Prepare for the challenge of Denali

Denali Prep Course

Learn all the skills of snow and ice climbing used in modern alpine mountaineering and get a great introduction to expedition climbing, while ascending several beautiful peaks in either the heart of the Alaska or Cascade Ranges.

With either a scheduled six day Washington based option, or a private, on demand ten day Alaska based option, these courses include substantial practice climbing, spectacular scenery, the chance to make the top of beautiful summits and a lot of fun. We hope you will join us!

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Difficulty Level Medium ?
Fitness Level Medium ?
Duration 6 to 10 days
Elevation 2,000M / 6,562FT
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Reaching the summit of Denali is a challenge worth preparing for - Roy Wells

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Sled hauling through the Mount Baker backcountry - Richard Riquelme - AAI

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Cold weather camping on the Mount Baker Denali Prep Course - Jason Martin - AAI

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Returning to camp in the Mount Baker region - Richard Riquelme - AAI

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Fortifieng a tent camp high on Mt Baker, Washington - AAI

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Moose's Tooth from Ruth Gorge - Paul Rosser AAI

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Preparing for Denali requires a range of skills from using fixed ropes to hauling sleds - Matthew Anderson AAI

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Near the summit of Moose's Tooth, Alaska Range - AAI

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Exploring the Ruth Glacier, Alaska Range - Paul Rosser AAI

From Mar 03 to Mar 08, 2024
Departs from Bellingham, Washington, USA
$2,195 USD $
From Apr 01 to Jun 30, 2024
Departs from Anchorage, Alaska (10 Days On Demand April to June)
$7,500 USD $
  • Overview

    This is a scenic, action packed six or ten-day program that provides complete training in all the skills of snow and ice climbing used in alpine and expedition mountaineering.

    While developing a solid and complete set of alpine climbing skills, you will also learn glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques, gain experience with expedition procedures, and apply methods for route finding and hazard assessment.

    Using skis or snowshoes for ease of movement on the glacier, and anyone with basic ski skills will feel at home on this easy terrain. At the end of the program, you should be technically qualified to make intermediate level ascents in any of the world’s glaciated ranges and to join us on a Denali expedition.

    This course is operated in North America as part of the Adventure Consultants / American Alpine Institute alliance.

  • Why AC / AAI?

    In 2006, Adventure Consultants, based in Wanaka, New Zealand, and the American Alpine Institute, headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, USA, were pleased to announce their formation of a worldwide alliance.

    Over the years the owners of both organisations - Dunham Gooding from AAI and Guy Cotter from AC - have regularly discussed ways to strengthen both organizations by working together, sharing expert guides, and utilizing the special areas of expertise that each company had developed over three decades of work. While both companies were recognized internationally as leaders in the field of mountain guiding, both Guy and Dunham feel that both companies are now even stronger because of the alliance.

    The cooperative efforts of these two companies offer direct and tangible benefits to climbers. Together they offer the world's most comprehensive array of instructional programs, guided ascents, and expeditions. In every category of climbing, from instruction to expeditions, trips are offered at every skill level. Additionally, this spectrum of climbing opportunities is offered on every continent. Once you climb with us, wherever in the world you want to climb in the future, you will have the comfort and assurance of dealing with an organization you already know and trust.

    Because of this alliance, climbers who come to either company have ample opportunity to learn climbing skills or join an expedition from anywhere in the world, in any season. With the two companies based in opposite hemispheres and each operating throughout the world, your choices in terms of both timing and location are nearly limitless.

    Now you might ask yourself, "If I want to call AC, do I call AAI or vice versa? Can I sign up for trips for one with the other?" The answers are a resounding "yes!"

    Our admissions departments maintain daily contact in regard to trip requests, registrations, and climber preparations. What does this mean for you? Let's say you climb Mt. Baker, Rainier, or Whitney one summer with AAI, have a wonderful time, and decide that you would like to climb something higher. You call AAI and ask about options. Depending on what your "next step" will be (driven by your skill level, interests, and schedule), we will then offer you options that may direct you to an alliance trip that is run by AAI or AC.

    If you'll be joining an AC trip, all preparations will be handled by AC's Wanaka, New Zealand office. If it is an AAI trip, we will alert the AAI office in Bellingham about our discussions and your choice of a trip and have them contact you. AAI will know about your background, how your last trip went, your skill level, and your current plan for a next program. AAI and AC will work together to assure that you are well taken care of and that all your planning and preparation goes smoothly, and that everything is in place to help you achieve your goals.

    This is a three-way alliance that you will be joining: AAI, AC, and you. We will assure that from your first phone call or email to us, to the flight home from your course or expedition, you feel supported, encouraged, perfectly prepared, and successful in the pursuit of your goals.

    Join our alliance and let's head to the mountains!

    Best Regards,

    Guy Cotter, Director, Adventure Consultants
    Dunham Gooding, Director, American Alpine Institute

  • Dates & Prices

    Dates 2024

    Alaska Range Mountaineering Option

    Available on demand from April through until June.

    Mount Baker Option 

    Trip 1: January 22-27
    Trip 2: February 18-23
    Trip 3: March 3-8

    Pricing Schedule 2024

    Mount Baker Denali Prep Course US$2,195 (3:1 Climber to guide ratio)
    Alaska Range Mountaineering from US$7,500 (4:1 Climber to guide ratio)

  • Curriculum

    • 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. See our Fitness Training Programs for information on how we can help you prepare for your course.
    • Rope team travel, crevasse rescue and previous glacier travel experience is helpful, but not required
    1 Gear check and briefing.
    2 Camp-fortifying techniques and building snow and/or block walls. On all Denali expeditions we use a group cook tent, which must be dug into the snow and set up at each camp as we work our way up the mountain. Being able to efficiently and effectively dig-in and reinforce camps on Denali is extremely important to the group's safety and success, and no detail is spared in covering these methods. Group camping and cooking etiquette are put into practice and camp duties will be assigned on a rotational basis.
    3 Snow skills and ice axe and crampon use. The snow conditions will dictate a lot of what is possible with regard to snow skills. The potentially deep and soft snow conditions can make skill practice difficult, as climbers tend to wade rather than climb in these conditions. If self-arrest and cramponing practice is not possible, we will cover more in-depth avalanche assessment scenarios.
    4 Crevasse rescue and group rescue scenarios. Crevasse rescue methods on Denali are often quite different than those on other mountains because of the unique nature and size of the rope teams and because of the heavy backpacks and sleds each member has in tow. We will practice scenarios for individual and group rescue as they relate to crevasse falls. We will plan on moving camp at least three times on this trip both to gain experience with establishing camp in different locations.
    5 Fixed line and running belay practice. Moving efficiently through the portion of the West Buttress route protected by fixed lines and fixed protection is very important to maintaining the set schedule and maximize summit days on the upper mountain. We will spend the majority of this day practicing passing pickets and running protection, and ascending fixed lines as a rope team.

    The conditions on Mount Baker in the winter can vary from hard, wind-blown ice to deep snow. The final day of the course can be used to review skills, practice skills that were delayed due to weather, or answer questions. We will then descend, pack up camp, and head back to the trailhead. Please note, this course is focused on preparing for Denali. This is not a summit oriented course and no summit will be made.

    PLEASE NOTE: 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.

    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.

    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.
    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.
    3 We will practice anchor building and belay methods for low to moderate angled snow slopes.
    4 Crevasse rescue training and prusiking skills.

    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.

    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
    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.
    8 Return to base camp. Debrief climbing days.
    9 Curriculum review. We will clarify any questions on skills learned and repeat crevasse rescue to further commit the technical knowledge to memory.
    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.

    PLEASE NOTE: 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.

  • Travel & Rescue Insurance

    Finding the right travel and rescue insurance for your mountaineering adventure can be tricky! Rest assured when you book with the expedition specialists here at Adventure Consultants we'll help by sending through advice on what you'll need, including:

    • Travel insurance including trip interruption and cancellation cover
    • Medical Evacuation and Rescue Insurance

    For further information check out our Travel and Rescue Insurance page or contact us.

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