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Gym_Dandy

Alaska Questions

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Can anyone who has done the upper West Rib on Denali give some information on the technical difficulty? Did you encounter 5th class rock? How steep was the ice? How much rock protection, if any, was used? The two guide books (Jon Waterman's and Colby Coombs' and Mike Woods') were a bit vague.

 

I am also interested in opinions on soft shells for Denali. Would you use a light Schoeller pant as your main shell? I am not worried about moisture so much as wind. Seems like this would be ideal as it breathes well for the lower glacier and then easily layers under an insulated pant for higher elevations.

 

Thanks.

Edited by Gym_Dandy

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Be spontaneous. Bring a few nuts and slings for the rocky sections and figure it out when you're actually there--this is by far the best way to climb!

 

good luck!

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Schoeller is not very wind proof. I don't think it would be a wise choice.

 

Don't take this personally, but, I call Bullshit. It's not as windproof as a full on 3 layer GTX bib but, I have two year old Schoeller Dynamic pants, which are reputadly the least weather resistant of the Schoeller fabrics, and took a break on the Muir Snow field last week in 50-60 mph winds and never felt a thing. I was wearing light weight wool base layer under the pants.

 

That being said, I think Denali may be worthy of bringing Goretex pants and jacket for backup.

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Soft shells will be fine up to 14k. Above that you will want some kind of insulation with wind shell. I think down pants are probably overkill if you go after mid-May, but a pair of primaloft pants with nylon shell would be great. Something like the integral designs denali pants. Goretex is not necessary and is heavy/expensive.

 

I wore something similar to the integral desgins St. Elias suit under a down parka and was quite comfortable.

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On mt. hunter last year, my partner and I both used schoeller pants as our only outerwear on the legs (me the cheap MEC pants; him those Patagonia guide pants). It worked great, with either light long underwear or light fleece underwear underneath. However, we had a several conversations about how on denali, where high winds are such a concern, we probably would want real windproof shells. Also worth noting that on the legs, between the bottom of your shell jacket and the top of your supergaitors, there’s not actually that much exposure – your upper body is a different story – regardless of the windproofness, I have yet to see a soft shell jacket with a real hood I could imagine doing the job with a helmet and goggles in full-on conditions.

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alpinfox is right about schoeller up high...i use shoeller up there and an ultralight weight shell jacket and pants for down low. i would definietly make sure your down layers are wind proof - that will be key for summit day.

 

denali is not the rockies or the stuart range. you may get away with soft shells most of the time -but when it counts you'll need good shell gear.

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There are many options. Low 5th class, and 60 degree ice should be the hardest ground you will encounter, depending on which exit you take onto the FF. Most all will be much easier if anywhere near to on route. It is very straight forward if you stay near to the crest of the rib above the traverse from 14 camp. As far as gear goes that is up to you. You will have the opportunity to place rock and ice gear throughout. We did not use any gear at all.

I would not recomend a light Schoeller pant for that high. I have used the Arcteryx Gamma Salopette several times on Denali Summits. I have also froze my ass off up there. Better to take a wind shell for your 1st time. May can be soooo cold! Have fun, the views into the NE fork, and the Cassin are amazing!

 

Eric

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Two years ago we were able to place a couple of screws, a green camalot, and some nuts in the couloir leading up to the 17,000 foot balcony camp from the standard upper rib highcamp at around 16,400. That was the most technical part, and it isn't any steeper than 60 deg with a couple of 4th class boulder problems. In hindsight, I would have ditched the cam, since long slings placed over boulders can give you most all the security you need to belay someone over a bit of the easy but occasionally tricky terrain. The part from 17,000 to 18,000 on the crest of the rib is gravy. From 18,000 to the football field (safer to traverse left across orient express - thus avoiding cornice directly above you) it is easy moderatley steep (never more than 35 to 40 deg, plus or minus) snow travel . This is the most dangerous part, especially if you choose to descend the rib back to your tent, rather than carrying a camp up and over. Several parties have had serious and tragic epics here, while returning down the orient, addled and fatigued from their summit climb. Take a few pickets (3-4 minimum), and if your team chooses to remain roped up, use them. You won't catch a fall there by self arrest alone. If you don't have the decency to use running belays, then by all means unrope and solo thru this section so that rescuers have fewer bodies to retrieve.

 

Last year, in early or mid june the conditions in the upper rib couloir sucked, because it had been dumping copious amounts of snow on the rib. we suffered bad luck on the lower rib and got stuck in a (poor) bergschrund for a few days, with the tents getting repeatedly buried by frequent sluffs from a mega-storm. When we reached the upper rib camp, we waded through hip deep snow for a while before deeming the route out of condition for a few more days. Had we had time to wait, I think that once the snow consolidated, it would have made for rapid progress. Beware of avy conditions in the lower orient on your way up from the 14k camp. It can be scarey for a few days after a storm.

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