Climbing the Seven Summits is committed to providing the highest quality Denali expedition with our partners AMS. You can be assured that it will be both challenging and fun, a true once in a lifetime.
Denali is truly rugged and known to have some of the worst weather in the world, at a latitude of 63 degrees North, Denali is just 200miles South of the Arctic Circle. Every year it attracts climbers from all over the world including the world’s best alpinists to test themselves on the peak that many consider to be the most challenging of the Seven Summits. Not only for the extreme conditions but also the workload required. Climbers need to be able to carry all their own gear, make their own camps and prepare their own food as a team, unlike other mountains where high altitude porters help with the work.
As such an expedition on Denali requires lots of planning and preparation, perhaps more than any of the other Seven Summits. It is a serious, gear intensive climb that requires plenty of advanced planning to ensure success. We utilise our breadth of experience, detailed logistics and our partnership with AMS to take much of this planning headache away from our climbers, but we still require them to be focused and committed to the climb ahead.
Most climbers fly into Anchorage before transporting themselves to Talkeetna, which is where our expedition begins. Here we will conduct gear checks, pack and have a number of briefings. When the weather permits we approach the mountain on a glacier ski plane, enjoying a forty minute flight that boasts incredible views of Denali and the surrounding peaks. We land on the ice at the South East fork of the Kahiltna Glacier and unload at Base Camp and begin our climb.
We use the normal route being ‘The West Buttress Route’ which this offers the most direct route up and interesting climbing. Climbing via this route usually takes two to three weeks but we allow a month, door to door, to allow for bad weather days and a safe, conservative climbing schedule.
From Base Camp, the route ascends the main branch of the Kahiltna Glacier up moderate terrain surrounded by the largest and most forbidding mountains in North America. It is mainly lower-angle glacier travel heading North until Camp 3 where the pitch steepens as it gains the upper reaches of the mountain, climbing exposed ridges, snow slopes and smaller glaciers heading North and East. The West Buttress Route climbs nearly 13,000 vertical feet in 18miles making it one of the biggest climbs of the Seven Summits circuit.
From Base Camp and across the lower glacier, a night schedule is established to climb during the the coldest hours on the lower glacier when the crevasse bridges are the safest. The intense heat of the direct sun during the day makes it unsafe and uncomfortable and during the Alaskan summer the night is sunlit so there is no need for a head lamp.
Across the climb we employ ‘a climb high, sleep low, double carry’ strategy to systematically move up the mountain and cache gear, whilst acclimitizing. There are 4 camps that we use before the summit. Summit day is a long, serious day in a hostile environment with most climbers averaging eight to ten hours to the summit and another three to four to descend back to High Camp.
Denali National Park and Preserve keep a staff of highly trained climbing rangers on the mountain during climbing season. Their job is to facilitate the climb, keep the mountain clean, relay weather information and provide rescue service and helicopter should climbers need it. While reassuring, it is important to be self sufficient and judicious while on the mountain so the rangers don’t have to put themselves at risk unnecessarily. Denali is a potentially dangerous mountain and climbing at nearly 6,000 meters is very serious.
This expedition will be organized and led by Mike Hamill, Owner of Climbing the Seven Summits alongside our field partners AMS. Mike has personally guided nearly 20 Denali expeditions and is committed to helping the CTSS climbers navigate and succeed through all of the exciting challenges of Denali whilst remaining safe.
The following is a sample itinerary for a Denali expedition. Keep in mind that weather on Denali can be difficult, flights in and out of the range can be delayed, and conditions can dictate movement on the mountain so the actual schedule is rarely the one described here.