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 six day Washington based option, or a 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 Low ?
Fitness Level Low ?
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 January to April
Departs from Bellingham, Washington
From April to June
Departs from Anchorage, Alaska
RATIOS 6 DAYS 10 DAYS
Denali Prep Course, Washington (1:3 Ratio) $1,690 USD $ NA
Alaska Range Mountaineering (1:3 Ratio) NA $4,200 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

  • 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
    Day  
    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.
    6 The conditions on Mount Baker in the winter can vary from hard, wind-blown ice to deep snow. We will probably employ a variety of techniques, from snowshoeing to cramponing, as we try to ascend as high as the weather and conditions will allow. We will then descend, pack up camp, and head back to the hotel. Please note, this course is focused on preparing for Denali and less about climbing as high as possible.

    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.

    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.
    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.
    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.

    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

    Adventure Consultants recommends the following travel insurance and rescue insurance options, although this is only just a start! Once you book on a trip with AC, your Client Liaison will help you by sending through advice on your options;

    • Travel insurance
    • Trip interruption
    • Trip cancellation
    • Medical Evacuation and Rescue Insurance

    RIPCORD RESCUE TRAVEL INSURANCE

    Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance Logo webRipCord is the leading medical evacuation program offering elite evacuation and rescue services. With their new partnership with TravelEx, they can also now provide the benefits of a traditional travel insurance product with their just released, RipCord Rescue Travel Insurance™. This is specifically designed for the adventure enthusiast with unique trip cancellation/interruption, medical expense, sporting equipment and other coverage benefits to protect your financial investment.

    RipCord is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, an elite team of special operations veterans, Stanford Medicine affiliate physicians, paramedics, nurses, former intelligence officers and other medical/security experts comprising the most experienced team in the industry. They will rescue you from the field wherever your emergency occurs and evacuate you to your home country hospital of choice.

    RipCord rescues you from the field if you have an emergent medical condition that will result in significant permanent injury and/or death, but does not require hospitalisation.

    RipCord are proud to partner with Adventure Consultants to provide RipCord’s industry leading rescue, evacuation and travel insurance coverage to its clients.

    Adventure Consultants can also assist with purchasing polar cover for Antarctic expeditions and if interested in this, please contact RipCord directly for a specialised quote.

    GLOBAL RESCUE MEMBERSHIP SERVICES

    Global Rescue SnipAdventure Consultants also recommends the rescue evacuation and security membership/services provided by Global Rescue, which provides transport from the point of illness/injury back to your home countries hospital of your choice. TotalCare provides real-time access to medical information and coming soon, this includes urgent card and speciality consultations from some of the world’s health physicians at the Elite Medical Group and John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

    Recently Global Rescue has released a new travel insurance product, the Signature Travel Insurance option. This has no height limitation and gives comprehensive cover for trip cancellation/interruption, medical and dental expenses, delays, lost luggage as well as optional add-ons to ‘cancel or interrupt for any reason. This is currently only available to US Residents.

    Click here to find out more about this insurance cover which covers climbing and is thus suitable for many of our expeditions.

  • FAQ

    • Expedition Documentation

      Please note you will be mailed a set of Denali Team Reference Notes upon registration. This extensive booklet includes detailed information to assist in the planning of your trip; from travel and medical advice to equipment lists and photography tips. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline but please feel free to call or e-mail if you have any further questions. Our team is here to help!

    • Choosing a Provider

      Who are American Alpine Institute (AAI) and Mountain Trip and why do they run your Denali trips?
      AAI and Mountain Trip are our American alliance partners for Denali. The reason that we use them is that Denali National Park mandates that as a guide service, you must run your expedition with a concessioned company. Both AAI and Mountain Trip have a concession for operations on the mountain, so this allows us to share our collective experience in the mountains on this fantastic climb. We find that out of all the providers, AAI and Mountain Trip provide a good, quality product and we are excited to be partnered with them on this amazing expedition up one of the Seven Summits.

    • Food, Accommodation & Facilities

      What sort of hotels do we stay at in the city?
      Our standard expeditions stay at the Best Western Golden Lion Inn in Anchorage. On our Highly Supported expeditions, we stay at the Lakefront Anchorage (formally the Millennium Alaska Hotel) which is centrally located and includes free airport transfers. After the climb, we generally return to Anchorage rather than staying in Talkeetna and we leave our arrangements flexible to allow for any weather delays.

      Will I be sharing a tent or room with other climbers? Is there a single room option on this trip?
      Accommodation in Anchorage is included on a twin-share basis on the Highly Supported expedition, but a single supplement is available on request. For the standard expedition, accommodation in Anchorage is not included and we can help you book your preferred room type at the expedition hotel. On the mountain, you will share a tent with another climber or two depending on the camp.

      What kind of food do you have on the mountain?
      The good news about travelling on the glacier is that we can bring a lot of perishable food! Hamburgers, bacon, bagels, and fresh cheese, all the way up to high camp - we try to eat as heartily as possible!

    • Travel

      What time should I arrive and where do I meet my guides?
      All our Denali trips begin by meeting in Anchorage for a team briefing and gear check. After you sign up for the trip, you will be advised which date you need to arrive by and we will coordinate the pickup time for the onward shuttle from Anchorage to Talkeetna, the town where all flights to Denali Base Camp originate.

      What if I arrive early or depart late?
      If you arrive early or depart late, it’s not a problem and our office will work with you as to these logistics.

      Are there any entry or visa requirements?
      Depending on what country you are from, you may need a visa and when visiting the USA, often is a simple matter of obtaning an ESTA visa, prior to your departure from home.

    • Clothing & Equipment

      How heavy will my pack and sled be?
      Your pack can sometimes reach weights of 60-65lbs/27-30kg and your sled could possibly reach 40-50lbs/18-23kg.

    • Guides & Team Members

      How many climbers will be on this expedition?
      On the standard expedition, there are typically 9 climbers and 3 guides on each expedition. The highly supported expedition has a maximum of 6 climbers and 3 guides on each expedition.

      Can I contact other climbers or guides for this expedition?
      Sure! Getting training ideas and generally keeping each other excited about the trip is the name of the game! As the time draws closer for your expedition, contact our office and we are happy to share your contact details with the other members of your team.

      How much should I tip my guide staff?
      Tipping is not required but always appreciated. The level of your tip should reflect the level of interaction with your guide. If you feel that they did a good job for you, then give accordingly.

    • Health, Fitness & Preparation

      What is the conditioning level needed for this climb?
      Excellent physical condition is required. The cold combined with the challenge of carrying a heavy pack and pulling a sled along in the sometimes inclement weather, can all play a part on your trip. The better shape you are in, the better you will be equipped to handle the situation. Some folks actually drag around tyres to prepare for the sled hauling! We suggest further reading on training that will help you get started. The thing to remember is that the more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be during your trip.

      What is a typical day on the mountain like?
      Days start out typically in the snow kitchen, hydrating and eating heartily. We then break camp, load our packs and sleds, before setting out. Days can be as long as 7-8 hours with summit day up to 14-18 hours! Upon arrival in a new camp, you can expect at least 1-2 hours digging tent platforms and walls, as well as a kitchen platform.

      I hear Denali can sometimes be colder than Antarctica! Why is that?
      It actually can be! Denali is closer to the Arctic Circle than most mountains; hence, it can be much colder with the wet arctic weather fronts that can blow in at any time.

      I hear it’s possible to get stuck on the mountain, is it true?
      Yes! If bad weather moves in, it is possible to be delayed at Base Camp until the weather clears for flights. If there is snow, it could take even longer as you need to wait till the snow gets packed down before flights can land. Sometimes you are even asked to help pack it down with your snow shoes!

      What are the skills/prior experience required for this climb?
      You need to have at least completed one of our AAI/AC partner Denali Prep 7 day courses or have had equivalent experience on other glaciated terrain mountaineering trips. This climb requires proficiency in glacier travel, crevasse rescue, cramponing, self-arrest with an ice axe, and general winter camping skills. Previous experience at altitude will also be beneficial. Contact our office for details if you have questions about your qualifications or need ideas for how to get the skills required.

    • Communication

      What type of communication is available on the climb?
      Your guides will typically carry satellite and cell phones, as above 14,000ft we have line-of-sight signal with cell phone towers! You can even pick up radio stations from Anchorage!

    • Fees & Payments

      How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
      There is nothing to buy once on the hill, but if we get stuck in Talkeetna waiting for weather to fly in, you will need money to pay for meals and hotels etc. You can also simply bring a cash card, as there are cash machines all over town. Most members get by with around USD$200-300 on each trip.

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