Denali Prep Course: Lessons Learned

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by Ciara Sampaio

I went over the Denali Prep Gear List a million times and checked everything off.   I was ready to go!   Was I really ready to go?   Eventually, I just had to go. 

Checking off the carabiners and gloves was the easy part.  I found assembling 8 days worth of food to be the most difficult part of the packing process to tackle. I employed a lot of the great tips from the  Creating Your Denali Prep Course Menu video and was pretty happy with most of my culinary decisions.  However, there are definitely some things I would change up if I was to do it all over again…

  • Smaller dinner sizes. I packed big hearty dinners like I was going to be hiking 10 miles a day. Definitely NOT the case!  While there are some days that are more active, there is a ton of information to take in on this course, and you’ll spend a fair amount of time hanging out at camp learning from your guides. 
  • More soup, please. I brought lots of pasta dinners but at the end of a cold day, all I wanted was ramen! Added bonus: it’s way faster to prepare.
  • More spiced apple cider mix. I brought a mix of tea, cocoa and the apple cider, but all I really wanted was the apple cider. Pro tip: it mixes very well with bourbon (after the day is done, of course).
  • Ditch the summer backpacking snacks. I brought some hummus and snap peas because I find the combination so satisfying while hiking. But it was so cold that I never even touched it (plus it periodically froze solid). Same with my apple.
  • Test my stove before the trip. My MSR Reactor died on Day 1, and I was left boiling all my water on the Whisperlite, which takes forever to boil (8 min versus 3 min). I had only planned to use the Whisperlite for a few small things, but then it became my main stove, rendering my two 16oz canisters of isopro useless and led to me running out of fuel before the end. Luckily, someone else had brought extra and was kind enough to share.

Besides food, there were a few things I packed that I was VERY glad I brought. These are, in no particular order:

  • A book. I read Touching the Void cover to cover during the week. There’s a lot of downtime in the evening!
  • An inflatable insulated pillow. Definitely a luxury item, but worth it.
  • Down booties. The Gear List says optional, but I think a necessity!
  • Extra gloves. They WILL get wet. 
  • Oreos. Ok I lied, 1 food thing. I may have eaten the entire box…

All in all, having too much food is always better than too little, and hauling out an extra pound of food at the end is not a big deal. Camping on Rainier for 8 days in the winter is no easy feat, but it was an amazing experience, and the guides do an awesome job at passing on all their best tips and tricks for a successful Denali climb. Plus, the pizza after the trip had never tasted so good. 

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Just another balmy day in January on Rainier

Note from the Editor: 

Ciara Sampaio was a recent participant on a Denali Prep course. 

-MB

Rainier Denali Preparation Course BLOG

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