The highest mountain of North America, the most northern mountain above 5.000m and the world’s coldest mountain.
Initially named after the 25th US-president William McKinley, in 2015 the mountain officially has been given its original, indigenous name “Denali”. And he truly lives up to his name which translates to “the Great”, rising up to respectable 6.193 m. And with a topographic prominence of significant 6.144 m, the Denali towers over the wild tundra of Alaska. No wonder, that the sheer sight of this colossus gives you goosebumps and reminds you of the pristine beauty of our planet.
Despite its sheer beauty, there are also lots of difficulties lurking around this mountain. Only 250 km from the polar circle it can get quite cold with temperatures dropping below -30°C. Strong winds are also one of the characteristics of the most northern mountain above 5.000m, which contributes to its reputation as the coldest mountain in the world. Only the peaks of the Antarctica can keep up with these temperatures.
Despite these extreme weather conditions, Denalis’ first ascend already took place in 1913 and since that, the mountain has become a mecca for adventurers an mountaineers who wish to prove their skills.
And this is where we enter the game. We want to take you to highest point of North America. Our expedition leads over the standard route “West Buttress”, which is technically moderate but still demands respect. The cold, storms and the wind-chill effect are the essential factors that make this expedition dangerous –equipment and know-how like in the Antarctica are necessary to defy these environmental influences. Those who make it to the top, will be rewarded with breathtaking views and the unique and untouched nature of Alaska which spreads over miles to all sides. Another memory that will imprint itself in the mind. A memory of the wild, rough and beautiful Alaska. A memory of “the Great”.
- Highest peak of North America
- Wild beauty of Alaska
- Technical moderate mountain
- 1 guide : 2 climbers – ratio
1. - 3. day: Travel to Basecamp
1. Day: Arrival in Anchorage
Pick up from the airport and rest of the day to relax.
2. Day: Meet in Anchorage.
Our Team Meetings are generally scheduled at 10 A.M. for an expedition orientation and equipment check. This is a very important meeting, which all climbers must attend. Be sure to arrive in Anchorage early enough to make the meeting, which may require arriving a day in advance. Our trip fee includes two night’s accommodation at the Lakefront Anchorage (formerly the Millennium Alaska Hotel), conveniently located and offers free airport transfers.
3. Day: Travel to Talkeetna and fly to the glacier
We provide transportation to Talkeetna for all of our Denali climbers, using our own vans and trailers so we are not tied to a third-party’s schedule. The drive takes a bit over two hours, and we’ll stop for coffee and snacks along the way. Once in Talkeetna, we’ll need to unload, organize, and weigh all of our equipment and supplies in preparation for our flight to the glacier. We will also finish the registration process with the National Park Service and attend a pre-climb orientation provided by one of the NPS Climbing Rangers. After finalizing all the NPS admin steps, we’ll fly to the glacier, weather permitting. Once on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, we’ll be busy establishing our camp for the night.
4. - 14. day: Acclimatisation and Ascent
4. Day: Single carry to 2.380m Camp 1
Departing base camp, we’ll drop down the infamous Heartbreak Hill and onto the broad Kahiltna Glacier. Our goal will be to move camp to about 2.380m, near the junction with the NE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This is a moderately tough day of about 5 miles and is a good shakedown for the upcoming days. Throughout the expedition we will typically follow the “climb high, sleep low” technique for better acclimatization; however, the altitude difference between Base Camp and 2.380m Camp is minimal enough to permit us to generally “single-carry” this stretch. On the late May and June expeditions, we may climb early in the morning to avoid excessive heat and soft snow conditions on the lower glacier.
**Quick Stats: 8 km with 365m of elevation gain Climbing time: about 4,5-6 hours
5. Day: Haul loads up to Kahiltna pass.
We’ll head out of 2.380m Camp and carry loads up the 548m Ski Hill. Several options exist for campsites between 2.740 & 3.350m, depending upon weather, snow conditions, and team strength. This is a moderately difficult carry of 11- 14,5km round trip, with 600-900m of elevation gain and a return to 2.380m Camp for the night.
**Quick Stats: 12.87 km round trip, with 670m of elevation gain and loss Climbing time: about 6- 8 hours
6. Day: Move everything to Camp 2
This is an incredibly beautiful location that basks in alpenglow when the sun travels around the north side of the mountain.
**Quick Stats: 7.64 km one way, with 1036m of elevation gain Climbing time: about 5,5-7 hours
7. Day: An “active rest day” for acclimatisation
We pick up the cache we left near Kahiltna Pass.
**Quick Stats: 2.4 km round trip, with 365m of elevation loss and gain Climbing time: 1,5 hours round trip
8. Day: Windy Corner.
Steep snow climbing up the 304m high Motorcycle Hill rewards climbers with spectacular views. The total distance for the day is about four miles round trip with a little over 609m of elevation gain. Fun climbing with crampons and ice axe gets you around Windy Corner where the upper mountain comes into view. Have your camera ready!
**Quick Stats: 6.43 km with 700m of elevation gain Climbing Time: about 6-7 hours round trip
9. Day: Ascent to “Genet Basin 4350m
This is usually a long, hard day. Our next camp is generally located at the well-equipped 4.350m camp in the expansive Genet Basin. Loads are getting lighter and the air is getting thinner. Upon arrival, everyone will need to pitch in to build our camp, as we need to fortify our tents due to the possibility of severe winds.
**Quick Stats: 4 km with 914m of elevation gain Climbing time: about 5-7 hours
10. Day: Another “active rest day,”
The team will descend from Genet Basin to the Windy Corner cache and bring everything up to 4.330m. We’ll spend the afternoon going over climbing techniques that we will use in the upcoming days.
**Quick Stats: 1.6 km round trip, with 213m of elevation loss and gain Climbing time: about 1,5 hours round trip
11. Day: “Headwall“ to the ridge.
Our goal is to cache supplies up on the ridge above us and return to 4.330m. Climbing up the “Headwall” (the section of route with fixed lines running from 4720m–4.900m) with a heavy pack makes this one of the more strenuous days of the trip because of the steep terrain, heavy pack and thinning air. The views from the ridge can be as breathtaking as the rarefied air!
**Quick Stats: 3.8km round trip, with 670m of elevation gain and loss Climbing time: about 5-7 hours
12. Day: Rest day – Acclimatisation
13. Day: Move to High Camp (5.250m).
Weather and team strength will again determine this decision. While there is a camp site at 4.900m, it is very exposed, so we usually push for the 4.240m site which is more secure and the better choice for camp. This is a really tough day, as our loads are big and some of the the terrain we will negotiate is steep. Rewards for our work are in the awesome climbing along the ridge. Weaving in and out of the rocks and occasionally walking a knife edged stretch, combined with big exposure, make this day one of the most memorable of the route.
**Quick Stats: 3.21km with 914m of elevation gain Climbing time: about 6-8 hours
14. Day: Rest day
We usually take a rest day before attempting the summit if circumstances allow.
15. day: Summit
15. Day: Summit day.
It is important to be patient on a big peak like Denali and we will only try for the summit when the weather is good; meaning mostly clear and calm. The round trip climb will take eight to twelve hours or more.
**Quick Stats: 8km round trip, with 914m of elevation gain and loss Climbing time: about 9-12 hours
***The weather needs to be good and everyone attempting the summit must have demonstrated that they can reasonably give it a shot. This is often the most grueling day of the expedition (some climbers say of their lives!). The guides have the ultimate decision as to when the team will make a summit bid. The guides also have the discretion to decide that a team member has not shown that he or she is capable to make a summit bid. Such occurrences are rare; but remember getting everyone home healthy is primary concern.***
Day 16-26: Descent and Return Journey
16.-17. Day: Descent.
The descent from High Camp takes from one to two days, depending on the team’s strength and motivation to get home. Weather dictates when we can fly out to Talkeetna for food and showers. Not much beats a steak and salad at the West Rib Tavern after working hard on Denali!
18.-24. Day: Reserve days.
We build seven “contingency days” into our schedule. Denali has a well deserved reputation for arctic weather and it is common to take weather days at some point on the mountain.
25. Day: Back to Anchorage.
We will provide group transportation back to Anchorage and assist in making any necessary lodging reservations; however, lodging after the climb is your responsibility. As we cannot predict when we will come off the mountain, we cannot make arrangements for lodging ahead of time.
26. Day: Journey home.
With lots of unforgettable memories, we´ll make our way home.