Alaska Range Mountaineering

Overview

Practicing self arrest on the Ruth Glacier.

Practicing self arrest on the Ruth Glacier.  AAI Collection

This scenic and action packed ten-day program provides a complete training in the foundation of skills used in alpine and expedition climbing. While developing a solid and complete set of climbing skills, you will also learn glacier travel and crevasse rescue procedures as well as techniques for route finding and hazard assessment. We use skis or showshoes for movement on the glacier, and anyone with basic ski skills will feel comfortable on this terrain. By the end of the program, you should be technically qualified to make intermediate level ascents in any of the world's glaciated ranges and to join us on a Denali expedition.

Course Highlights

  • Build a strong foundation of snow and ice climbing skills
  • Expedition style course prepares climbers for mountains such as Denali, Vinson Massif, or Aconcagua
  • Opportunity to climb multiple peaks in the Alaska Range and learn valuable climbing skills from professional guides

 

Prerequisites

  • Backpacking experience
  • Excellent physical condition
  • Previous climbing and skiing experience is helpful, but not required

 

Alaska Range Mountaineering

Course Goals

Our training days and climbs are above either the Kahiltna Glacier, Pika Glacier or Ruth Glacier. With the advantage of flexibility in this program, we are able to use our 24 years of guiding experience in the Alaska Range to choose our area for the best current climbing conditions. We typically fly into the Ruth or Pika glaciers in the early season and the Kahiltna Glacier in the late season. The approach flight by ski plane is an impressive one, with views of immense glaciers, sheer granite walls rising above the ice, and the most famous summits in North America. Above the Kahiltna, the peaks we climb are unnamed, and above the Ruth Gorge they include Mount Barrille (7605 ft), Mount Dickey (9544 ft), Explorer's Peak (8235 ft), and Mount Dan Beard (10,082 ft). 

Ice climbing instruction below Mount Dan Beard, Alaska Range.

Ice climbing instruction below Mount Dan Beard, Alaska Range.
AAI Collection

In this program we help you develop a complete repertoire of alpine mountaineering, rescue, and expedition climbing skills. In addition, you will have been exposed to a variety of climbing conditions and will begin to develop the ability to respond to those various conditions. Appling different skills and making adjustments in your technique will give yourself the greatest security while climbing. Long routes, difficult routes, and climbs at altitude all require a high level of efficiency in the climber. With this mountaineering program we aim not only to convey a large body of knowledge, but also to develop your ability to use that knowledge to climb safely and successfully either with a guide or on your own in mountain ranges around the world.

This trip includes substantial practice climbing, spectacular scenery, the chance to make the top of beautiful summits, and a lot of fun. We hope you will join us! For similar expeditionary programs in other areas see the six-day Denali Prep Course offered in Washington's Cascade Range and the fourteen-day St. Elias Range Skills Expedition program in Alaska's St. Elias Mountains. 

Alaska Range Mountaineering

Curriculum

Climbing Skills

  • Selection and use of personal equipment, ropes, knots, and harnesses
  • Design concepts and selection of ice axes and ice tools
  • Proper choice and application of the primary ice axe positions; piolet canne, panne, manche, poignard, ramasse, rampe, ancre, and traction
  • Choice between and application of French, German, and American cramponing techniques
  • Belays on snow and ice
  • Selection and placement of snow flukes and pickets, ice screws for belays and protection
  • The uses of mechanical belaying devices in alpine climbing
  • Free climbing technique on steep snow and ice
  • The integration of specific skills with the goals of efficient and safe climbing

 

Participants practice crevasse rescue one a wild Alaskan Glacier.

Participants practice crevasse rescue on a wild Alaskan Glacier. 
AAI Collection 

Glacier Travel, Rescue, and Living Skills

  • An introduction to glacial structures and movement: how to use large external land forms to predict inner glacial structures and hence the difficulties and hazards of a potential route
  • Principles of glacier travel while climbing and skiing
  • Individual and team crevasse rescue techniques
  • Route finding and marking in low visibility
  • Snow cave and igloo construction and living
  • Leave No Trace principles of climbing, traveling, and living in the alpine environment

 

Expedition and Skiing Skills

  • Discussion of Himalayan, Alaskan and alpine expedition climbing styles with comparisons of the inherent advantages, limitations, and requirements associated with each style
  • Expedition processes in icefalls and the establishment and ascension of fixed lines
  • Techniques for roped glacier skiing and the use of sleds for transporting gear
  • Introduction to intermediate and advanced ski techniques

 

Physics, Physiology, and Medicine of Cold Weather and Altitude

  • An introduction to human physiology in cold weather
  • Preventing and treating cold weather injuries
  • An introduction to human physiology at high altitude
  • Preventing and treating high altitude illnesses

 

Expedition Style Programs

We offer specialized Denali preparation and expedition style programs in many locations! See the six-day Denali Prep Course offered in Washington's Cascade Range, the five-day Winter Comprehensive Program held in California's Sierra Nevada Range, or the Saint Elias Skills Expedition in Alaska's St. Elias Range.

Skiing into the Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range.

Skiers heading into the Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range.
AAI Collection

Alaska Range Mountaineering

Dates and Details

Climbers more up a steeper section of snow.
  • $4200 - (3:1)

 

Max Ratio - 3:1

Max Capacity - 8 climbers

Program Length - 10 days

 

2017 Climbing Season Dates

  • Apr 24 - May 3, 2017
  • May 8 - May 17, 2017
  • May 27 - June 5, 2017
  •  

Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions:

  • AAI Mountain Guide services, leadership, and instruction
  • Ski plane flights to and from the glacier
  • Tents and group cooking equipment
  • Meals while in the mountains
  • Group climbing equipment
  • Mechanical ascenders for fixed lines
  • Custom expedition sleds

 

Exclusions: Transportation between Anchorage and Talkeetna (about $95 each way); food and lodging except on the glacier; rescue and evacuation costs; national park fees; baggage, accident, rescue, and trip cancellation insurances; gratuities to guides; personal equipment. 

Travel Information

You will need to arrange your travel schedule so that you can attend the mandatory expedition orientation and gear check with guides at our Anchorage hotel at 2pm, the day BEFORE the scheduled start date of the trip.

All trips 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 glacier.

 

Gaining the ridge on the Mooses Tooth, Alaska Range.

Gaining the ridge on the Mooses Tooth, Alaska Range.
Tad McCrea

Alaska Range Mountaineering

Testimonials

Climbing Explorer's Peak.

Climbing Explorer's Peak. AAI Collection 

"Both guides were fantastic mentors of mountaineering - passing along the tricks of the trade to promote safety in glacial navigation."
Tom Martins, San Jose, CA

"It was an awesome trip and very, very valuable. I am sooooo glad I decided to invest the money and go on the trip. My guide is a super, super person, lots of experience, lots of patience and I feel better prepared for the daunting task, expect and know it is going to be hard, but also know I will not be so overwhelmed with all the other stuff like roping up, building snow walls etc when we start with the Denali climb."

"Weather conditions were very realistic, wind and snow, I was glad about that. I feel better about my gear and about what to take, what to leave, and what works. It was really really good to experience all the rope work, to travel roped up, and I was very glad I was introduced to it in a small group. All in all .. YES, an incredible experience, and I am looking forward to get back on to the plane in two weeks time. First night I got into my sleeping bag and thought to myself that I did not have it in me to take on Denali, but got up next morning sticking to my motto .. take it step by step."

"Please thank my guide again on my behalf for everything he taught us, for all his patience .. and for the great cooking, we ate like kings and a queen."

"The course was definitely a must for me!! A huge thank you for your part in all the arrangements, and a huge thank you to everyone involved in the planning, preparation and logistics. A special thank you to the person that planned and packed the food .. it helps to be well fed when you are active in such a cold environment."
Elsie B, South Africa

Moose's Tooth from the Ruth Gorge.

Moose's Tooth from the Ruth Gorge.

"I have never seen a more spectacular spot than the Ruth Gorge. It was an amazing first glacier to be on!"
Ron Goodman, Brainard, NY

"Our guide knew how and when to lead, set the pace, and push us just up to our limits with great compassion and awareness. He thoroughly explained technical aspects of the expedition and always demonstrated how it is done."
Kyle Beckstead, Phoenix, AZ

Alaska Range Mountaineering

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