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Rainier Denali Preparation

Course Overview

“The Denali Prep course was my first trip to the Northwest. More beautiful than I could have imagined. Was a great opportunity to experience the weather extremes. The curriculum was well-organized and well-taught. I can see why it is a requirement prior to heading to Alaska. As always the guides and the setting exceeded expectations. Each time I go with you folks into the mountains, I always feel my safety and well-being are your utmost concern. It allows me the freedom to concentrate on the individual task of getting to the top. Your guides have always exercised firm but flexible control with the group despite sometimes widely varying personalities.”

Our Denali Prep, 6-Day, 8-Day, and 10-Day Courses all serve as the needed skill prerequisite for Denali. Most climbers attend a course and make 1-2 additional summit attempts before joining a Denali climb.

The Denali Prep/Winter Mountaineering course is specifically designed for those who want to embrace the challenges of climbing Denali and/or develop winter mountaineering skills in extreme conditions. It offers comprehensive training to prepare for the challenge of The Great One. We are fortunate to have the best training area in the lower 48 states to simulate the conditions found on Denali. Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft.) during the late winter early spring months provides similar conditions as those found on Denali.

Throughout this extremely rigorous course, we encounter numerous challenges (closely matching those found on Denali and other similar “big” mountains) in an effort to develop highly aware, knowledgeable and competent expedition climbers. Hands-on experience in all aspects of expedition climbing will be covered.

Note: Early spring conditions often present high avalanche conditions or inclement weather. In such cases, low traverses around the mountain will be undertaken instead of summit attempts. Often the overall experience is enhanced by experiencing and evaluating these conditions, rather than focusing on the summit as a goal. Generally, weather prevents summit attempts during early-season courses.

Climbing Skill Level

This course is designed for the beginner or intermediate climber who wishes to develop strong fundamental skills in all aspects of snow and glacier climbing. This course serves as a prerequisite for many of Alpine Ascents’ intermediate-level climbs and is a stepping stone for more technically difficult mountains. Prior experience with backpacking and camping is recommended.

Develop cold weather survival skills.

As conditions permit we look to cover all technical snow climbing skills necessary for winter mountaineering and climbing Denali.

Discuss climbing at high altitudes and proper acclimatization processes.

This course has been successfully used as a training ground for skilled adventurers, rangers, law enforcement, fire fighters, military, stunt people and many others who require climbing skills as part of their career.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to with reviews.

Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide
by Mike Gauthier, Bruce Barcott, Mountaineers Books
Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Selters, Mountaineers Books
The Illustrated Guide to Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Tyson, Mike Clelland, Climbing Magazine
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills
Don Graydon (Ed.), Kurt Hanson (Ed.), Mountaineers Society, Mountaineers Books

Frequently Asked Questions - Mount Rainier Denali Preparation/Winter Mountaineering Course

Please note you will be mailed specific information for your course upon registration. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline.

What kind of physical condition should I be in?

The weight of your pack is generally 65 pounds.  We invite you to check out our Training page
We highly recommend checking with your physician before embarking on strenuous physical activity. We reserve the right to turn away those climbers who we determine to be in inadequate physical condition.

How do I reserve a space for a course?

The best way to reserve space on a course is to call our offices and place the deposit on a VISA/MC/AMEX. Our courses fill quickly on a first-come, first-served basis, and registering over the phone is the best way to ensure reserving the course dates you want. You may also submit an application by mail with a check, money order or credit card number.

When does my course begin and end?

Overview: Climbers attend a mandatory gear on the first morning of the climb at 6:30am and then travel to the mountain. Climbers return to Seattle on last day of the course.
Day 1 of course: Climbers meet at the Alpine Ascents Office at 6:30am for a comprehensive gear check. Alpine Ascents provides transportation to and from Mt. Rainier.
(Climbers are not to drive themselves per NPS regulations)
Last Day of course: Return to the Alpine Ascents Office between 7 – 11PM on the last day of climb.

Note: On day 1 of your course, you must be at our office no later than 6:30am! Please be on time.
Our recommended hotel, the Marqueen Hotel, is located 2 blocks from our office.

When should I fly in and out of Seattle?

We recommend staying overnight the night before the course begins and on the evening of the last day of the course. Because our last course day is a summit day, there are variables that make it difficult to guarantee the exact time each course will end. You will need to be ready to go at 6:30am on the morning your course begins.

Where can I buy flights?

Alpine Ascents uses the services of Charles Mulvehill at Scan East West Travel: 1-800-727-2157 or 206-623 2157. They are very familiar with our Mountaineering School and offer competitive prices on all domestic and international flights.

How do I get from the airport to my hotel and downtown Seattle?

From Sea-Tac International Airport to the Marqueen Hotel or any hotel in downtown Seattle:
Shuttle Express: Airport to Marqueen Hotel or downtown Seattle and return.
Cost: $38.00 one way
The Shuttle Express also has regular service to downtown Seattle and can be easily found via Sea-Tac courtesy phones.

If I am driving to the school and leaving my car for the length of the course, where can I park?

Parking is limited but if you would like to park your vehicle during your course, we can assist in arranging with nearby on street parking.

How do I get to Alpine Ascents International?

Click Here for Map

  • From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street Exit and follow the signs to Seattle Center/Space Needle. (A quick right turn onto Fairview Ave., and a quick left turn onto Valley St., which becomes Broad Street.)
  • After you pass the Space Needle on your right, make a right turn onto Denny Way.
  • Proceed to 1st Ave. North and turn right.
  • Proceed to Mercer Street and turn right.
  • We are located at 109 West Mercer Street, directly across the street from Bank of America and Next Door to Ozzie’s Tavern.
    Street parking is limited to 2-hour zones and parking meters, though there are several pay lots near our offices.
What kind of experience do I need to take a course?

Our Denali Prep programs are designed for the beginner or intermediate climber wishing to develop strong fundamental skills in all.phpects of snow and glacier climbing.

Where do I stay the night before and after the course?

There are several lodging options for our climbs. We meet at our office on the day of the climb at 6:00am. Alpine Ascents has partnered with our neighbors the Marqueen Hotel– located two blocks from our office. Reservations for your room should be made as soon as possible.

Marqueen Hotel
Phone: 206-282-7407

Rates: Reasonable by Seattle standards, vary by season.

If you wish to share a room with another climb participant, The Marqueen can help with those arrangements. You will need a room for the night prior to the start of your climb and for the last night of your climb. The hotels are 2 blocks from the Alpine Ascents office. Extra gear may be stored at the Mediterranean or at our office until your return.

Staying elsewhere in downtown Seattle is another option. During the climbing season, hotels in the Seattle metropolis are difficult to reserve and are a bit more expensive. You may elect to stay in any one of the numerous hotels in the area, but you will be responsible for getting to our offices by 6:00am the morning of your course. We are a short taxi cab ride away from most of the downtown hotels and local equipment shops. After the course, we will return to our offices and you can return to your hotel by taxi at that point. You will need a room for the night prior to the start of your course and for the last night of your course. Please note: Free long-term parking is generally difficult in the vicinity of Alpine Ascents. If you plan to stay in Seattle and have a car, try to arrange a taxi or ride to our offices on the morning of the course. Extra gear may be stored in our office until your return.

What do I need to bring?

When you sign up for a course we will send you a confirmation package that includes an equipment list detailing each piece of equipment you will need. Please read your equipment list very carefully. You are required to bring every item on the list so be as precise as possible when packing. Alpine Ascents rents quality technical equipment at reasonable rates. If you have any equipment-related questions please call us (206-378-1927). You can also email us at: We have a full-time gear expert on staff.

Is food provided on my climb or course?

Please review the Sample Menu Plan in your confirmation package. As part of the curriculum, you are responsible for your own food. Before departing for the trailhead, we will check and organize personal/group gear. Additionally, if necessary we will make one final stop for groceries. However, it is advisable to purchase most of your bulk foods before we meet.  If you are staying in Seattle, there are numerous supermarkets as well as the flagship REI, North Face, and Patagonia gear shops for fresh and prepackaged foods.

Where do I pick up my rental gear for the course?

You will pick up your rental gear at our offices during the gear check.

How heavy will my pack be?

Since everyone purchases different gear and is a different size, it is hard to give you an exact number. For most of our courses, you can expect your internal frame pack (packed with gear and food) to weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. It is likely that you will be asked to help carry some of the group equipment such as ropes and protection, so make sure there is some additional room in and on your backpack for approximately 4-8 pounds of gear.

Any tips on packing?

The mountains of the northwest and north coast are heavily glaciated temperate mountains. This means they are subject to highly variable weather conditions.

  • Pack everything in two layers of sturdy plastic. (Trash Compactor Bags work the best) Bring one large trash bag to completely and easily cover your pack. You should bring at least 4 bags.
  • It is likely that you will be asked to help carry some of the group equipment, so make sure there is some additional room in and on your backpack.
What can I read to prepare for the course?

You will get far more out of your course by reading Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th ed., The Mountaineers. This book provides an excellent overview of the elements involved in alpine mountaineering. Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6 review many of the aspects we will be covering during your training and familiarity with these.phpects will greatly enhance your experience.

How many students/instructors are there per class?

All Courses on Mount Rainier have a 4:1 climber to guide ratio and a 2:1 ratio on summit day.

Where is a good, trustworthy store to purchase gear?

We run our own retail climbing shop and online gear store, where all Alpine Ascents climbers receive a discount and can receive personalized advice from our gear experts.

I am concerned that the gear I am renting will not fit or work properly.

The boots, packs, crampons, ice axes, tents, and other items are cleaned and checked on a daily basis. Gear is sized at the gear check and changes can be made at that time. All of our gear is of the highest quality. Please note that double plastic boots do not break in.

Is this trip going to be physically challenging?

Yes. See the training tips above, but… Keep in mind that you are climbing a mountain and it is not easy. If you follow our physical fitness tips and do some training on your own, you should complete the course with no problems.

What if I need to leave the course early?

For climbers who need to be escorted from the climb, there is an evacuation fee.

I thought it was a great course focusing on Denali issues. It was a great experience and everything was well organized.

Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
Copyright © 2016 Alpine Ascents International. All rights reserved.