Denali Prep Course


 Participants practice crevasse rescue on a wild Alaskan Glacier.   © AAI Collection  
  • Learn Denali specific skills on an expedition style course
  • Build a strong foundation of snow and ice climbing skills
  • Practice sled rigging, fixed line use and cold weather camping techniques
  • Review glacial travel, rope team travel and crevasse rescue techniques


Climbing Skills

  • Selection and use of personal equipment, ropes, knots, and harnesses
  • Design concepts and selection of ice axes and ice tools
  • Proper choice and application of the primary ice axe positions; piolet canne, panne, manche, poignard, ramasse, rampe, ancre, and traction
  • Choice between and application of French, German, and American cramponing techniques
  • Belays on snow and ice
  • Selection and placement of snow flukes and pickets, ice screws for belays and protection
  • The uses of mechanical belaying devices in alpine climbing
  • Free climbing technique on steep snow and ice
  • The integration of specific skills with the goals of efficient and safe climbing

Glacier Travel, Rescue, and Living Skills

  • An introduction to glacial structures and movement: how to use large external land forms to predict inner glacial structures and hence the difficulties and hazards of a potential route
  • Principles of glacier travel while climbing and skiing
  • Individual and team crevasse rescue
  • Route finding and marking in low visibility
  • Snow cave and igloo construction and living
  • Leave No Trace principles of climbing, traveling, and living in the alpine environment

Expedition Skills

  • Discussion of Himalayan, Alaskan and alpine expedition climbing styles with comparisons of inherent advantages, limitations, and requirements associated with each style
  • Expedition processes in icefalls and the establishment and ascension of fixed lines
  • Techniques for roped use of sleds for transporting gear

Physics, Physiology, and Medicine of Cold Weather & Altitude

  • An introduction to human physiology in cold weather
  • Preventing and treating cold weather injuries
  • An introduction to human physiology at high altitude
  • Preventing and treating high altitude illnesses


  • Geared for folks with a basic to intermediate level of mountaineering skill and experience
  • Experience using an ice axe and crampons on snow and ice
  • Overnight backpacking experience
  • Excellent physical condition
  • Rope team travel, crevasse rescue and previous glacier travel experience is helpful, but not required


You will need to arrange your travel schedule so that you can attend the mandatory expedition orientation and gear check with guides at our Anchorage hotel at 2pm, the day BEFORE the scheduled start date of the trip.

Day 1 – You will take a shuttle to Talkeetna which departs at 6:45am. After the 2hr ride to Talkeetna we will do a brief orientation at the Ranger Station and then fly onto the glacier and establish camp. If there is time we will review some basics of roped glacier travel at camp. In the evening we will talk about camp preparation and etiquette, camp duties, and cook tent use.

Day 2 – Snow school! You can expect to practice the different positions for self-arrest, learn ice axe and crampons techniques for climbing snow and ice of varying degrees of steepness, and to discuss and practice the basics of rope team travel.

Day 3 – We will practice anchor building and belay methods for low to moderate angled snow slopes.

Day 4 – Crevasse rescue training and prusiking skills.

Day 5 – We will travel to an ice climbing area a few miles from our camp and practice our steep ice climbing techniques, and methods for protecting and belaying steeper terrain.

Approach and prepare for an ascent.

Day 6 – Climbing day. Objectives can include the following:
Kahiltna Area: Radio Control Tower, Annie’s Ridge, Mount Frances
Ruth Area: Explorer’s Peak, Mount Barrill, Mount Dickey, Consolation Peak
Pika Glacier: The Munchkin

Day 7 – Climbing Day. We will have an opportunity to make a second attempt of our climbing objective if the weather is poor, or even a second ascent of another peak in the area.

Day 8 – Return to base camp. Debrief climbing days.

Day 9 – Curriculum review. We will clarify any questions on skills learned and repeat crevasse rescue to further commit the technical knowledge to memory.

Day 10 – Pack for the flight off the glacier. Return to Talkeetna and possibly even Anchorage if so desired. Most climbers opt to spend the night in Talkeetna and enjoy the local atmosphere including hamburgers and refreshments at the famous West Rib pub of the Fairview Inn.

As a reminder, this itinerary can and will change from trip to trip. Climbing days and rest days are often dictated by weather and conditions.  This itinerary is rough and should be used for general reference only.


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