Denali

Quick Facts

  • Highest Summit in North America: one of the Seven Summits
  • aka Mt. McKinley
  • Altitude 6194m
  • Fully guided
  • Includes spectacular Air Taxi ride over Alaskan glaciers
  • 25 day trip
  • Takes the famous West Buttress route

More Information

This route takes the West Buttress, first climbed in 1950 by Dr. Bradford Washburn. It holds few technical challenges, but is a very serious undertaking nevertheless. Denali is a big mountain, offering a mountain experience more like scaling a Himalayan giant. Managing the physical endurance, altitude, Arctic cold and storms, make it a remarkable challenge. Success is dependent on members having a good level of fitness and the ability to load carry on consecutive days.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Flight to Anchorage: Arrival same day from the UK

Day 2 - Preparations: Team brief and equipment check. We have time to relax and explore Anchorage.

Day 3 - Drive to Talkeena: We drive 3 hours to Talkeetna, where we will register with the National Park Service.

Day 4 - Fly to Kahiltna Glacier Airstrip: Weather permitting; we fly into the Kahiltna Glacier with the Air Taxi. There will be an on-glacier expedition brief that will familiarise you with glacier travel, rope work and crevasse rescue. Base camp will be on the Kahiltna Glacier at 2134m.

Day 5 - Load Carry to Camp 1: Carry supplies to Camp 1 2368m, near the junction with the NE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This is a steady climb and easy angled. It’s about 9 miles for the round-trip and is a good shakedown for the upcoming days. During the expedition we will progressively acclimatise by moving high up the mountain with loads and returning to sleep at lower altitude.

Day 6 - Move to Camp 1: We move any remaining supplies up the mountain and establish Camp 1.

Day 7 - Load carry to Camp 2: We climb with loads up ‘Ski Hill’ to the Kahiltna Pass. Depending on conditions and the teams form we will establish camp at altitudes between 2743m & 3353m. This is a moderately difficult carry with over 1000m of ascent. We return to Camp 1 for the night.

Day 8 - Move to Camp 2: Today we move our tents and establish Camp 2 near the Kahiltna Pass at 3414m at the bottom of Motorcycle Hill.

Day 9 - Back Carry: Today is an ‘active’ rest day during which we drop back down and pick up the cache of food and equipment for further up the mountain.

Day 10 - Onto the West Buttress: We continue carrying loads up and around Windy Corner 4054m. There is some steeper snow to climb on Motorcycle Hill, but the rewards are spectacular views. As we climb the loads on the sleds are lighter but the air is correspondingly thinner. Depending on the conditions we may decide to leave the sleds behind before Windy Corner as it can be difficult to negotiate with them. We return to Camp 2.

Day 11 - Move up to Medical Camp: Depending on conditions and the teams’ acclimatisation we will move up to Camp 3. This will be at either 3962m or we will continue to 4359m. This can be a hard day, but our goal will be the large camp at 4359 which is the site of the Ranger Service Medical Camp and forms the main springboard for summit attempt. The camp is busy with main teams preparing their summit bid.

Day 12 - Back Carry: We will descend to the Windy Corner cache and do a back carry, bring everything up to Camp 3 at 4359m. Later in the day there is an option to rope up and take a short walk to ‘The Edge of the World’ He are spectacular views of the West Rib of Denali and the North East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, known as the ‘The Death Valley’ for obvious reasons!

Day 13 - Carry cache to ridge: Given good conditions we will climb up the headwall to the ridge. Here we Cache supplies and return to 4359m. This will be a valuable acclimatisation day and place supplies in a strategic position for the summit attempt. Climbing up the headwall on a fixed line from 4724m to 4907m with a heavy pack is one of the most strenuous days of the expedition.

Day 14 - Rest Day: We take a rest day prior to moving up to High Camp.

Day 15 - Establish High Camp: We move to High Camp, re-climbing the headwall to the ridge and continuing along the ridge after collecting our suppliers from the ridge cashe. The ridge is exposed and airy, as we weaving round rock towers to reach the relative shelter of the High Camp at 5245m.

Day 16 - Rest Day: Moving to 5245m and getting High Camp established can be a huge day, so we usually take a rest day before attempting the summit.

Day 17 - Summit Day: If the weather is favourable, we'll make the summit push. Leaving very early we make a long raising traverse to Denali pass at 5486m. The route follows past Archdeacons Tower and a short descent to the Football Field. The final section follows a final ridge to the Summit. The views are spectacular down to the Ruth Glacier and fine views of Mt Huntington. The Summit day round trip can take from 8 to 12 hours depending on the team’s fitness and should not to be underestimated.

Days 18-20 - Spare Weather Days: These days will be used up at some point during the expedition due to bad weather, when the team will be unable to move on the mountain.

Days 21-22 - Descent: The descent from High Camp will take from one to two days. Weather permitting we will fly out to Talkeetna for a welcome shower and fine food at the West Rib and perhaps a beer!

Day 23 - Talkeena to Anchorage: Return to Anchorage. Days 24-25: Return. Return international flights.

Please note: This itinerary is a guide only. It can be subject to change dependent upon viability, course members' fitness, weather conditions or for any other reason the guide may deem necessary.

Charity Information

Want to do this challenge for charity?

Pay a £199 deposit and confirm with your charity their minimum fundraising requirements for the balance. This will typically be double the cost of the adventure, less the registration fee. For more details of how fundraising works please read our step by step guide here or contact us for help.

Inclusions

  • Two nights' twin room hotel accommodation in Anchorage on arrival, including breakfast.
  • Return transportation between Anchorage and Talkeetna (surcharge may apply if group size is less than 4)
  • The glacier flight from and return to Talkeetna.
  • All group equipment.
  • All meals while on the climb (breakfast, lunch and evening meal).
  • National Park Service climbing surcharge
  • Park entrance fee
  • Mountain Guide fees.

Exclusions

  • International flights. These can be supplied upon request. Please enquire regarding current pricing
  • Any extra nights' accommodation in Anchorage at the end of the expedition (including those due to flight delays).
  • Accommodation in Talkeetna (if required).
  • Additional costs for return trip from Talkeetna if group size is less than 4.
  • All meals in Anchorage and Talkeetna except for the two breakfasts included in Anchorage.
  • Personal equipment.
  • Travel insurance.

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