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Denali - West Buttress Expedition

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  • Show Trip Info

    Price
    $8500 *
    Deposit
    $2500
    Duration
    21 days
    Difficulty
    Level 4
    Type
    Mountaineering

    *The above fee applies to 2016. The fee will increase in 2017, pending NPS approval. Price includes round-trip transfer to Talkeetna, three nights lodging in Talkeetna, Climbing Permit & Entrance Fee.

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Denali  - West Buttress Expedition

Denali - West Buttress Expedition

Surrounded by the massive glaciers and peaks of the Alaska Range and overlooking Alaska's interior stands 20,310' Denali, the highest mountain in North America.

EXPEDITION HIGHLIGHTS

  • Fly over the lakes and rivers of Alaska’s wilderness into the rugged peaks of the Alaska Range to Denali's Kahiltna Glacier: one of the largest, most impressive glaciers on the mountain.
  • Enjoy an expedition structured for success: with no pre-determined ending date our flexible itinerary gives our expeditions the freedom to make a summit bid on a timeline dictated by the mountain and the climbing team.
  • Climb between the gorgeous granite rock of the West Buttress and ascend the final corniced ridge to the summit of Denali.
  • Climb with experienced RMI Guides, benefiting from the background, training, and expertise of our leaders as you venture to higher altitudes.
  • Take part in an RMI adventure and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.

McKinley
McKinley
McKinley
McKinley
McKinley
McKinley
Mt McKinley: 20,320'
Downtown Talkeetna
A ski plane taking off from Talkeetna bound for the Alaska Range
Flying into the Alaska Range
McKinley Base Camp on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier
An RMI Team crossing the lower Kahiltna Glacier
An RMI Team nearing Camp 1 on the Lower Kahiltna Glacier
Camp 1 on the Kahiltna Glacier
An RMI Team approaching Camp 2 at 9,500'
RMI Climbers taking in the view 11 Camp (Camp 3)
An RMI Team cresting over Motorcycle Hill above 11 Camp
RMI Guide Leon Davis standing in front of the Father and Son's Wall on Denali's Northwest Face
An RMI Team crossing the Polo Fields below Windy Corner
An RMI Team rounding Windy Corner
An RMI Team rounding Windy Corner seen from high on the West Buttress
14 Camp (Camp 4) sitting in the middle of Genet Basin
An RMI Expedition relaxing in the cook tent at camp
Looking out over the Edge Of The World near 14 Camp
Climbing the fixed lines to reach the West Buttress
An RMI Climber at the base of Washburn's Thumb on McKinley's West Buttress
An RMI Team on McKinley's West Buttress
17 Camp (High Camp/Camp 5) on Denali's West Buttress Route
RMI Climbers checking out the view from 17 Camp
Climbing toward Denali Pass
An RMI Team crosses the Autobahn before reaching Denali Pass
An RMI Team nearing the Summit Ridge
Climbers on Denali's Summit Ridge
An RMI Team on the final strech of Denali's Summit Ridge
An RMI Team steps onto the summit of Mt. McKinley
An RMI Team on the summit of Mt. McKinley (20,320')
RMI Climbers descending toward Denali Pass after reaching the summit of Denali
An RMI Team descending the lower Kahiltna Glacier
An RMI Team back at Base Camp after a successful expedition

The West Buttress route on Denali was pioneered in 1951 by Dr. Bradford Washburn. The climb is a steady and gradual ascent over a period of days and we emphasize proper acclimatization for our team members. With no rock or vertical ice climbing, the route is not considered a highly technical climb. However, the physical environment of Denali presents much of the climbing challenge: miles of heavily glaciated terrain, extremes of temperatures and weather, and climbing and living at altitude. In addition to extensive glacier travel on the lower mountain, the climbing is considerably steeper above 15,000' (35° to 45°+). Some slopes have fixed rope in place to climb with the belay of a mechanical ascender. An ascent of the West Buttress of Denali with RMI is truly a major expedition and unforgettable climbing experience!

THE RMI DIFFERENCE

When your goal is the highest peak in North America, experience matters. Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America’s oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Denali and leaders in guiding climbs and treks around the globe.

We have been guiding in Alaska since 1975 and have led over 300 expeditions on Denali.

The remote and inhospitable landscape of Denali's slopes necessitate that all the finer points of an expedition are addressed and our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips; we work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader. Our preparation before departure helps you with the trip logistics - expedition planning, travel plans, mountain flights with K2 Aviation - so that you can focus on preparing for the climb. RMI does not establish final end dates to our expeditions, giving us the flexibility to take into account considerations such as weather, route conditions, acclimatization and the strength of the climbing team while on the mountain. This flexibility allows us to move higher when the weather permits and climbers are ready, not just because of the need to adhere to a pre-determined schedule.

Our Denali expeditions are led by RMI’s foremost guides who bring years of climbing experience on not only in Alaska but on mountains all over the world, from the Andes to the Antarctic to the Himalayas. With over 35 years of accumulated knowledge guiding Denali, our guides are second to none. Our guides closely monitor climbers’ performance and acclimatization throughout the team’s ascent and will make day-to-day variations in order to better your chances of reaching the summit. As you reach higher elevations and test the limits of your experience, the value of an accomplished, highly trained RMI Guide held to our standards cannot be understated.

CUSTOM EXPEDITION WITH DAVE HAHN

RMI is pleased to offer a Custom West Buttress Expedition with Dave Hahn. Click here for details.

SAFETY

Safety has always been RMI’s top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI’s experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful climb without compromising safety. We apply the same strict standards of safety we bring to the Antarctic and the Himalayas to our climbs of Denali. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, flexibility in our itinerary, and diligent attention is taken as we venture to high altitudes. Additional resources are stationed at Base Camp and 14K Camp and comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the climb.

As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or info@rmiguides.com.

NPS Authorized ConcessionerAuthorized Concessioner

RMI Expeditions is an authorized concessioner of Denali National Park and Preserve.

Climber Reviews

Filter By
09/12/2016
Mike and Billy's High Alpine Quesadilla Posh Stand...best quesadillas around 14 camp. LOL! On a more serious note, I really just appreciated how powerful such an expansive and grand landscape Denali offered. And loved meeting people from all over the world. Truly a great experience...except for not summiting. Next year maybe!
Rob C.

06/20/2016
Overall, a great experience and I will return to Denail
Rogan D.

06/15/2016
It was what you described. Safe, fun, team building - all while being a great challenge mentally and physically!
Lisa R.

05/30/2016
The comeraderie was excellent, the pace and acclimitization was perfect, the scenery was second to none.
David H.

07/10/2015
The guides were truly amazing!
Meredith B.

07/06/2015
I cant say enough good things about Mike Haugen. He is a professional in every way.
Aaron T.

06/28/2015
Having guides help me breakthrough my physical and mental barriers to achieve the summit.
Devin S.

06/28/2015
Guides, food was considerably good, itinerary.
Kevin L.

06/27/2015
Incredible fun, safe, great sense of camaraderie and teamwork, leave no trace principles and good mountain values, etc.
Eric H.

06/15/2015
Working and suffering with a great group of guys that marched to the summit and back as a team.
Shannon L.

06/05/2015
I enjoyed the teaching aspect of this trip. As we climbed, we never stopped learning. The guides did an awesome job of preparing us for each phase of the climb.
Chris Q.

07/03/2014
With the support of Jake, Leon and Katie I was able to work through the challenges associated with an expedition climb - specifically how to breath properly and the rest step. It was incredibly satisfying to go from feeling like I would not succeed to making it to the summit of McKinley. I would not have been able to do that without the awesome RMI guides.
George R.

07/03/2014
As always, I enjoyed unplugging from the world for a bit and spending time playing in the snow with some fairly diverse people who share the same interest.
Dwight R.

06/20/2014
I enjoyed the mountain, being in a remote and trying environment, and interacting with the guides and all the various camps. The flight in and out was spectacular as well.
Marko P.

09/08/2013
This trip was a remarkable experience, in every respect. Hard work and thorough preparation by the team members made climbing Denali more enjoyable, but it was really the excellent support from RMI and the outstanding leadership of its guides that got us to the top.
Peter R.

08/29/2013
Experienced, professional guides and a strong team
Barbara S.

07/25/2013
As always, meeting people and the exciting travel.
Anthony F.

07/19/2013
The guides were really terrific and our team gelled together really well. The mountain was challenging and exciting and it made for an amazing experience.
Gail W.

07/13/2013
Felt like I was in excellent hands and the guides were all amazing and on top of their game. I could tell that the group was their number 1 concern and were constantly checking on all of us which made me feel great.
William H.

06/18/2013
comraderie, extreme effort followed by a successful campaign
Jeff H.

06/14/2013
summit attempt and the fact that we all achieved this goal.
Pete B.

06/12/2013
team spirit and guidance
Thomas V.

  • Upcoming Climbs

  • Price
    $8500*
    Deposit
    $2500
    Duration
    21 days
    Difficulty
    Level 4
    Type
    Mountaineering

    *The above fee applies to 2016. The fee will increase in 2017, pending NPS approval. Price includes round-trip transfer to Talkeetna, three nights lodging in Talkeetna, Climbing Permit & Entrance Fee.

Table of Contents

Day 1

TRAVEL  •  348' | 106m

4:00 p.m.: Meet the guides at Anchorage International Airport (Domestic Terminal), carousel 1 in Alaska Airlines baggage claim.

Shuttle transportation to Talkeetna is included in the program. The shuttle leaves at 4:30 p.m. and takes three hours to arrive in Talkeetna. The group will stop at a grocery store in Wasilla for the opportunity to purchase any fresh food you'd like to bring on the mountain. The team will arrive in Talkeetna at approximately 9:00 p.m. Overnight at the Talkeetna Motel.

 

Day 2

PRE-TRIP PREPARATION AND TRAINING  •  348' | 106m

7:00 a.m.: Meet at The Roadhouse Restaurant, Talkeetna, AK

Our main goal today is to get the team ready to fly onto the mountain. After our breakfast meeting, the team attends a National Park Service presentation on expedition climbing and special considerations about Denali National Park & Preserve. Next, we focus on equipment, including an extensive personal gear check and recommendations for what to bring onto the mountain and how to pack for the flight to Base Camp. Finally, we organize the group food and equipment, putting the final touches on our packing for the flight. We enjoy a final meal in town before our expedition begins. Overnight at the Talkeetna Motel.

PRE-TRIP PREPARATION AND TRAINING

Day 3

FLY TO KAHILTNA BASE CAMP  •  7,300' | 2,225m

After breakfast we meet at K2 Aviation for the bush plane flight to Kahiltna Base Camp, weather permitting. The spectacular scenic flight takes approximately 45 minutes. Kahiltna Base Camp lies at 7,300' on the S.E. fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, approximately 20 miles distant and 13,000' below the South Peak of Denali, at 20,320'. At Base Camp we rig our sleds and review mountaineering skills needed for our climb.

FLY TO KAHILTNA BASE CAMP

Days 4 - 19: THE EXPEDITION

There are many variables on a Denali expedition. While most expeditions average 18 days from Base Camp to Base Camp, we never place an ending date on our programs. We purposely build flexibility into our itinerary to take into account weather, route conditions, acclimatization, and the strength of the climbing team. This flexibility allows us to move higher when the weather permits and climbers are ready. Our experienced guides closely monitor climbers' performance and acclimatization throughout the team’s ascent and may make day-to-day variations in order to better our chances of reaching the summit.

We pack each expedition with twenty-two man-days of food. In the event of bad weather, this amount can be stretched several additional days. Furthermore, there are emergency food rations at Kahiltna Base Camp, in case weather prevents the group from flying off the glacier.

The following itinerary is meant to highlight the camps, route details, and a day-to-day outline while on the mountain. It does not take into account any sort of delays.

 

Day 4

KAHILTNA BASE CAMP TO THE BASE OF SKI HILL • 7,800' | 2,377m

Leaving Kahiltna Base, we descend 400' down Heart Break Hill to the main Kahiltna glacier, where we turn towards Denali, and travel 5.5 miles up the gently rising glacial rolls. Our camp sits at the base of Ski Hill at 7,800'.

BASE CAMP TO CAMP 1

Day 5

BASE OF SKI HILL CAMP TO 9,600' CAMP • 9,600' | 2,926m

Ski Hill is the first major elevation gain of the trip. In a series of rolls, the Kahiltna glacier rises from our camp at the base of Ski Hill towards Kahiltna Pass at 10,000'. We leave camp, and climb up the glacier to our second camp at 9,600', just below Kahiltna Pass.

CAMP 1 TO CAMP 2

Day 6

9,600' CAMP TO 11K CAMP • 11,200' | 3,414m

At Kahiltna Pass, the Kahiltna glacier makes a prominent turn to the east, continuing up a glacial valley into our camp in a basin at the base of Motorcycle Hill.

CAMP 2 TO CAMP 3

Day 7

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT 11K CAMP • 11,200' | 3,414m

We spend the day resting, reviewing crampon and self arrest techniques, and sorting loads in anticipation of our carry day.

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT CAMP 3

Day 8

11K CAMP TO CACHE (13,500') • 11,200' | 3,414m

Leaving camp, we climb Motorcycle Hill to a bench with stunning views of the Father and Sons Wall, and the Peters Glacier. The subsequent climb up Squirrel Hill leads us to the Polo Field, a wide glacial bench at the foot of the West Buttress. We traverse around Windy Corner at 13,300' to our cache site at 13,500'. After leaving our load of group food, fuel, and personal items, we descend back to our tents at 11K Camp.

CAMP 3 TO CACHE

Day 9

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT 11K CAMP • 11,200' | 3,414m

This is an important acclimatization day before our move to 14K Camp. We spend the day resting, hydrating, eating, and organizing our loads for our move day.

 

Day 10

11K CAMP TO 14K CAMP • 14,200' | 4,328m

After breaking camp we make our move to 14K Camp. We once again climb around Windy Corner, and passing our cache site, continue to climb to our camp at 14,200' in Genet Basin, our home for the next several days.

11K CAMP TO 14K CAMP  ÃÆ'ƒÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’Æ'âہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃÆ'ƒÂ¢ÃÆ'¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃÆ'âہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃÆ'ƒâ€Å¡ÃƒÆ'âہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢  14,200' | 4,328m

Day 11

14K CAMP TO CACHE (13,500') • 14,200' | 4,328m

We retrace our steps and descend to our cache site at 13,500'. After retrieving our gear, we return to 14K Camp to spend the afternoon improving our camp and relaxing.

14K CAMP TO CACHE

Day 12

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT 14K CAMP • 14,200' | 4,328m

The focus of the day is to rest, hydrate, and let our bodies start to adjust to this new altitude. We practice fixed line travel and running belays, as well as sort another load of gear, all in preparation for our carry onto the West Buttress.

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT 14K CAMP

Day 13

14K CAMP TO CACHE (16,200' - 17,200') • 14,200' | 4,328m

We ascend out of the North side of Genet Basin, gaining the fixed lines at approximately 15,200' that top out at the ridge line of the West Buttress at 16,200'. Depending on time, weather, route conditions, and energy level, we may opt to make our cache at the top of the fixed lines, or travel higher along the West Buttress towards 17K Camp before caching. After leaving our loads, we return to 14K Camp for the evening.

14K CAMP TO CACHE

Day 14

ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT 14K CAMP • 14,200' | 4,328m

After a leisurely breakfast we make it our priority to hydrate and fuel throughout the day so that we’re prepared for our move to High Camp and the summit push. Depending on weather, we may stretch our legs and take a short walk across Genet Basin to the Edge of the World. From here we can look down almost 7,000' to the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna, see our first camp at the Base of Ski Hill, and look across the valley to stunning views of 17,402' Mt. Foraker.

CAMP 4 TO CAMP 5

Day 15

14K CAMP TO 17K CAMP • 17,200' | 5,243m

We ascend the North side of Genet Basin once again, gaining the fixed lines to the ridge crest of the West Buttress at 16,200'. We travel along the ridge crest, stopping to pick up any essentials from our cache before continuing to our High Camp at 17,200'.

14K CAMP TO 17K CAMP 14K CAMP TO 17K CAMP

Day 16

SUMMIT DAY! 20,310' • 17,200' | 5,243m

Our climb begins with a long rising traverse along the Autobahn to Denali Pass at 18,200'. Beyond Denali Pass, we follow the ridge line, passing the Zebra Rocks and the Archdeacon’s Tower before gaining the Football Field at 19,200'. Six hundred vertical feet of climbing leads us to the top of Pig Hill and the summit ridge. We traverse the airy summit ridge to the top of the South Peak. After celebrating on the summit, we descend our route back to High Camp. Summit day can be long; you should train for a 12 to 14 hour round trip.

Summit Day Summit Day

Day 17

17K CAMP TO 11K CAMP • 11,200' | 3,414m

After a well-deserved rest we pack camp and begin our descent back down the West Buttress. We stop briefly at 14K Camp to retrieve any cached items before continuing our descent to 11K Camp, where we stop for the night.

17K Camp to 11K Camp

Day 18

11K CAMP TO KAHILTNA BASE CAMP • 7,300' | 2,225m

We re-rig our sleds, don our snowshoes, and begin our descent of the main Kahiltna Glacier back to the base of Heartbreak Hill. We then turn our sights back uphill to Kahiltna Base on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna.

11K CAMP TO KAHILTNA BASE CAMP

Day 19

BASE CAMP to Talkeetna (fly off) • 348' | 106m

We load up the planes and return to Talkeetna to enjoy a hot shower and celebratory team meal. Overnight at the Talkeetna Motel.

BASE CAMP

Day 20

TRAVEL

Transfer to Anchorage International Airport (ANC) for our outbound flights.

 

 

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Travel Consultant

RMI has partnered with Erin Rountree to provide comprehensive travel support. We have been working with Erin for many years. As an independent agent of the Travel Society, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe and is extremely knowledgeable about the travel needs of our programs. Please call (208) 788-2870 or send email to etravel@cox.net.

Travel Insurance

We strongly encourage everyone to purchase travel insurance which can cover trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation, and more. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or while traveling. You can purchase travel insurance at any time prior to the trip departure. Should you need to cancel from a program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason.

There are several things to note when purchasing trip insurance.

  • Cancellation Insurance is included in the standard Trip Insurance policy if you are injured, or have a medical or family emergency prior to or while traveling. Should you need to cancel your program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason. Most travel insurance companies provide an option to include coverage that allows you to “Cancel for Any Reason”, but the initial policy must be purchased within 15 days of placing your deposit for the program.
  • In order to cover your trip with RMI Expeditions you may need to include options such as an “Adventure or Sports” upgrade. Not all travel insurance will cover mountaineering, climbing, skiing or trekking adventures. Some will not cover due to gear used (crampons, ice axe), others will not cover above a certain elevation and/or region of the world. Check your policy carefully to make sure your activity is covered.
  • Purchasing Travel insurance is also dependent on your state of residence. If one company doesn’t offer coverage for you because you live in Washington, another company might.

MH RossWe have partnered with MH Ross, a Trip Mate brand, to provide travel insurance for our climbers. MH Ross has created the Assure Adventure Plans to cover travelers participating in climbing, skiing, mountaineering and trekking programs.

MH Ross’s Adventure Plan and Adventure Plus Plan differ only in the coverage option which allows you to “Cancel for Any Reason”. In order to receive “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage you must purchase the Adventure Plan Plus within 15 days of paying your deposit or payment with RMI. We recommend that you carefully read the Plan Document that applies to your purchase.

Brochure: MH Ross Advantage Series - Assure Adventure Plans

Getting to Talkeetna

FLIGHTS TO ALASKA

Climbers need to arrive at Anchorage International Airport (ANC) by 3:30 pm on Day 1 of the program. The group will meet at 4:00 p.m., Alaska Airlines domestic baggage claim, carousel #1.

If your flight cannot arrive in Anchorage before 3:30 p.m. it will be necessary to arrive a day earlier and go to the airport to meet the team.

Airfare should be booked to depart Anchorage one month after your arrival date. When you return to Anchorage, you can reschedule your return flight at the ticket counter or over the phone. Depending on the airline, a change of date penalty is usually charged at this time. We have found scheduling a future date with a flexible return usually works better than an open-ended ticket or missing an early return date.

SHUTTLE TO TALKEETNA

We will arrange a transfer from Anchorage to Talkeetna at 4:30 p.m. the day your program begins. Please arrive in Anchorage no later than 3:30 p.m. Talkeetna is a three-hour drive from Anchorage. If you are traveling to Talkeetna on your own, please let RMI know in advance that you will not require transportation.

Weather

Denali's weather forecast is updated through the National Weather Service

Tipping

Our guides work hard to ensure your well being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment. Tips for excellent service normally average 10 – 15% of the cost of the program.

Resources

Bass, D., Wells, F., Ridgeway, R.  Seven Summits 1986

Beckey, Fred  Mount McKinley: Icy Crown of North America 1993

Bezruhka, Stephen  Altitude Illness - Prevention & Treatment 2001

Cole, Terence  The Sourdough Expedition: Stories of the Pioneer Alaskans Who Climbed Mount McKinley in  l910 1985

Davidson, Art  Minus 148: The Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley 1986

Houston, Charles  Going Higher: The Story of Man and Altitude 1987

Mason, Gene  Minus Three 1970

Michener, James A.  Alaska 1988

Moore, Terris   Mount McKinley: The Pioneer Climbs 1981

Randall, Francis  Denali Diary: Letters from McKinley 1987

Selters, Andy  Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue 1990

Sherwonit, Bill  To The Top of Denali 1990

 Sherwonit, Bill  Denali: The Complete Guide 2002

Snyder, Howard  The Hall of the Mountain King 1973

 Stuck, Hudson  The Ascent of Denali 1914

 Washburn, B., Roberts, D.  Mount McKinley - The Conquest of Denali 1991

 Waterman, Jon  High Alaska 1989

 Waterman, Jon  Surviving Denali: Accidents 1910 - 1990

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Qualifications

This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition with previous climbing experience. Successful completion of an RMI Expedition Skills Seminar on Mt. Rainier, in Alaska, Peru, Ecuador, North Cascades, or an equivalent multi-day mountaineering seminar is required.

Your climbing resume should include:

  • Glacier travel experience
  • Experience at altitudes above 14,000'
  • Familiarity with the skills needed for a cold, remote and heavily glaciated peak
  • Crampon skills on 30 - 50 degree slopes
  • Team rope travel skills
  • Knots & slings - prussik, butterfly, Münter, etc.
  • Snow and ice anchors (construction & equalization)
  • Belaying and running belay experience
  • Crevasse rescue (from both the victim and rescuer perspectives, and considering heavy packs and sleds)
  • Fixed line travel with mechanical ascenders
  • Ice axe self and team arrest, with and without a backpack
  • Snow camp construction

Qualifying Programs

Recommended climbing experiences prior to the Denali - West Buttress Expedition include:

  • Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life
    And Then Go
    Climb A Mountain

    Create A Fitness And Training Program

    Go To Fitness Resources

Fitness for Mountaineering

 

Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.

  • Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
  • Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
  • Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.

For the Denali - West Buttress Expedition, you are preparing for:

  • Steep climbing and glacier travel with a 50-65 lb load, including sled pulling
  • Strenuous physical activity for multiple hours a day for multiple consecutive days
  • A 12-14+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques requiring core strength and flexibility

Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!

Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.

 

Acclimatization

The key to climbing high is proper acclimatization. Our program follows a calculated ascent profile which allows time for your body to adjust to the altitude.

Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize as you ascend. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.

Finally, physical performance and acclimatization are also related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are all key factors in an individual’s success on an expedition such as this.

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What You’ll Need

The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.

Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering when they use code RMI2016 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items.

  • Use Code RMI2016
    To receive 10% off
    All New Equipment

Shop Your Equipment List // Rent new equipment for your climb

Equipment List

    • SLEEPING BAG

      A bag rated to -20° to -30° F. Either goose down or synthetic, with ample room for movement. Most guides prefer down, because it is lightweight and compactable. A waterproof bag is preferred, but not mandatory.
      The temperature rating system for sleeping bags is arbitrary and is not a guarantee of warmth. Base your selection on how well you do in the cold. If you tend to sleep on the cold side, choose a bag rated on the lower end of the temperature range. Using two sleeping bags together is not recommended.

    • ICE AXE

      The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.

    • CRAMPONS

      The 12-point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. We highly recommend anti-bot plates to prevent snow from balling up underfoot.

    • AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER

      A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.

    • MECHANICAL ASCENDER

      For traveling on fixed ropes. Most people prefer an ascender designed for their weak hand, leaving their strong hand free to hold their ice axe. For example, a right-handed person would use a left-handed ascender.

    • 10' of nylon accessory cord for miscellaneous lashing.

    • Four bungee cords (approximately 12” – 18” each).

    • SNOWSHOES

      Select a short to medium length model of snowshoe. The 22" model and the optional heel lift work well for most climbers. Team members are more often 'drafting' as opposed to actually breaking trail, so it is not necessary to have a longer pair. The snowshoes should have an attached claw or crampon for better purchase. Miles of roped glacier travel will be logged wearing snowshoes. It is recommended to spend some time walking in them prior to the trip.

    • 2 PAIR GLACIER GLASSES

      You will need protective sunglasses, either dark-lensed with side shields or full wrap-around frames. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the visible light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.

    • HEADLAMP IS NOT REQUIRED FOR THIS TRIP
    • Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.

    • We recommend six upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Three of these should be insulating layers, one light, one medium and one heavy that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.

    • DOWN PARKA WITH ATTACHED HOOD

      This item becomes of highest importance when we are faced with poor weather. This should be an expedition-style parka. The parka is worn primarily in camp, at rest breaks, and on summit day (when it is of crucial importance). When sizing a parka, allow for several layers to be worn underneath; buy it large. The parka must have an insulated hood.

    • We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.

    • MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS

      Expedition-style double boot, with high altitude expedition-style inner boot is mandatory. Price is the best indicator. Though expensive, the function of footwear is of crucial importance. Select a brand's "top of the line" model and it should be sufficient for Denali. The boot needs to be roomy enough to allow for good circulation. Anticipate a sock combination when sizing them (single sock, liner and sock, or two heavy socks on each foot). The idea is to adequately fill the volume of the boot, and to insulate. Wear the boots as often as possible before the climb, to determine proper fit, comfort and performance. Intuition liners may be considered if you're looking to upgrade plastic boots for additional warmth, comfort and performance.

    • BOOTIES

      Goose down or synthetic fill. Booties can be worn inside of the overboots while walking around camp, which allows an opportunity to dry out inner boots.

    • SUNSCREEN

      We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.

    • MEALS

      See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.

    • 2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES

      Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required. Plastics made with high post-consumer recycled content and BPA-Free are recommended.

    • 5 - 6 GARBAGE BAGS (LARGE)

      We recommend lining your backpack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry.

    • ALKALINE BATTERIES

      For avalanche transceiver.

    • CAMERA
    • LIGHTER
    • TOOTHBRUSH
    • TOOTHPASTE
    • 2 ROLLS TOILET PAPER
    • PEE BOTTLE & PEE FUNNEL (FOR WOMEN)

      Pee bottle should be 1 to 1 1/2 quart size.

    • BAND-AIDS
    • ASPRIN / IBUPROFEN / TYLENOL
    • ANTACIDS
    • IMODIUM (ANTI-DIARRHEA)
    • PEPTO-BISMOL (STOMACH RELIEF)
    • SMALL ROLL OF ADHESIVE TAPE
    • ANTIBIOTICS

      Broad spectrum antibiotics for Traveler's Diarrhea.

    • TYLENOL #3

      Tylenol 3 for pain

    • ACETAZOLAMIDE

      For Altitude Illness

    • DEXAMETHAZONE

      For HACE.

    • SLEEPING MASK
    • READING MATERIAL / JOURNAL
    • iPOD
    • THERMOS

      One-half liter capacity, maximum.

    • MOSQUITO REPELLENT

      For Talkeetna.

    • Purchase travel insurance.

    • Purchase airplane tickets.

    • Reserve rental equipment.

    • Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!


Provided Equipment

RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, stoves, group cooking equipment, fuel, shovels, climbing ropes, climbing anchors, and avalanche probes.

Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a satellite phone for emergency contact.

Each member will have a sled for use during the program. Sleds aid in transporting loads between camps on the lower mountain.

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MEALS

On the Denali - West Buttress expedition you will need 22 mountain lunches. All of your mountain lunch items should weigh about 20 lb.

Breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain are included in your program cost. You are responsible for all meals while we are off the mountain.

MOUNTAIN LUNCHES

Mountain lunches are eaten during short breaks throughout the day. We continually snack to keep our energy levels up while we climb - lunch begins just after breakfast and ends just before dinner! Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.

The importance of having foods that are genuinely enjoyed cannot be overstated. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength while in the mountains. In order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude we aim to have a variety of foods that stimulate the whole palate, from sweet to sour to salty.

Take care while shopping for your personal mountain lunch items. Don't wait until the last minute. Make a list in advance and add to it as you generate and remember more ideas. Try to shop at stores that offer a large variety of gourmet and specialty foods, as well as your old, stand-by favorites. Keep in mind that, for the most part, Denali stays cold enough to preserve perishable food for weeks.

Recommended mountain lunch items: bagels, tortillas, crackers (Wheat Thins, Triscuits), hummus, Pringles, corn nuts, smoked almonds, roasted cashews, GORP mix (peanuts, M&M's, sunflowers seeds, raisins, etc), smoked salmon, fresh veggies (carrots), salami, pepperoni, cheese (pepper jack, Swiss, cheddar), jerky, candy (sweet and sour varieties), chocolate bars, hard candies, energy bars (Cliff, Luna), dried fruits (apricots, pineapple, pear), and drink mixes (Gatorade, Kool-Aid, or Crystal Light).

Perishable food items may be purchased at a grocery store en-route to Talkeetna; you should have the bulk of lunch items already purchased and packed.

Sample of Seth Waterfall's personal lunch food from his Denali Expedition:

  25 bars: mix of Cliff, Luna, and others

  2 lb of almond, dried cranberries & chocolate chips

  2 packages of bagels

  2 packages of whole wheat tortillas

  2 blocks of cheese - pepper jack & sharp cheddar

  1 Hickory Farms summer sausage

  1 pepperoni stick

  1 package Little Smokies

  2 packs of smoked salmon

  1 pack of turkey jerky

  2 cans each: clams, oysters

  1 container of peanut butter & jelly mix

  2 packages of crackers (Wheat Thins & Triscuits)

  2 cans of potato chips (Pringles)

  2+ lb GORP mix

  1 box of Ginger Snaps

  1 box of graham crackers

  1 container of hummus

  1 bag of carrots

  1 package of dried mangos

  1 small container of sweet mustard

  Gatorade mix & travel size Crystal Light packets

  25 mixed candies (lifesavers, jolly ranchers, gummy worms, sweet tarts, toffee, mints)

 

BREAKFAST

Breakfasts consist of fresh food (bagels, cream cheese), bacon and eggs, instant oatmeal, instant grits, cold cereal (granola), breakfast bars, and hot drinks.

DINNER

Twenty-two man-days of food are carried on the mountain, which can be stretched in the event of bad weather. Additionally, a cache of emergency food is left at Kahiltna Base Camp.

The dinner menu is a combination of fresh food (vegetables, tortillas, cheese), retort entrees (fully cooked meals packaged in sealed containers and heated in hot water), freeze-dried entrees (Mountain House or Richmoor Natural High), and packaged main course items (ramen, Lipton Rice or Noodles, macaroni and cheese). Various hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, and cider) and dessert are also provided.

Every attempt is made to assure a variety and adequate quantity.

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Payments

Deposit Payments: A deposit payment of $2,500 per person secures your reservation. Deposit payments may be made via MasterCard, Visa, e-check, check, or wire transfer.

Balance Payments: The balance payment is due 120 days prior to the start of your program, and we will send a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment is due. If your balance payment is not received within 120 days of the program, your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. Trips departing within 120 days from the reservation date must be paid in full at the time of reservation. Please note that balance payments may be made via check, e-check or wire transfer only.

Cancellation

Once we receive written notification that you are canceling an individual participant or your entire reservation the following fees will apply:

  • A fee of $1,500 per person will be charged for cancellations made more than 120 days before departure.
  • There will be no refunds for cancellations made less than 120 days before your program.

Unfortunately, due to the time-sensitive nature of our business, and the difficulty in re-booking a trip close to departure, we cannot make exceptions to this policy.

Cancellation Insurance: We strongly suggest that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.

Change of Date

Date changes are subject to availability and apply only to the current climbing season. Date changes may be requested at anytime up to 60 days prior to your departure date for a $250 fee per person. There are no date changes allowed less than 60 days before departure.

LANDCOST

INCLUDED

  • RMI Leadership
  • Ground transportation between Anchorage and Talkeetna as stated in the itinerary
  • Hotel accommodations in Talkeetna for two nights at the start of the trip and one night at the end of the trip*
  • National Park Service Mountaineering Permit Fee
  • Denali National Park Entrance Fee
  • Breakfast and dinner while on the mountain
  • Group equipment (tents, ropes, stoves, fuel, sleds, etc.)
  • Bush pilot service between Talkeetna and Kahiltna Base Camp as stated in the itinerary

NOT INCLUDED

  • Airfare to Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
  • Hotel accommodations in Talkeetna not included above
  • Meals while not on the mountain
  • Mountain Lunches during the climb
  • Customary guide gratuities
  • Bush pilot fees if returning from the mountain early

* Accommodations are based on double occupancy.

Risk Management

Managing risk is RMI’s number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering such as avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, inclement weather, and high winds, but they cannot eliminate them.

Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently a hazardous sport. You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risk and hazards of mountaineering, and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity.

Climber Responsibilities

Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Some of the responsibility for the team is carried by the individual climbers. For this reason, we ask that each participant:

  • is physically and mentally fit, properly attired and equipped, and continues to self assess throughout the program to ensure as safe a climb as possible. If a climber’s own physical fitness limits his or her ability to safely continue upward, that can have a negative impact on the summit experience or opportunity of other climb participants.
  • honestly and accurately describe themselves, in terms of fitness, health and skills, and their equipment to their guides, and that they adhere to the advice of their professional mountain guide.

Age-Appropriate Guidelines & Restrictions

In the interest of the safety and well-being of all participants, RMI adheres to the following age-appropriate guidelines and restrictions on all climbing programs, domestic and international.

  • Ages 15 & under: No participants age 15 & under
  • Ages 16 & 17: Accompanied by parent or legal guardian
  • Ages 18 & above: No restrictions 

An individual’s birthday must precede the departure date of the program. For example: a 15 year old who turns 16 on July 1 may participate on a program beginning July 2.

Accompaniment by parent or legal guardian is required for the program or climb.

Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.

Summit Attempt

RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person’s own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.’s responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.

General Policies

No registrations allowed within three weeks of expedition departure date.

Any Participant under the age of 18 must be accompanied on the trip by a parent or legal guardian and both the Participant and parent or legal guardian must sign all forms.

RMI's program plans and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, terrain, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including discretion to change program schedule or itinerary, and change guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program.

We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions. In such a case, a full refund is given; however, RMI cannot be responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).

If the Participant decides to leave a trip at any time after the start of the trip and prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be entitled to a refund.

RMI reserves the right to dismiss the Participant from a trip or to send the Participant to a lower altitude at any time if RMI determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for or capable of participating in the program.

The Participant understands and agrees that RMI assumes no responsibility or liability in connection with any travel and hospitality service provided to the Participant by others in connection with the trip, including but not limited to the services provided by airlines, hotels, and motor vehicle operators, and that RMI is not responsible for any act, error, omission, or any injury, loss, accident, delay, irregularity, or danger by a supplier of travel or hospitality services to the Participant in connection with the RMI program.

RMI recommends and strongly advises that the Participant have or purchase personal life, medical, accident, travel, baggage, trip cancellation, and other insurance that may pertain to participation in the program. The Participant understands that RMI provides no such insurance coverage in connection with the trip.

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