(20,310ft/6,190m) Alaska

Before Climbing Denali

Screening is not a flawless process and we rely on team members to train diligently and appraise their skills with honesty, so that each team has the best possible chance of success. Our biggest challenge in galvanizing teams is when climbers arrive at the mountain with a lower level of fitness or skill level than the climb requires. This can put your teammates and guides in a difficult situation. Looking at past success, the overwhelmingly majority of climbers who were strong and successful team members on Denali generally:

  • Completed a course and 1-2 climbs prior to attempting Denali.
  • Climbed as much as possible in the seasons leading up to Denali. Longer gaps in climbing (9-12 months or more) prior to Denali can prove difficult - we have had strong climbers do little in the year leading up to Denali that have been disappointed.
  • Trained on a glacier and with heavy packs. The Alps, for example, have not proved well for Denali training (though great for climbing experience) due to the difference in terrain and very light packs.
  • Increased their already existing training regimen at least 6 months prior to their departure date.

Please note that climbers who are unprepared will likely be asked to leave the expedition. This will be at the guide's discretion with an understanding of safety and knowledge of how much each climber has put into their preparation. Guides decisions are based on a combination of skills and fitness level with group safety as a key decision maker. While our goal is to provide a rewarding experience for every climber, some issues such as fitness bear some self-assessment and may not be evident prior to the expedition.

Every climber must meet a series of prerequisites before joining a Denali expedition. These prerequisites not only add to the safety level of each climb but help us to build well-rounded, similarly skilled teams. Screening climbers is one of our more difficult tasks: we can inquire about your skill and fitness levels, but this does not ensure the expected level of readiness on the day of the climb. Thus we ask each climber to train hard, make sure they have met the skill level requirements and be open to suggestions for courses, training and winter skills. Please be well prepared for this climb as it helps to galvanize our teams of climbers and guides and makes for a much more pleasurable experience. Our pace on the mountain is moderate by mountaineering standards.

While there is no precise formula for climbing Denali, each climber should possess an adequate level of the following prerequisites:

Training. Denali requires proficiency in basic mountaineering skills including: cramponing, walking on snow, self arrest, crevasse rescue, and glacier travel on a rope team. Gaining these skills generally requires, at minimum, of completion of our Denali Prep Course (this course is best for climbers with some prior experience as early season conditions can prove difficult for learning basic skills), or our 6-Day Training course, 13-Day Training course, 8-Day Training course, 10-Day Training course, Alaska 8 Day Course, Alaska 12-Day Training course, or have equivalent skills and experience gained in an appropriate training location.

Climbing: In addition to an introductory course, most successful climbers have completed a week long or longer intermediate/advanced course and have attempted 1-2 additional peaks, utilizing skills learned on those courses. Climbers should be climbing in the prior seasons leading up to Denali. Completing a course or a series of climbs and then not climbing for year or more leading up to Denali has not served climbers well.

Course Locations: Washington's North Cascades, Rainier and Alaska are examples of great training grounds for Denali. Those who climb and or train in the Alps and some other locations, generally have a difficult time on Denali as they have not established a comfort level on the type of glaciers found in Alaska or have carried the heavy pack required.

Fitness. You should be able to walk and climb on moderate snow and ice slopes for up to eight hours per day, carrying a 50lbs pack and an additional 35-40lbs on a sled. You should be able to recover from a hard days climb within an 8-12 hour period and to resume another day of demanding exertion, and maintain this pace for 21 days. You should be mentally and physically prepared to go the extra mile when necessary and be ready for weather changes, team emergencies and summit bids. After already establishing a good baseline fitness level, a Denali climber steps up their regimen at least 6 months in advance for this climb, so please review the 6-month training regimen.

Personal Care. Climbers should have winter camping skills and a good understanding of personal care (i.e. understanding of frostbite, nutrition and hydration issues) for a three week expedition.

Mental Preparation. Climbers should be ready for the mental demands of a Denali expedition. This includes being patient with fellow climbers and guides, being prepared for long hours in a tent during inclement weather, pushing yourself to your limits and understanding expedition life.

If you are interested in climbing Denali, please submit your climbing and training bio for review.

While a select few climbers were able to successfully join a Denali trip after a single course, the vast majority will greatly benefit from more climbing experience. We look to work with and asses each climber on an individual basis. Please contact Gordon Janow at to discuss preparing for Denali or to share your climbing bio.  

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