North America's Highest Peak

Denali Standard Departure

This expedition to North America’s highest mountain follows the West Buttress Route, which is technically straightforward but also considered a true ‘expedition’ ascent and a demanding climb.

Adventure Consultants operates this expedition in conjunction with our North American partner, the American Alpine Institute, who are approved Denali National Park concessionaires with extensive guiding experience on Denali.

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Difficulty Level High ?
Fitness Level Very High ?
Duration 21 days
Elevation 6,190M / 20,308FT
Large view

Small groups, quality first

Large view

Distances are vast in Alaska on Denali

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Enjoying the big mountains and big skies in Alaska on Denali - American Alpine Institute

Large view

A summit group on Denali - American Alpine Institute

Large view

Hauling sleds on Denali - Guy Cotter

From Jun 10 to Jun 30, 2018
Departs from Talkeetna, Alaska
$8,800 USD $
  • Overview

    • North America’s highest peak and one of the Seven Summits
    • Veteran Denali guides
    • Excellent high-altitude training in a spectacular environment


    An ascent of Denali is ideal for those wishing to experience high altitude expedition mountaineering. Climbers must have intermediate technical snow and ice climbing experience, glacier travel and winter camping skills, plus be in great shape and able to carry 50 pound/20 kg + packs. An ascent of Denali is a physically challenging, yet incredibly rewarding experience.

    We fly from Talkeetna to Base Camp on the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,000ft/2,134m. From there we commence the climb of the West Buttress moving through increasingly higher camps until we are in a position to ascend to the summit. 

    Our Standard departure ascends the mountain at a 1:3 guide to client ratio; we also offer a separate 1:2 'Highly Supported' ratio, in addition to a Denali Prep Course for those wishing to hone their skills before taking on the expedition.

  • Why AC?

    Adventure Consultants is renowned for the quality of its service and strategy applied to high altitude expedition climbing. Our reputation is attributed to meticulous planning and experienced logistics coordination. We have a philosophy of investing in every expedition to offer our climbers the best possible chance of success.

    We employ strong and specialised Expedition leaders and support staff, who are some of the most pre-eminent in the industry. We pride ourselves on operating with small teams, the best back-up and support available. This includes nutritious and ample quantities of food, comfortable base camp facilities, reliable communications systems and the necessary medical back up.

    Many of our expedition members come to us because they have seen us in action on a previous trip and decide to opt for our level of service and proven experience. Others return because they know we do our very best to make expeditions safe and successful.

  • Payment Conditions

    Inclusions

    The price of your trip includes the following:

    • Mountain guides at a maximum 1:3 ratio
    • All expedition organisational requirements
    • Round-trip mountain flight
    • Group equipment: stoves, tents, ropes etc. and all supplies necessary to make a safe and strong bid for the summit.
    • A dispatch page following the climb on the www.aai.cc website
    • Group food during the climb


    Exclusions

    The price of your trip does not include:

    • Round-trip airfare to Anchorage, Alaska
    • National Park Service climbing permit fee of US$365 (US$265 aged under 24)
    • Meals and lodging in Anchorage and Talkeetna
    • Transportation to/from Talkeetna, about US$180 round trip
    • Personal clothing and equipment
    • Personal trip cancellation/ medical evacuation insurance
    • Excess baggage
    • Any rescue costs
    • Any costs associated with early departure from the expedition
    • Extra expenses incurred from weather delays in Talkeetna
    • Gratuities

    Account Information

    All payments should be made by bank transfer to the following bank and account:

    Bank of New Zealand
    Offshore Branch
    1 Willis Street
    Wellington
    New Zealand

    for the account of Adventure Consultants Limited

    Account # 1000-594771-0000
    Account Type: US Dollars
    Swift Address: BKNZNZ22

    Note: All bank transfer charges are for the remitters account.

    We can accept your deposit payment by credit card – Visa, Mastercard or AMEX. The balance must be paid by bank transfer of funds.

    Deposit

    A non-refundable deposit of US$1,500 is payable to secure a place on the Standard Expedition.

    Balance

    The balance remaining is due 120 days from the departure date.

    Cancellation & Refund Policy

    An expedition member may cancel his/her participation on the following basis:

    • Cancellations outside of 120 days of the departure date will result in the loss of the trip deposit.
    • Cancellations between 120 and 90 days of the departure date incur 50% of balance payment. 
    • For cancellation made within 90 days of the departure date there will be no refunds.

     

    Trip Cancellation Insurance

    On all of our international expeditions there is a requirement for each expedition member to have insurance to cover any personal or medical mishaps that may occur before or during the expedition. This should cover you for any costs incurred in the event of any illness, medical emergency or evacuation that occurs while on expedition as well as trip cancellation, baggage loss, damage or theft, or any other such mishap that may occur.

    This level of cover is normally achieved by the purchase of two policies; one which offers cover for medical evacuation and repatriation while climbing (such as RipCord or Global Rescue) and a standard comprehensive policy that would likely include cover for trip cancellation (in the event of an injury or mishap prior to your trip start date), delayed flights and lost luggage. Occasionally one policy can be purchased which will cover all of these eventualities, or in some instances a climber may choose to self-insure for part of the expedition.

    Upon sign up, you will be provided with additional information on how to purchase this specific cover.

  • Trip Notes

    DenaliThe Expedition Trip Notes provide detailed information and background for the Adventure Consultants' Denali Expeditions.

    You can view the trip notes online by clicking the image or download a pdf by clicking the following links:

    Denali Standard Expedition Trip Notes

    Team Membership

    The maximum climber to guide ratio is 9:3. The team will have a maximum size of 9 members and 3 guides.

    Partnership with American Alpine Institute

    This trip is offered as part of our partnership with American Alpine Institute (AAI) in Bellingham, Washington. When you sign on we will alert the AAI office about our discussions and your choice of a trip and have them contact you. AAI will know about your background, how your last trip went, your skill level, and your current plan for a next program. AAI and AC will work together to assure that you are well taken care of and that all your planning and preparation goes smoothly, and that everything is in place to help you achieve your goals.

    For more on the partnership, click here.

    Your Health

    Expedition members will be provided with pre-trip medical advice and a medical questionnaire and asked to visit their family physician and receive a full medical examination. This information will be sighted only by the expedition leader and our medical adviser and treated with full confidentiality.

    Level of Experience Required

    To climb Denali you need to be physically fit, have strong mental stamina and be capable of strenuous exercise for several days’ duration. Expedition members need to be capable of carrying a 50 pound / 20 kg + pack. Climbers must have intermediate technical snow and ice climbing experience, glacier travel and winter camping skills.

    Climbing at altitude affects people differently; most climbers notice a lower performance rate than normal. Our climbing days are mostly short to accommodate this and vital rest days are usually welcomed! Our graduated acclimatisation program allows you to progressively consolidate your fitness. Please also see our Fitness Training Programs.

    History

    The Athabascans, Alaska's native people, named the mountain Denali - 'the high one'. Denali was first climbed to the true summit in 1913 from the north via Karstens ridge, by Karstens, Stuck, Harper and Tatum. No other routes were pioneered and very few reached the summit until 1951, when Bradford Washburn and team pushed through the West Buttress route. Washburn's extensive cartography and photography was key in determining this route. This landmark ascent used a ski plane to establish a base camp (BC) on the Kahiltna glacier at 10,000 ft/3,048m paving the way for their ascent and the most successful route today.

    Clothing & Equipment

    Expedition members will be sent a registration email which includes links to the climber info packet and other info to help with preparing for the trip.

  • Itinerary

    Weather and climbing conditions will dictate our progress during the climb.

    The following itinerary is a guideline of our schedule.

    Day  
    0 Arrive Anchoragem 2pm gear check, orientation at the hotel. Optional team dinner
    1 Ground shuttle to Talkeetna, check in at ranger station, orientation and slide show, pack for glacier flight
    2 Climb to Camp 1
    3 Carry loads to cache below Camp 2 (3,048m/10,000ft), return to Camp 1 (2,378m/7802ft)
    4 Move to Camp 2 (3,413m/11,198ft)
    5 Retrieve cache (3,048m/10,000ft), return to Camp 2 (3,413m/11,198ft)
    6 Carry loads to cache (4,145m/13,599ft), return to Camp 2 (3,413m/11,198ft)
    7 Move to Camp 3 "14 Camp" (4,328m/14,200ft)
    8 Back carry cache (4,145m/13,600ft)
    9 Rest Day
    10 Carry cache above the top of fixed lines (4,937m/16,198ft), return to Camp 3 (4,328m/14,200ft)
    11  Optional Rest Day
    12   Move to High Camp (5,242m/17,198ft)
    13   Optional Rest Day
    14-19   Summit Window 14-18hr day (6,193m/20,318ft)
    19-20  Descend from High Camp to the landing strip
    21  Fly off the glacier (weather permitting), sort gear in Talkeetna, trip ends

    We make four camps as we climb alpine style, moving all camps higher as we go and leaving none established above or below. It is not uncommon for temperatures high on the mountain to fall as low as -30F (-34C), but at lower elevations daytime temperatures on the glacier can reach as high as 70F (21C), so we sometimes sleep in the day and ferry loads at night when temperatures are between 0F and 15F (-9 to -18C). The night's cold improves conditions under-foot, and we still have adequate light because of the extreme northern latitude. Double carries are done during the first part of the expedition to ease the work and to help with acclimatisation.

    All expeditions begin with a meeting and orientation in Anchorage. We spend one night there, then travel by van the next morning to the small town of Talkeetna. There we repack our equipment, meet our ski plane pilots, and as soon as possible, make the beautiful flight to the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,300 feet. Soon after our arrival and a review of glacier travel procedures, we begin moving to our first camp.

    We establish our Camp 1 at 7,800 feet at the confluence of the main Kahiltna Glacier and its rugged Northeast Fork, the approach for West Rib and Cassin Expeditions. Enjoying spectacular views the whole way, we continue on to Cache 1 at 9,800 feet and Camp 2 at 11,200 feet while snowshoeing up moderate terrain. As we do throughout the climb, we travel in rope teams because of the ever-present crevasse hazard. To ease the burden of moving our expedition supplies, we use specially designed sleds that we tether to our packs and pull along the gentle sections of the lower mountain.

    Above Camp 2, the climbing steepens as our route takes us past the terminal walls of the West Buttress. We usually cache our snowshoes at 11,200 feet and continue our climb with crampons because of the gradient of the route and the hardening snowpack. We climb out of a basin to reach Windy Corner at 13,100 feet, then make an ascending traverse through seracs and heavily crevassed terrain as we approach the head of the Kahiltna Glacier at 14,200 feet. We enjoy spectacular views as we look down to the lower Kahiltna and out to 17,004-foot Mt Foraker. In the other direction the impressive summit bulk of Denali rises above us, and we can easily see the details of the upper West Rib and Messner Couloir, as well as the steep headwall of the West Buttress that we will soon climb. At Camp 3 (14,200 feet), we take a well-deserved rest day and make final preparations for our summit bid, reorganizing our gear for the carry to the highest camps.

    At this point we move into the most demanding part of the expedition: higher elevations combined with steeper ground. From Camp 3, we ascend 1100 feet up a gentle snow slope to the bergschrund at the base of the West Buttress. The bergschrund is at times quite steep but it is short and, with steps established in the ice, not difficult to surmount. We then begin our ascent to the top of the West Buttress on the 900-foot headwall of 45 and 50-degree slopes. Typically the pitches are of hard ice with some snow overlaid, and we protect them by using self-belays with jumars on a fixed rope. Because of the steepness of the route and the amount of elevation gained, we may make a double carry to establish Cache 3 at over 16,000 feet.

    Emerging from the headwall onto the top of the Buttress, the atmosphere of the climb changes dramatically. While the earlier parts of the climb have all been on large glaciers and open slopes dominated by immense mountain masses towering above, we now move on an open ridge and enjoy that unmistakable feeling of climbing above most of the surrounding world. As we begin to move along the crest of the Buttress, we gain views across the Peters Glacier to the Alaskan tundra stretching out far beyond, and to the south we can look over the top of Mt. Hunter to the scores of other peaks in the Alaska Range. Initially the ridge is fairly broad, but as we reach the 16,400-foot level it narrows with steep drop-offs to both the north and south.

    The traverse to our final camp, Camp 4 (High Camp) at 17,200 feet, is one of the most beautiful climbs on Denali. We follow a steadily narrowing crest and at times move between and around a series of magnificent, pointed granite gendarmes up to fifty feet high. The climbing is never steeper than 35 degrees, but the exposure is very significant and requires caution as we move up a route that in some sections is reduced to ledges six feet wide. Further east the ridge finally begins to merge with the main part of the Denali massif, and there we establish camp in a basin just below Denali Pass, the low point between Denali's higher south summit and lower, 19,470-foot north peak. From this point we will climb to the summit in a single day.

    On summit day we make an ascending traverse to Denali Pass, crossing above some very large crevasses and traversing a fairly steep section between 17,600 and 18,000 feet. From there we climb gentle slopes to a plateau at 19,400 feet, from which we get impressive views down onto the Harper and Muldrow Glaciers and across to Denali's North Peak. Our final approach to the summit takes us up moderately steep slopes to the crest of the ridge between Kahiltna Horn (20,120') and the main summit. At the crest we peer down the 8000-foot drop of the precipitous South Face, looking between the Cassin Ridge to our right and the South Buttress to our left. We ascend the summit ridge on its exposed south side for two rope lengths, then cross to the north side for the final pitches that bring us to the 20,320-foot summit of North America. With steady drops on three sides and the abrupt face to the south, the final steps to the clearly defined summit point are a very exciting finish to a beautiful route.

  • Add Ons

    You might wish to consider a Denali Prep Course prior to your expedition

    For a pre-trip instruction week, check out our Alpine Expedition Course and 7 Summits Training Course in New Zealand. In Europe, we have options for instruction time with a guide at our European Climbing School, based out of Chamonix, France.

    Some individuals and groups prefer private program options. Dates for all programs are dictated by the National Park Service concession contract and private program options may be limited accordingly. Please contact us for more information and pricing.

  • Travel & Rescue Insurance

    Adventure Consultants recommends the following travel insurance and rescue insurance options, although this is only just a start! Once you book on a trip with AC, your Client Liaison will help you by sending through advice on your options;

    • Travel insurance
    • Trip interruption
    • Trip cancellation
    • Medical Evacuation and Rescue Insurance

    RIPCORD RESCUE TRAVEL INSURANCE

    Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance Logo webRipCord is the leading medical evacuation program offering elite evacuation and rescue services. With their new partnership with TravelEx, they can also now provide the benefits of a traditional travel insurance product with their just released, RipCord Rescue Travel Insurance™. This is specifically designed for the adventure enthusiast with unique trip cancellation/interruption, medical expense, sporting equipment and other coverage benefits to protect your financial investment.

    RipCord is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, an elite team of special operations veterans, Stanford Medicine affiliate physicians, paramedics, nurses, former intelligence officers and other medical/security experts comprising the most experienced team in the industry. They will rescue you from the field wherever your emergency occurs and evacuate you to your home country hospital of choice.

    RipCord rescues you from the field if you have an emergent medical condition that will result in significant permanent injury and/or death, but does not require hospitalisation.

    RipCord are proud to partner with Adventure Consultants to provide RipCord’s industry leading rescue, evacuation and travel insurance coverage to its clients.

    Adventure Consultants can also assist with purchasing polar cover for Antarctic expeditions and if interested in this, please contact RipCord directly for a specialised quote.

    GLOBAL RESCUE MEMBERSHIP SERVICES

    Global Rescue SnipAdventure Consultants also recommends the rescue evacuation and security membership/services provided by Global Rescue, which provides transport from the point of illness/injury back to your home countries hospital of your choice. TotalCare provides real-time access to medical information and coming soon, this includes urgent card and speciality consultations from some of the world’s health physicians at the Elite Medical Group and John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

    Recently Global Rescue has released a new travel insurance product, the Signature Travel Insurance option. This has no height limitation and gives comprehensive cover for trip cancellation/interruption, medical and dental expenses, delays, lost luggage as well as optional add-ons to ‘cancel or interrupt for any reason. This is currently only available to US Residents.

    Click here to find out more about this insurance cover which covers climbing and is thus suitable for many of our expeditions.

  • FAQ

    • Expedition Documentation

      Please note you will be emailed a set of Denali Team Reference Notes upon registration. This extensive booklet includes detailed information to assist in the planning of your trip; from travel and medical advice to equipment lists and photography tips. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline but please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions. Our team is here to help!

      info@adventure.co.nz
      US: +1 866 757 8722 (Freephone from North America)
      NZ: +64 3 443 8711 (Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 5:00pm PST + 19 hours)

    • Choosing a Provider

      Who are American Alpine Institute (AAI) and Mountain Trip and why do they run your Denali trips?
      AAI and Mountain Trip are our American alliance partners for Denali. The reason that we use them is that Denali National Park mandates that as a guide service, you must run your expedition with a concessioned company. Both AAI and Mountain Trip have a concession for operations on the mountain, so this allows us to share our collective experience in the mountains on this fantastic climb. We find that out of all the providers, AAI and Mountain Trip provide a good, quality product and we are excited to be partnered with them on this amazing expedition up one of the Seven Summits.

    • Food, Accommodation & Facilities

      What sort of hotels do we stay at in the city?
      Our standard expeditions stay at the Best Western Golden Lion Inn in Anchorage. On our Highly Supported expeditions, we stay at the Lakefront Anchorage (formally the Millennium Alaska Hotel) which is centrally located and includes free airport transfers. After the climb, we generally return to Anchorage rather than staying in Talkeetna and we leave our arrangements flexible to allow for any weather delays.

      Will I be sharing a tent or room with other climbers? Is there a single room option on this trip?
      Accommodation in Anchorage is included on a twin-share basis on the Highly Supported expedition, but a single supplement is available on request. Please contact our office for details. For the standard expedition, accommodation in Anchorage is not included and we can help you book your preferred room type at the expedition hotel. On the mountain, you will share a tent with another climber or two depending on the camp.

      What kind of food do you have on the mountain?
      The good news about travelling on the glacier is that we can bring a lot of perishable food! Hamburgers, bacon, bagels, and fresh cheese, all the way up to high camp - we try to eat as heartily as possible!

    • Travel

      What time should I arrive and where do I meet my guides?
      All our Denali trips begin by meeting in Anchorage for a team briefing and gear check. After you sign up for the trip, you will be advised which date you need to arrive by and we will coordinate the pickup time for the onward shuttle from Anchorage to Talkeetna, the town where all flights to Denali Base Camp originate.

      What if I arrive early or depart late?
      If you arrive early or depart late, it’s not a problem and our office will work with you as to these logistics.

      Are there any entry or visa requirements?
      Depending on what country you are from, you may need a visa and when visiting the USA, often is a simple matter of obtaning an ESTA visa, prior to your departure from home.

    • Clothing & Equipment

      How heavy will my pack and sled be?
      Your pack can sometimes reach weights of 60-65lbs/27-30kg and your sled could possibly reach 40-50lbs/18-23kg.

    • Guides & Team Members

      How many climbers will be on this expedition?
      On the standard expedition, there are typically 9 climbers and 3 guides on each expedition. The Highly Supported expedition has a maximum of 6 climbers and 3 guides on each expedition.

      Can I contact other climbers or guides for this expedition?
      Sure! Getting training ideas and generally keeping each other excited about the trip is the name of the game! As the time draws closer for your expedition, contact our office and we are happy to share your contact details with the other members of your team.

      How much should I tip my guide staff?
      Tipping is not required but always appreciated. The level of your tip should reflect the level of interaction with your guide. If you feel that they did a good job for you, then give accordingly.

    • Health, Fitness & Preparation

      What is the conditioning level needed for this climb?
      Excellent physical condition is required. The cold combined with the challenge of carrying a heavy pack and pulling a sled along in the sometimes inclement weather, can all play a part on your trip. The better shape you are in, the better you will be equipped to handle the situation. Some folks actually drag around tyres to prepare for the sled hauling! We suggest further reading on training that will help you get started. The thing to remember is that the more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be during your trip.

      What is a typical day on the mountain like?
      Days start out typically in the snow kitchen, hydrating and eating heartily. We then break camp, load our packs and sleds, before setting out. Days can be as long as 7-8 hours with summit day up to 14-18 hours! Upon arrival in a new camp, you can expect at least 1-2 hours digging tent platforms and walls, as well as a kitchen platform.

      I hear Denali can sometimes be colder than Antarctica! Why is that?
      It actually can be! Denali is closer to the Arctic Circle than most mountains hence it can be much colder with the wet arctic weather fronts that can blow in at any time.

      I hear it’s possible to get stuck on the mountain, is it true?
      Yes! If bad weather moves in, it is possible to be delayed at Base Camp until the weather clears for flights. If there is snow, it could take even longer as you need to wait until the snow gets packed down before flights can land. Sometimes you are even asked to help pack it down with your snow shoes!

      What are the skills/prior experience required for this climb?
      You need to have at least completed one of our AAI/AC partner Denali Prep Courses or have had equivalent experience on other glaciated terrain mountaineering trips. This climb requires proficiency in glacier travel, crevasse rescue, cramponing, self-arrest with an ice axe, and general winter camping skills. Previous experience at altitude will also be beneficial. Contact our office for details if you have questions about your qualifications or need ideas for how to get the skills required.

    • Communication

      What type of communication is available on the climb?
      Your guides will typically carry satellite and cell phones, as above 14,000ft we have line-of-sight signal with cell phone towers! You can even pick up radio stations from Anchorage!

    • Fees & Payments

      How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
      There is nothing to buy once on the hill, but if we get stuck in Talkeetna waiting for weather to fly in, you will need money to pay for meals and hotels etc. You can also simply bring a cash card, as there are cash machines all over town. Most members get by with around USD$200-300 on each trip.

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Dale West I

If people are serious about safety, hope to experience the optimum for their chosen trip and want to give themselves the best chance to successfully meet their goals, AC is the only choice.
Mera Peak, 2016

Dale West
Australia
IMG 2142

When I decided four years ago to complete the Seven Summits, I wanted to try a different guide company for all of my climbs until I found one that I was comfortable with, had the experience on all the summits and met all my expectations. After using three other companies, I am now in the process of planning my third climb with Adventure Consultants.
Vinson Massif Expedition

Stephen Wilson
Canada