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christophbenells

Alaska range as cheap as possible...

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I'm trying to do an expedition into Kahiltna base camp this spring as cheap as possible. Going with a goal of mt France's, mini moonflower etc. and other lower elevation moderates. No Denali.

 

My questions are on sleeping bags and clothing. I have a 0 degree and a 30 degree bag, do you think one inside the other will be warm enough for base camp or will I freeze?Jackets same question... I have a 1 inch lift down puffy and a 3 inch loft puffy. If I wear both will I be warm enough?

 

Any advice would be helpful. Looking to go the month of may.

 

 

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You should be fine. I've used two bags one inside the other like you're describing, and gotten by with a lighter combination than the one you describe. (30'inside 15') double up on pads - and old-school foam mat under a therma-rest used to be the gold standard up there. These days, a closed-cell foam pad under a neo-air might be even better. Especially if you're staying low on the Kahiltna - temps at that altitude (6000') are much more moderate than high on Denali or Foraker. Same for the jacket combination. One advantage to layering like that instead of depending on an "expedition" weight jacket is you have the option of wearing one or the other by itself when it's cold, but not nasty enough to require both. I'm presuming your bigger puffy has a hood. You have a hardshell that will fit over both puffies?

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I did a Ht Hunter trip in the first weeks of June and a Ruth Gorge trip first weeks of May. I used a +15 degree bag (WM Apache Super DryLoft) both trips and felt it was perfect. My parka on Hunter was an old REI down parka, borrowed from Alex. In the Ruth I used a Wild Things Belay jacket. Both were very adequate.

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I would not recommend leather boots, might not be warm enough and hard to dry out. Dunno about the ski boots. I personally would opt for plastic/synthetic 6000m boots or warmer for climbing.

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You will be fine with a 0 bag and puffy jackets at the lower altitudes. I would not even take the 30 bag. As for the boots - mixed thoughts. Can you keep them dry for a couple of weeks? That is my typical concern and why I like boots with integral gaiters.

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Temps at Kahitna International in the spring can range from -20 to 40 - so be prepared for everything in-between. Your 0 bag will be fine but if you're doing routes where you might bivy a lighter bag might be worth it. If you have the stock TLT5 liners you might get a tad chilled if it's really cold - it just depends on your feet. The Scarpas would be great for south facing day routes but you will probably get cold toes on N facing / shaded routes.

 

For basecamp trips I tend to take my double mountaineering boots and my ski boots and a pair of heavier (with silvretta 500 bindings) skis for turns. I usually take my -20 bag - but that's all I have and I tend to be miserably hot most nights. As for puffys - I take a giganotosaurus puffy for hanging out / cooking and a lighter synthetic puffy for climbing.

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Ahhh, a fellow dirtbag in pursuit of Alaskan suffering!

 

Now is a good time to contact the air taxis and see if they will cut you an early season deal on the flight in. They're small businesses and don't have a giant profit margin, but offering to pay 100% up front for you and your partner(s) can often help them out at this time of year. Sheldon Air Service has been good to lots of people on tight budgets, and TAT is always the gold standard. Plane tickets to Anchorage vary wildly depending on when you buy, but I haven't paid more than $500 RT from Seattle or from Boston.

 

For a May trip, I'd be all about a 0-degree bag with a couple sleeping pads and my single boots. Cheap snow boots with rubber soles will be way better around camp than pricy down booties. And if all you have are leather boots, they will do just fine with a little bit of Nikwax leather-proofing and a little extra care to dry them out in nice weather. I've used my old, beat-to-crap Nepals in a couple different parts of the Range as early as early April with good results.

 

I'd bring both jackets since weight won't be a huge problem if you're base-camping (Air taxis do have baggage limits, though, of 100 to 120lbs per person, and charge a dollar or more per pound after that). You may well spend equal time in t-shirts and with all your layers on. I don't think I've ever worn my big puffy at KIA though, even in April.

 

Oh, and bring ear plugs: If the engine noise doesn't drive you nuts, the spraying just might!

 

Denali77.jpg

KIA in 2010

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what they said above

 

I took nepal extremes one time and it had super gaiters on. was good for most of it but I wished I had some warmer plastics on a couple of days, one being on minimoonflower.

 

You don't have to stay in the TIA if the zoo and noise bothers you. go uphill till you feel comfortable but be aware of the hanging terrain above that exists beyond the control tower. (that is the small rocky pk /knob with in the middle of the valley.

 

bring floatation of some kind. honestly. Anything off the highway is deep and gets deeper as the season progresses.

 

know your crevasse rescue. for reals. that is the one place that you will need it. the snow is weird. it is alaska. it keeps you on your toes. It wants to kill you.

 

Beware of crevasses on ridges. I punched through into 4 in francis alone. it is alaska. it keeps you on your toes. It wants to kill you.

 

avalanches. came close a couple times on those lower moderate routes. made the entire summit platform "settle" on the control tower. same thing happens on ridges too. it is alaska. it keeps you on your toes. it wants to kill you.

 

take the time to plan your food and buy good food. It matters after a while.

 

plan your ascent without regard to normal climbing times. By that I mean many things

1. if it is warm, climb it at night which is really twilight at worst

2. if it is chilly, climb it during the day

3. if it is really f'in cold, snowing hard or has recently snowed hard, stay in your tent or cook tent and get fat.

4. things take longer than you think so plan accordingly.

 

if you want to climb the east ridge of francis, I suggest climbing the west ridge first so that you know the descent. call it acclimitizing if you need to.

 

climb the control tower to get a feel for AK climbing before getting on bigger things. maybe even right after you get off the plane if the thought of wasting time bothers you.

 

if the forecast is bad for your flight out day, consider getting out early. You may end up being stuck there for a long time as storms can linger longer than forecasts call for. Some flight services give priority to their cash cows, the guide services. You won't starve though. plenty of people will unload their food if you need.

 

have a cheap cook tent. megamid is fine.

 

good luck. share photos.

 

Edited by genepires

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If it's early May, single boots on any of the shady stuff like Mini Moonflower or NB of Hunter is an open invitation to frostbite.

 

if you want to climb the east ridge of francis, I suggest climbing the west ridge first so that you know the descent

 

It's the other way around, Gene! :)

 

 

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yes, you are correct mark. I woke up in a cold sweat last night thinking that I mixed up the E and W. then I said "meh!" and went back to sleep.

 

Eat or west, it is up that counts eh?

 

real men descend the hard way. I have been known to climb the west butt and rappel the cassin.

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