Denali Prep Course
Essential Training for success on Alaska’s Mt. McKinley
Our 6 Day Denali/Alaska Expedition Preparatory Course is best suited for those who have already completed a basic or introductory mountaineering course, either with us here in the San Juans, or in other major mountain ranges in the lower 48 such as the Cascades or Sierras. This course has been specifically designed for those who are planning expedition style ascents in Alaska (Denali), South America (Aconcagua), or the Himalayas.
The course takes place on Mt. Sneffels which is easily visible on the drive from Montrose to Ouray and just west of Ouray near the Dallas Divide. On this program, we will attempt to climb either the Lavender Col Route or the SW Ridge, depending upon current snow conditions and group skills. The instruction will focus on topics that apply to mountaineering and expedition climbing on big, cold mountains. Emphasis will be placed on the acquisition and refinement of the skills listed below, as well as the proper selection and use of your personal climbing gear and clothing. We understand it is critically important that you feel confident in your gear choices when you fly onto the glacier in Alaska. You can’t bring it all with you!!
Success on climbs in Alaska requires many elements – including a solid foundation of mountaineering skills and an experiential background that allows you to develop the right mental attitude for the rigors of a 3 week expedition. We have developed this program with that end in mind, and the exceptional terrain, climate, and altitude of the San Juan’s provide the ideal setting in which to thoroughly prepare yourself both mentally and physically.
- Proper Camp Construction and Fortification
- Expedition Style Ascents
- Team Roped Travel
- Anchor Construction in Alpine Terrain
- Alpine Snow and Rock Climbing Technique
- Crevasse Rescue Protocol
- Route finding and Navigation
- Gear selection for Alaska expeditions
- Avalanche Awareness and Hazard Recognition
Just wanted to drop you a line and express how much I thoroughly enjoyed your ice class. It was fun to spend sometime with a climber of Andres ability and he was a terrific instructor an a joy to be around. You have a great business and I will be back again….Thanks again for a thoroughly enjoyable two days.” – S. Morgan, Basic Ice Course Dec 11-12, 2010
Denali Prep Course Itinerary
Day 0: Course participants will meet the evening prior to the course at our Ouray headquarters/office, to take care of any outfitting needs, perform a thorough check of your personal equipment, and give you the opportunity to purchase or rent any additional items that you may need for the course. Stay in a hotel.
Today is spent with a short (1 – 2 hour) classroom session focusing on the overview of the program and gear selection for the trip. Participants will then spend the rest of the day in the Ouray Ice Park covering essential technical skills, such as fixed line travel – an important consideration for climbing Denali. Stay in a hotel.
The team will begin the climb towards Yankee Boy Basin today, via Camp Bird Mine Road. This is an excellent day to put some miles on the snowshoes, and very closely approximates the first day on Denali (from bascamp to 7800′). This day will also focus on the concepts of team roped travel, sled use, and preliminarly field investigation into avalanche conditions and how to properly assess risk as it relates to the terrain. Camp out.
Today the team will move to our Advanced Base Camp in Yankee Boy Basin and establish another winter/snow camp – an important skill to have mastered prior to your climb of Denali. Camp out.
Today the team will head establish a route towards either the Lavendar Col or the SW Ridge, assessing snow conditions along the way. We will also cover additional technical skills on this day including snow anchors, hauling systems, and a thorough review of team roped travel. This is an alternate summit day in case of poor weather. Camp out.
Summit day on Mt. Sneffels. Depending upon the route choice (Lavender Col vs. SW Ridge) the team will attempt to climb this highly sought after Colorado 14′er. What better preparation for your climb of Denali than a tall, cold peak like Mt. Sneffels in the winter/spring. Camp out.
The group will pack up their gear and head back down towards the awaiting shuttle vehicle and then on to Ouray for a celebratory dinner! Stay in a hotel or depart.
Please note that this is an approximate itinerary and may be changed in order to suit the needs of the group and the current conditions in the mountains to maximize the learning opportunities for the course.
Denali Prep Course Equipment List
- Water Bottles: 2 1 liter size Nalgene w/bottle insulators.
- Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Day Pack: Approximately 35 – 50 liters.
Guides’ Pick: Osprey Mutant 38
- Gaiters: N/A for ice boots with integrated gaiter systems. Guides’ Pick: OR Crocs
- Lunch Food: Bring a selection of energy bars, GU’s, Clif Shots, and other high calorie quick energy foods.
- Socks: A pair of heavy wool or polypropylene.
Guides’ Pick: Smartwool Mountaineer
- Long Underwear: One pair of tops and bottoms. Midweight, synthetic material.
- Mid-Layer: Versatile fleece or similar mid-layer piece.
Guides Pick: OR Centrifuge Jkt
- Soft Shell Jacket: Shoeller or similar soft shell jacket.
Guides Pick: OR Alibi Jacket
- Down Jacket: Optional, but nice to have.
- Shell Jacket: Be sure that it will fit over all your other clothes. Gore-tex recommended.
- Shell Pants: With side zippers are best. Gore-tex recommended.
- Soft Shell Pants: Schoeller or similar fabric pants. Guides Pick: OR Cirque Pant.
- Gloves: A pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium weight gloves.
- Hat: Warm pile or wool hat. Try to size it so that it will fit comfortably under your helmet.
- Balaclava or BUFF: A must have for cold days and wind.
- Sunglasses: Category 3 or 4 lenses
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm: At least SPF 30.
- Digital Camera
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
- Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth.
- Belay / Rappell device: ATC or similar.
- Boots: Leather insulated ice climbing boots.
- Crampons: Step in crampons with vertical front points.
- Ice Tools: Ice climbing tools
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
1Before Your Trip
Previous completion of our Introduction to Mountaineering course (or similar) is preferred for participants who would like to take the Denali Prep Course. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb. 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 Prep Course you should be ready for:
- Climbing and snow/winter travel with a 50-60 lb load
- A 12+ hour summit day
- Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility
2Follow Up Climbs
- Denali – West Buttress
- Alaska Mountaineering Seminar
- Mt. Bona, Alaska Expedition
- Ecuador’s Volcanoes
We very much enjoyed our time in Ouray! The private 2-day climbing program was impressive. Our guide, Mark, was/is an excellent teacher. He took the time to build the skills for each of us, listened to the concerns and course corrected to ensure we were achieving what we wanted to achieve. Basically, Mark rocks! We look forward to coming back. – J. Bowers, 2011 Private Program
Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here
Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, approximately 30 minutes south of Montrose. Known as “The Switzerland of America”, the town of Ouray is a vibrant outdoor oriented community. All local businesses are very friendly to the ice climbers who flock each winter to climb in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding areas.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO. It is also possible to fly into Durango, CO, Telluride, CO, or Albuquerque, NM. It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray if you’d like to fly into one of either of these airports.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Montrose, CO: 45 mins
- Durango, CO: 2 hours
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 4.5 hours
- Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours
Hotels: Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip!
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and instruction
- Transportation from Ouray to the TH and back
- Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, ice screws etc.),
- Harness, helmet
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Ouray, CO
- Hotel costs before or after the courses
- 5% land use surcharge
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal climbing clothing
- Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.