Tellakos | With its massive height of 6,190 meters, Mount Denali is North America’s highest mountain and one of the celebrated Seven Summits. Climbing Mount Denali is the goal of many mountaineers because it presents a unique task with its icy, remote, yet beautiful landscapes. Ascending Denali is a severe challenge as most of the mountain is surrounded by glaciers and remains deserted in the snow the whole year, with temperatures reaching as low as -40 °C.
Those of you willing to reach Denali’s summit will require basic mountaineering knowledge, proper training, and adequate equipment. This article explores the five most important things you should take note of before scaling the Alaskan giant.
1. Are You Experienced In Winter Camping And Expedition Climbing?
For most mountaineers, Denali expeditions are going to be the lengthiest. And when you couple it with the harsh arctic environment, the climb duration will be a severe challenge for even the fittest climbers.
You have to have technical training and some basic winter camping experience, as you need to spend each night of your climb in a camp on the snow. When seeking to climb Denali, you should have avalanche training, rope skills, and the knowledge of using crampons. For the uninitiated ones, it is safer to go on a long and easier mountaineering trip before attempting to scale Denali. This is important to test your endurance.
The safest way to hike Mount Denali is by taking the help of a travel agency certified by the Denali National Park and Preserve. You may risk climbing the mountain solo or with friends only if you are a professional mountaineer.
2. What Are The Climbing Routes To Reach Denali’s Summit?
You will have four major routes to climb Denali.
- West Buttress
This is the standard route, and around 90% of the climbers take the way through West Buttress. The starting point of this route is at Kahiltna Glacier, and you can reach the spot by plane. This is the easiest and shortest route to Denali’s summit, with the least risk of avalanches and storms.
- Muldrow Glacier
Muldrow Glacier is the original route that was used to scale Denali for almost 40 years. Nowadays, climbers hardly use this route due to logistic issues. There is no air service on this trail, and you’ll have to walk all the way to the starting point of the ascent.
- West Rib
This route is the most dangerous for climbers as it crosses the “Valley of Death” and a couple of snow domes. If you want to check out the West Rib route, make sure you are fit enough to do some bouldering and rock climbing.
- Cassin Ridge
Cassin Ridge is the newest route to Denali’s summit. Mountaineers usually avoid this route as it requires significant ice and rock climbing abilities.
3. How Is The Weather?
Mount Denali is known for being extremely cold. The summers are shorter than usual and last from mid-May to July, with a moderate temperature of around 18 °C. The rest of the year is counted as winter, with storms and heavy snowfalls occurring as early as mid-August. In December and January, climbers can expect temperatures southwards of -15°C.
If you are scaling Denali between August and March, pay attention to the weather forecasts. Stay updated about the formation of snowstorms and blizzards when you are on your way to the summit. Wear protective gear that can serve you in good stead when you face winds blowing at 200 km/h.
4. What Equipment And Supplements Do You Need?
The survival of climbers depends on the quality of equipment. Given the precarious weather conditions at Denali, you’ll need to keep the below-mentioned suggestions in mind when preparing for your ascent.
- If you are climbing Denali during the winter months, put on rain-proof outerwear.
- Wear boots with firm grip and stability.
- Wear protective glasses and headgear to save yourself from a sudden blizzard.
- If you are climbing through the West Rib or the Cassin Ridge routes, carry walking poles to navigate the bumpy areas.
- Carry nutritious and easily digestible food that will comfortably last you through the course of the journey.
- Depending on your health condition, you may carry Vitamin B and vitamin C supplements.
5. Are You Acclimatized To The Climate?
If you are from the plains and haven’t had much climbing of late, you may face altitude-related health problems as you move higher on your trek. These health issues occur mainly out of oxygen deficiency. So it is crucial to be familiar with the cold weather and high altitude before you set out on the uphill journey.
- Your health will largely define how fast and how much you can climb. If you have suffered from a heart attack or a stroke recently, check with a doctor before planning your journey.
- The more time you take for the climb, the better it is for your health. It would be better to begin the ascent from a lower point instead of fling to reach a higher location.
- Limit your climb to 300 meters per day to conserve energy and safeguard your health.
- Remain hydrated and stop smoking.
With proper preparation, climbing to the summit of the beautiful Mount Denali can be an enriching experience. Just pay attention to your safety, health, and gear, and be patient when the weather is not in your favor.