Alaska 8 Day Mountaineering Course

Course Overview

The 8 day course builds a phenomenal foundation for those beginning their alpine careers. The guides were great at assessing each team member’s progression individually and altering 1:1
coaching to the appropriate level. This ensured that each person was learning and not being left with the baseline curriculum. In addition, they passed on a lot of the mental aspects of climbing (mountain sense, condition assessment, team psychology) which I really appreciated.
– AAI Alaska Climber

Distinguished among climbing schools, the Eight-Day Alaska program is a progressive-development, hands-on program. Our goal is to educate climbers in mountaineering essentials and give graduates a firm understanding of alpine climbing skills. In addition, we’ll attempt to summit two peaks.

This course was formerly a six-day course, but the additional two days have added to the scope and dimension of what our instructors can teach and guide. In one of the finest alpine environments imaginable, the curriculum covers the essentials of mountaineering, including glacier travel, self-arrest, navigation, route finding and snow skills. The course culminates with a summit attempt of one of the peaks in the area of the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, such as Mt. Francis (10,450 ft.), Kahiltna Dome (12,525 ft.), Point Ferene (9,300 ft.), Control Tower (8,670 ft.), or Mt. Crosson (12,800 ft.)

In addition to the skill set listed below and the summit attempt, we look for this program to be a remote mountain experience. We’ll apply skills as we learn them with a keen eye on safety, personal maintenance, environmentally friendly campsite construction and Leave no Trace ethics.

Sleds are used early in the course to familiarize students with their use on an Alaska Range expedition, and to facilitate getting to our first training camp. Later in the course, we will try to avoid sled use and have students pack carefully and properly when moving camp.This is simply to help acquaint students with proper packing skills, which are necessary in most alpine climbing areas of the world. It should be noted that the use of sleds can broaden meal choices.

This course serves as a prerequisite for many of Alpine Ascents’ intermediate-level climbs, including Denali, and as a stepping stone for more technically difficult mountains.

Increasing technical knowledge/skills in all aspects of snow and alpine climbing including:

  • Glacier travel
  • Rope/belay techniques
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Route finding
  • Self arrest
  • Rappelling
  • Cramponing
  • Safe climbing

Developing educated, self-reliant climbers with the ability to evaluate subjective/objective hazards including:

  • Glacier conditions
  • Gear evaluations
  • Critical decision-making
  • White-out conditions
  • Wilderness navigation
  • Weather conditions

Alaska Range

The Alaska Range is home to Denali (20,310 ft.), the highest mountain in North America. Denali has numerous vast glaciers that flow down to an altitude of 2,000 ft., creating over 18,000 ft. of glaciated terrain and the highest relief from top to bottom of any mountain in the world. Surrounding Denali are hundreds of peaks, many of which represent the most sought-after climbs in the world. Most noteworthy are the vertical rock walls and narrow corniced ridges of Mount Huntington and the endless ice routes of Mount Hunter.

Climbers reach the Alaska Range via ski-equipped planes. En route to the glacier air strip we fly through the Alaska range, scanning breathtaking views of some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Instruction takes place on the glaciers surrounding these mountains and we complete our course by climbing one or two of the smaller but equally magnificent peaks in the area.

Alaska Range Challenges

Control Tower (8,670 ft.) is one of the peaks that is climbed during the six-day course. It is a central landmark located behind our camp on the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. We ascend Control Tower from the North East. The route we climb is exciting; we traverse a narrow ridge, then up a final steep section. This climb is a great stepping-stone in the Alaska Range.

Mt. Frances (10,450 ft.) is centrally located between Denali, Hunter and Foraker, and offers stunning 360-degree views from its summit. Our climb ascends the narrow East Ridge on snow and ice for approximately 2,000 ft., providing excellent climbing using all the skills we have learned during the course.

Mt. Crosson (12,880 ft.) presents a two-day climb in which we set high camp halfway up on the South East Ridge. This ridge is steep and continuous for over 5,000 ft., offering excellent climbing and a great challenge for the aspiring alpinist. This climb is truly a classic.

Kahiltna Dome (12,525 ft.), another Alaska classic, offers excellent climbing up the three-mile-long North East Ridge. The entire climb offers superb views of the West Buttress of Denali and Mount Foraker.

Point Ferene (9,300 ft.), centrally located on the Kahiltna Glacier, is a satellite peak of the Kahiltna Dome. Ascending from the north, we use the same approach route as the climbers for Denali. The climb is a beautiful, moderate glacier climb.

I really enjoyed the course. The venue was spectacular. In particular, I found the rope handling and crevasse rescue skills useful. My snow camping skills were also improved during the course. I feel competent with all skills covered by the class. I would be ready to use them on future climbs. B


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