Denali offers one of the world's greatest expedition challenges. While it is exceeded in elevation by peaks in South America and Asia, its great height above the Alaskan plain make it a severe test of personal strength, team work, and logistics. No peak in the world has greater relief: Denali rises 17,000 feet above its surrounding plain, Kilimanjaro 14,000 feet, and Everest 13,000 feet. Vertical elevation gain on Everest from the normal base camp for the South Col route is 11,000 feet; from the landing spot on the Kahiltna Glacier Denali's summit rises another 13,000 feet.
Our trip begins at Joint Base Lewis McChord and travels to Anchorage where we gather our last minute supplies. From Talkeetna we will fly via fixed wing to the Kahiltna glacier base camp. Over the next fifteen days we will make successive camps up the amazing West Buttress route and attempt a summit on one of the world's seven summits. For those interested in someday climbing in the Himalaya this is a vital step towards that goal. For others this is a major bucket list item. Come see the incredible mountain terrain and experience a trip of your life!
Costs and Dates
Day 1: Meet at Joint Base Lewis McChord. We will do a gear layout and issue individual equipment for the climb. A departure brief and final paperwork will be completed then we will depart for SeaTac international airport. Upon arrival in Anchorage we will gather our baggage and travel to our hotel for the night. We may meet up with others who traveled on their own and have some personal time to pick up final items in Anchorage.
Day 2: Today we will meet after breakfast and travel to Talkeetna to prepare for departure. In Talkeetna our National Park Service brief and final permits will be issued. We will check into a local hotel for the night and pack our gear for transport to the glacier the next day. You will have ample time to explore the wonderful little town that is the gateway to Denali National Park.
Day 3: We will depart Talkeetna on a single engine plane enroute to the Kahiltna Glacier base camp. Once on the ice we will build base camp and prepare our gear for the next days activities.
Day 4: Glacier travel review. We'll carry to our intermediary camp (approximately halfway to the traditional Camp I). This gives us a chance to get an easy start and let you sort out any adjustments in gear and sled-pulling setup. This is important, as we will be pulling sleds for the next eight days.
Day 5: Carry loads to Camp I (7,800 ft.). Snowshoes may be necessary between camps on the lower part of the mountain.
Day 6: Carry loads to cache between 9,800 and 10,000 ft. (Camp II) and return to Camp I. The route this day ascents a slope called "Ski Hill," which flattens out as we approach Camp II.
Day 7: Our carry today depends on snow/weather conditions and how the group is feeling. We'll either ascend back to our cache and camp for the night or continue on to 11,200 ft. (Camp III.) Camp III is located in a small cirque at the base of Motorcycle Hill.
Day 8: We'll carry all our gear to Camp III.
Day 9: We'll carry half our gear up Motorcycle and Squirrel Hill and then traverse a long gradually rising plateau to Windy Corner. We'll continue on around this narrow corner for a few hundred yards to make a cache (at approximately 13,500 ft.) and return to Camp III. This day provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and the northeast fork of Kahiltna Glacier, 4,000 feet below.
Day 10: Move to Camp IV (14,200 ft.).
Day 11: Descend to our cache at 13,500 ft. and carry to Camp IV. This is an easy day as we'll descend 700 ft., pick up our gear, and return to Camp IV.
Day 12: We'll carry loads to 16,500 ft. and return to Camp IV. From Camp III, we'll ascend 1,100 ft. of moderate snow slopes to reach the beginning of the fixed lines. Using ascenders on the lines to self-belay, we'll climb the Headwall, which consists of 900 feet of 45Ã‚Â° to 50Ã‚Â° snow and ice up to the crest of the West Buttress. From there, the climb takes on an entirely different nature with views that fall off in both directions several thousand feet below us.
Day 13: Rest Day at Camp IV.
Day 14: Carry and move to High Camp (Camp V, 17,200 ft.). We'll again ascend the fixed lines and follow the exposed ridge 600 feet up around Washburn's Tower, and on to Camp IV, which we establish on a saddle just above the Rescue Gully. It overlooks Camp IV 3,000 feet below.
Day 15: Rest day. Rest and prepare for the summit attempt.
Day 16: Summit day. We traverse across a steep snow face to Denali Pass. From here, we'll follow gentler slopes to reach Archdeacons Tower and a large plateau at 19,400 ft., known as the "football field." From the plateau, we'll ascend moderate terrain to the crest of the summit ridge, where we'll look down upon the immense 8,000 ft. South Face, with Cassin Ridge and the South Buttress in full view. Once on the summit ridge, excitement grows as we'll climb the last 300 feet to the top of North America. From the summit, we'll have a 360° view of the entire Alaska Range, with Mt. Hunter and Mt. Huntington to the south and Mt. Foraker to the west. These peaks, along with scores of others, make this mountain view one of the most impressive in the world. After taking photos, we'll descend to our High Camp.
Days 17-18: Return to Base Camp. From High Camp, we spend two days returning to Base Camp, where we will board a plane and return to Talkeetna.
Day 19: We will travel from Talkeetna to Anchorage and check into the hotel.
Day 20: The morning will begin with travel to the Anchorage airport and return to Seattle. That evening the trip concludes with travel back to Joint Base Lewis McChord.