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passward

Denali gear advice?

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Looking for advice for our somewhat ignorant two-man team. We're trying the West Butt in June and could use some guidance.

 

Does anybody have any opinions about the following?

TENT: If I buy a new tent (I think my old Wild Cntry tent is too sketchy) should I look at a three-man rather than a two, for comfort? I saw the Mtn Hrdware Trango (2 and 3) on sale and am tempted. Any other favorites for a trip like McKinley?

STOVE(S): I've got my old MSR whisperlite stove and am wondering if we should get a second (redundant) one or if the benefit of a higher-end XGK would be worth the $.

SHOVELS: We each have regular BD climbers' shovels and are having trouble imagining bringing the steel, wood-handled jobbers recommended in some guide books.

 

Any insights about these or anything else is appreciated!

 

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Tent - If you choose to use your old tent, be sure the "shock cord" is in good shape. Better yet, have it all replaced with new shock cord. Otherwise, it can freeze when stretched and then becomes useless anti-shock cord. We had to cut all of ours off one year going up the Muldrow in order to put the poles together. I'd bring a few extra pole sections even if you do buy a new tent. TNF expedtion tents have served me well on quite a few trips in the Alaska Range but I'm sure there are some other really nice options these days. For a couple extra pounds I'd go for the 3 man, but I'm a glutton for over packing in the name of comfort.

 

Stoves - If it were me, I'd bring at least 2 of the same type and a full expedition repair kit with plenty of spare parts. We had 3 MSRs (2 Dragonflies and 1 XGK) and we were lucky to have 2 running at one time. Constantly taking them apart and fixing them was the routine. On another trip, the pilot who dropped us off in Kantishna also dropped our brand new XGK pump for one of the two stoves we brought and broke it. That left us with no spare so we ended up borrowing his survival canister stove out of his plane to use as our back up stove. Our primary pump & stove never failed so we did not have to use his canister stove on the trip, which I've heard don't do so well at altitude.

 

Shovels - A lot of people swear by the huge aluminum scoop wood handle jobs but they do weigh a shit ton. However, you can certainly get a lot more done in short order with it than a regular ski shovel. Whatever you bring, don't bring a plastic bladed one or you risk it freezing and breaking.

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A larger tent will permit you to stay drier, especially if you have to sit out a storm in it for several days.

 

A sturdy shovel is not just an emergency tool on a Denali expedition. Your shovel may well get more & harder use on this trip than in the entire rest of your life. As a veteran of several Alaskan expeditions, I would consider the shovel more critical than the tent... If my shovel fails in the Cascades, I'm never more than a day's ski from a trailhead. On my Denali trips I was happy to have the short-handled steel-bladed grain scoop we carried...

 

A minimum of two field-maintainable stoves is a must. You cannot stay alive on Denali without a working stove.

 

Most successful Denali climbers travel relatively heavy - and the use of freight sleds makes this more manageable. If you're reasonably competent on skis or snowshoes, I predict you'll have an easier time with a 100lb load on a sled than with a 40lb load on your back.

 

I carried a pressure-cooker as my main cookpot on my Denali expeditions. Yes, it weighed many times what a "backpackers/climbers" pot normally weighs. However, the weight saved in fuel more than made up for the weight of the pot, and the cooker allowed me far more latitude in my menu planning, because I was not limited by the boiling temperature of water at altitude. It's a real bummer to discover, after you're already there, that water does not boil at a hot enough temperature above 14000' to cook rice...

 

The West Buttress of Denali is little more than a long trudge on snow with a couple of steep spots, but this presents its own unique challenges: Many extremely competent technical climbers fail on Denali because they neglect to develop the skills necessary for living comfortably in the arctic environment for extended periods. On this route, your snow-camping skills may well be more critical than your climbing skills.

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Be aware that a two-man team will make things more strenuous. I did the same and it worked fine, but right after arriving at camp immediately you were shoveling or cooking or whatever. Break time came when bedtime did. Make sure you like your partner.

 

You need two stoves. We had two whisperlites and they both worked, although the new one was far more efficient and the other was backup. I wouldn't hesitate to do the same, but have the full repair kit and go through the whole routine before. A stove platform is critical. Without it our fuel useage was at least double. The aluminum disk isn't enough and so we had to improvise and use sleeping pads and such. I think a plywood base would be well worth the weight. An XKG wouldn't be wasted weight either.

 

Our tent never saw and extreme use, but I think we got lucky with weather. Have the know how (practice, even if at 1st camp) and tools (snow bags, sufficient pickets, axes) to guy out your tent even while you are out climbing. Nothing would be more devastating than coming back from a summit push to find the tent blown away or in shambles.

 

My food kinda sucked. It was nutritious, easy to cook, and I had plenty, but I couldn't stomach most of it at altitude. I found kinda salty carbs most appetizing (cheese-its, wheat thins, top ramen, instant potatoes loaded baked of course). Cheese slices and butter and some spices made dinner a lot easier to eat. The instant oatmeal usually made a decent breakfast (with butter). Powdered milk was good to add to most any meal, but we had to outlaw it about day 7 cause our farts smelled strongly reminiscent of it.

 

My face mask balaclava and goggles iced up badly on the summit, but i'm not sure how I'd fix this. I don't know, experiment, have both available, you will probably want them at some point.

 

I hated the sleds and found things much easier with minimal weight in the sled, but it was necessary. For me uphill a lot of muscle groups got fatigued more by the sled. Downhill the sled generally pissed me off and the lighter it was the more I could force it to work.

 

Well stocked MP3 player, couple books, good partner, enthusiasm and determination, your brain, and you'll be fine. Have fun!

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Passward, this is a good start to a discussion on Denali gear, but you should check out this thread

 

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/656499/Must_Have_Denali_Gear#Post656499

 

It is loaded with TONS of great advice on all aspects of things to bring/prepare for on Denali.

 

I think a VERY useful tip is to read everything possible on the subject.

 

Here is a personal list of books to check out and read in full to maximize your chances of success (and survival) on Denali.

 

-Surviving Denali by Jonathan Waterman

-Minus 148 by Art Davidson

-In the Shadow Of Denali - Waterman

-Accidents in North America Mountaineering (anything on Denali)

 

Good luck man!

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Looking for advice for our somewhat ignorant two-man team. We're trying the West Butt in June and could use some guidance.

 

Does anybody have any opinions about the following?

TENT: If I buy a new tent (I think my old Wild Cntry tent is too sketchy) should I look at a three-man rather than a two, for comfort? I saw the Mtn Hrdware Trango (2 and 3) on sale and am tempted. Any other favorites for a trip like McKinley?

STOVE(S): I've got my old MSR whisperlite stove and am wondering if we should get a second (redundant) one or if the benefit of a higher-end XGK would be worth the $.

SHOVELS: We each have regular BD climbers' shovels and are having trouble imagining bringing the steel, wood-handled jobbers recommended in some guide books.

 

Any insights about these or anything else is appreciated!

 

Trango 2 is plenty big for 2 people. I used one for a Ruth Gorge trip where it stormed nearlly every day for two weeks. It was very liveable.

 

Yes, bring an extra stove. XGK is a good choice.

 

Just bring your Black Diamond shovels.

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Since you are going in june, a large grain like shovel may be overkill. There should be plenty of premade walls already. Your shovel use should be used for clearing out snow that drifts inside teh walls, making caches and hopefully not, building a snow cave. Your metal BD shovel should be fine. A small plastic shovel is good for clearing drifting snow near the tent. You don't want metal anywhere near the fly.

 

Big tents are nice. you will spend time tent bound.

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Everything above plus one thought on the tents. If you both have descent but small light weight tents take both. May seem like over kill but on travel days set up one tent. On rest days set up both. You will certainly be spending multiple days at 14k so being able to spread out is nice. The other is that when you get ready move to 17k you can take one tent with with you and leave the other at 14k. That way if one person is not feeling well one can be high and one can be low.

 

The stoves do not need to be a like but the pumps should be. As for shoves, take only one. One person can shovel while the other uses an axe. But as said in June you will find ready made shelters more than likely.

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not to flame you, ScaredSilly, but I would totally disagree with you on your one shovel theory. That leaves no contingency plan for when your one shovel breaks, gets buried or lost, stolen, or when shit really hits the fan and camp needs to be constructed quickly.

 

Bring two shovels. The extra weight won't be an issue and it will be far more efficient to have two rather than trying to save 24 ounces by only bringing one.

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Having the second (smaller) shovel also allows you to keep one "clean" for mining snow to melt and not risk adding others' secretions to your meals, and use the bigger one for around camp.

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No worries, I have built so many platforms using an axe and my boots with crampons that I rarely use a shovel. Two people, two axes each is enough of a contingency for me. Maybe not enough for others.

 

As for secretions the best way to avoid that is come up with a method for insuring clean snow. For instance, we often gather snow well away from where a camp is set up. We put the snow in a bag and set it next to the tent. The other is piss left - cook right.

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I found a snow saw handy for cutting blocks and very light.

It is a luxury but a handy one if you are going to build giganto walls or an igloo.

I have one like this that I would sell for $15.

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a snow saw's more important than a shovel for building a shelter on the kahiltna imho

 

don't dig too deep for your cooking snow either, especially at 14 and 17k - try to use fresh windblown stuff - i still recall the thousands of turds/piss-sculptures on the landscape at 17 after a massive windstorm etched the top foot of snow/ice off the ground (that and the trash that was revealed inside the blocks i cut for shelter walls)

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We brought a technical saw like Bugs and a cheapo $5 hand saw with a plastic handles from the local discount hardware store. The cheapo performed ten times better on the Denali snow! Also great for building an igloo on a rest day at 14k. I prefer the 3 man tent. It allowed us to spread out. If you decide not to take 2 tents, I would pick up a Megamid. Best thing we brought on the trip. Plus it is a great way to make friends! We did all of our cooking and making water in the megamid and allowed us to get out of the tents. They anchor down well, just collapse them each night with snow blocks and set back up in the morning. Plus lighter than a second tent. I would also second the pressure cooker. They way a little bit more than a regular pot, but they increase cooking times drastically, saving you a ton in fuel weight over the course of 2 plus weeks. The otyher debate is skis vs. snowshoes. I still prefer skis, but we went earlier in mid May so the crevasses had not opened as much and we felt comfortable skiing down ski hill unroped. Ditched the skis at 11k.

 

There should also be a link on here for food/meal plans. Look at the NOLS cookbook for ideas on calories etc. Finally, have fun and take your time. If you need a sled and don't want to use the ones they provide, it may be worth it to ship one up with aluminum stays. You can build one (like I did) for cheap. Having fixed stays instead of cord will reduce any frustration with the sled hitting you in the heels or passing you on downhills. Also remember to put a prussik on the back of your sled. If you go in a hole, you don't want the sled to hit you on the way down.

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The otyher debate is skis vs. snowshoes. I still prefer skis, but we went earlier in mid May so the crevasses had not opened as much and we felt comfortable skiing down ski hill unroped. Ditched the skis at 11k.

 

 

I have used skis on every Alaska trip I have done and recommend them except for Denali. We ditched our skis at 11k too, and I felt it was not worth it to schlep the skis through the airport and incur the $50.00 extra baggage fee for a couple of days use.

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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I consider the decision to NOT take skiis on my Denali trip one of the worst climbing decisions I have ever made. At 8 to 11 the corn was nice. At 14K to 15K the powder was incredible. My freakin snowshoes didn't carve worth a damn. And those people who did have skiis were so happy and boisterous it hurt.

They were very insensitive.

 

Take skiis.

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basically just your airfare to anchorage, then a couple hundred bucks to the park and your air charter

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I consider the decision to NOT take skiis on my Denali trip one of the worst climbing decisions I have ever made. At 8 to 11 the corn was nice. At 14K to 15K the powder was incredible. My freakin snowshoes didn't carve worth a damn. And those people who did have skiis were so happy and boisterous it hurt.

They were very insensitive.

 

Take skiis.

 

Never taken skis myself, but there is some good skiing on Denali.

Motorcycle Hill Skiing two years ago.

 

http://alasdairturner.com/index_files/Page404.htm

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basically just your airfare to anchorage, then a couple hundred bucks to the park and your air charter

 

Bush flights have increased in price a lot in the last couple of years. TAT is charging $560 to Kahiltna Glacier. There is also the $200 climbing fee, the cost of the shuttle to talkeetna ($100)

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basically just your airfare to anchorage, then a couple hundred bucks to the park and your air charter

 

Bush flights have increased in price a lot in the last couple of years. TAT is charging $560 to Kahiltna Glacier. There is also the $200 climbing fee, the cost of the shuttle to talkeetna ($100)

shit yeah - 5 years ago it was basically half that for all of those!

 

still, cheaper than climbing in nepal i reckon...

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Take skis. The skiing at 14 camp rocks!

 

As for tents; I always take my tiny 2 person Integral Designs tent into the mountains. It's small and cramped - but I'd rather stay small and cramped then haul the extra weight. Then again... I have mastered the ability to remain in a prone position without moving or getting up for a bathroom break for 17 hours at a time.

 

Remember that the West Butt is a social climb; make friends with some people (hot ski girls with lots of food are the best) who have a 'mid and camp near them!

 

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For those of you who advocate taking skis: do you wear ski boots or ski in your mountaineering boots? I camped next to a couple of guys who brought both.

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