Denali Prep Day-to-Day Itinerary
Upon sign up, we will send you our richly detailed, pre-trip information package.
Mount Rainier during the winter and early spring months provides similar conditions as found on Mt. Denali. This realistic training ground, on the Muir Route, will give you the hands-on training you will need for climbing Denali.
Day 1: We'll meet early in Alpine Ascents' Seattle office for a gear check, as well as to discuss safety, Mt. Rainier, and the National Park Mission Statement. After sorting out our food and attending to any miscellaneous items, we pack up and drive to the mountain, rig our sleds, and travel on snowshoes to our first camp. During the course, snowshoe training will be combined with pulling gear sleds. The afternoon will be devoted to snow camping techniques, including safe camp locations, building snow shelters, cooking and cold-weather health maintenance. We'll camp at Alta Vista (6,500 ft.).
Day 2: In the morning, our training will focus on the following: Map and compass navigation, knots, mountain safety, equipment overview and prussiking as it pertains to self-rescue from a crevasse. We will cut our perlon cord and make slings for prussiking.
In the afternoon, students will learn the fundamentals of moving safely and efficiently on snow slopes of all degrees. Instruction includes: kicking steps, rest and balance techniques, walking with and without crampons using the ice axe, and self-belaying. We'll learn how to use our avalanche transceivers and do a practice search.
Day 3: We'll focus on rope team travel. We'll also spend considerable time learning to properly construct snow and ice anchors for varying glacier conditions (snow pickets, bollards, dead man, ice screws). We'll discuss practice-anchor placements, and technical rope-climbing instruction for ascending steep snow slopes is given and practiced. We'll learn to lead climb, belay, rappel, and to ascend and descend fixed lines.
We'll also practice glacier travel. Proper rope-up techniques using sleds are taught. Considerable time will be spent discussing route-finding through crevassed areas and identifying our position on maps. Topics such as travel in whiteouts and other forms of inclement weather will be discussed.
Day 4: We'll move camp from Alta Vista (6,500 ft.) to Camp Muir (10,080 ft.). We'll spend the morning packing and moving camp. This will allow us to hone packing and camp setup skills. This will be a strenuous day, as we'll often have to break trail in fresh snow while carrying heavy packs and hauling sleds. This day will represent the primary fitness evaluation for climbers, as this effort closely resembles one of the more physically demanding days on Denali.
Day 5: You'll learn to rescue yourself and others from crevasses. More importantly, you learn how to stay out of them! You'll be instructed in setting rescue systems and prussiking out of a crevasse with pack and sled. This full day gives every climber several scenarios in which they must be able to demonstrate that they can perform the rescue system efficiently.
Day 6: More review of prior topics: Denali, altitude sickness, hypothermia, gear, etc. We want to be sure that you've grasped the skills necessary to be proficient on a Denali expedition. We'll discuss avalanche conditions and safe route-finding. In camp, we prepare for summit day and bed down early.
Day 7: Summit day. Conditions permitting, we'll attempt a summit climb. This demanding day affords the opportunity to apply all of the skills learned during the course. Our summit attempt involves climbing Rainier's glaciated slopes on the Cowlitz, Ingraham, and upper Emmons glaciers, as well as the Cathedral and Disappointment Cleaver ridges. If no summit attempt is made, the day will be used for scouting possible climbing routes in the area, practicing climbing on steep and sustained slopes, and more review of the prior days' training topics.
Day 8: We'll descend to Paradise and drive to Seattle, arriving in the evening. This can be a strenuous day, as we'll descend 4,500 feet from Camp Muir to Paradise with heavy packs and sleds. After a hot shower, a good meal and a deep sleep, you'll leave for home the next morning.