Alaska Mountaineering Seminar
Train for Big Mountain Success
We created this trip for climbers wanting their first taste of Alaskan climbing. Participants will experience each aspect of Alaska mountaineering, including glacier camping, glacier travel and icefall navigation, crevasse rescue training, steep snow climbing, and more. This trip teaches and reinforces the skills required for climbing serious peaks around the world. Our small 3:1 client-to-guide ratio allows for personalized instruction and flexibility.
After arriving in Anchorage we travel to Talkeetna, a small, historic and funky town that comes alive with climbers every summer. From Talkeetna we board a ski plane and take a stunning flight into the Ruth Gorge, where enormous Alaskan faces surround us. Snow, ice and granite dominate every view. We establish base camp near the landing zone and begin training for the climbing to come. Our focus immediately turns to glacier travel, and the group starts honing its roped travel and crevasse rescue systems. We review and practice alpine ice techniques, route finding, avalanche assessment and rope ascension.
We climb our first objective, Mt. Barille (7,650’), via its west face. The climb itself ascends 2,000 vertical feet and involves 35-50 degree snow and ice. This climb provides the perfect opportunity to apply the skills from our training days. After climbing Barille we’ll pack-up our camp and, using sleds, move to our next objective. Possibilities include Explorer’s Peak, Mt. Dickey and The Incisor.
The Venue: Alaska’s Ruth Gorge
The incredible scale of Alaska’s Ruth Gorge seems reminiscent of Patagonia, but with better weather. The vast glaciers and towering alpine rock faces give breathtaking scenery and phenomenal mountaineering opportunities. The Ruth offers a superb arena to improve one’s alpine skills.
As a blind climber, I’ve done expeditions all around the world and dealt with all kinds of local outfitters and guide services; San Juan Mountain Guides is the best! – Erik Weihenmeyer
AK Mountaineering Seminar Itinerary
As with all climbs in Alaska, it’s best to approach this expedition with a flexible attitude and be prepared to move camp, climb, and generally get things done when the opportunity presents itself. Weather, route conditions, team dynamics, and a host of other factors can influence how our team decides to adjust the itinerary to give us the best chance for success and safety while on the mountain.
Arrive in Anchorage and travel to Talkeetna. There will be an opportunity to spend a little time in Anchorage picking up any last minute supplies or gear needs from local outfitters. Stay in a hotel.
The group will check in with the NPS in the morning after a hearty breakfast at The Roadhouse. We will then finalize our gear preparations and fly into Ruth Gorge and establish base camp later that afternoon.
Skills review and training near our basecamp. Specific emphasis will be placed on glacier travel and crevasse rescue scenarios, both of which are foundational expedition mountaineering skills.
Full day glacier tour and conditions reconnaissance on the peaks near our camp in the Ruth Gorge. This will be an opportunity to explore the range a little bit and assess potential climbing objectives for the coming days.
Climb Mt. Barille (7560′) via the Japanese Couloir. A great introduction to mixed alpine climbing, the Japanese Couloir offers some steep snow and a little rock scrambling to attain the summit of this centrally located peak. An early start gets us back to camp before noon and in about 9 – 12 hours round trip.
Weather/contingency day or rest day. If the weather is good we may choose to move camp and or prepare for our next climbing objective, which may be the West Face of Mt. Dickey – among other options.
Today the team will move camp to 747 pass on Mt. Dickey. Moving and establishing successive camps is an another important acquired skill for climbers in Alaska.
Summit Mt. Dickey (9,545′) via the West Face. Another excellent climb with intricate glacier travel takes us to the summit of this iconic Ruth Gorge peak. Descend back to camp.
Weather contingency day. Or fly out to Talkeetna.
Fly out to Talkeetna mid-morngin and return to Anchorage in the afternoon. A celebratory lunch or dinner in Anchorage rounds out the trip. Many participants schedule a late flight home on this day as most airlines offer flights out of Anchorage at this time. Alternatively, you may stay the night in Anchorage and fly home the following day.
Note: This is an approximate itinerary and may be adjusted according to weather, bush flight schedules, acclimatization, group speed and ability. Daylight hours are unusually long so we have a lot of time to refine our snow camping and climbing skills.
AK Mountaineering Seminar Equipment List
- Backpack: Internal frame, 50-80 liters. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60
- Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-30 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
- Sleeping pad: Guides’ pick: Thermarest NeoAir
- Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
- Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey
- Water purification system: We recommend simple iodine tablets, but pumps are acceptable. Guides’ pick: Potable Aqua
Clothing and Personal Equipment
- Hiking boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
- Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
- Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
- Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
- Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
- Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
- Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
- Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth.
- Boots: Hiking boots, or alpine boots – many options. No tennis shoes.
- Crampons: General mountaineering crampons (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
- Mountaineering Axe: 60 – 70 cm mountain axe (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
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 Expedition
The Alaska Mountaineering Seminar requires that you have successfully completed a basic or introductory level mountaineering course, either our Intro to Mountaineering and Expedition Climbing Course or similar. Previous technical experience is not required for this expedition, though it can be very useful. Most important is being in excellent physical condition. A combination of cardiovascular and muscular (especially the lower body) training is particularly relevant on an expedition of this nature and will insure you are ready for the rigors of traveling on glaciated terrain at altitude.
For the Alaska Mountaineering Seminar you should be ready for:
- 8 – 10 days on a remote glaciated mountain venue
- Carrying a pack loaded with food and gear up to 50 lbs
- Fickle weather, cold temperatures, warm temperatures, delays, other factors beyond our control
2Follow Up Climbs
I hope that I might be able to get out to Ouray again before ice season ends. If so, I’ll definitely get in touch with you. Working with the local experts really makes a difference. Thanks again for everything! – N. Subashki. 2011 Private Program
Anchorage, Alaska: Getting There
Our expedition begins in Anchorage, Alaska where we’ll spend a day organizing food, gear, and other logistics prior to driving to Chitina, Alaska and our bush flight into the mountains. Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and a hub for travelers from around the globe. Anchorage serves as both a hub and gateway for climbers and other tourists as they head to their planned destinations in the great (and huge!) state of Alaska.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Anchorage, Alaska. We will pick you up at the airport and then provide transportation for the rest of the time you are in Alaska.
Driving: Driving to Alaska is an experience like no other. If you’re into the “full experience” consider driving up to Alaska on the AlCan. It might just turn out to be the highlight of your trip!
- Seattle, WA to Anchorage, AK: 34 hours
- Ouray, CO to Anchorage, AK: 48 hours
Hotels: If flying into Anchorage early you’ll want to arrange lodging for at least 1 night in Anchorage. We provide lodging in Anchorage on the first day of the program and below are a list of hotels that we recommend.
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and trip leadership with AMGA Certified Guides
- Round trip Transportation from Anchorage to Chitina
- 1 night of lodging in Anchorage
- Bush flights from Chitina round trip
- Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Anchorage, AK
- Additional hotel costs before or after the program
- Personal Lunch Food
- 3% land use surcharge
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal alpine climbing clothing
- Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- You will need to fill out our Expedition Application, cancellation policy agreement, and liability waiver, and send it to us with a 50% deposit as early as possible prior to the expedition date. Balance is due on the first day of the course. Please click on our Registration/Travel link to access the required forms.
He was very thorough and safety conscious. I would highly recommend Nate to anyone and would love to travel again with him on another trip. Happy adventuring! – Tanya H. Expedition 2010