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Climbers wishing to qualify for a Denali expedition must have completed, at minimum, one of each of the following with Mountain Gurus & Northwest Alpine Guides:

Glacier Mountaineering Expedition Training
6-Day Expedition Training (preferred)
5-Day Glacier Mountaineering Course

High-Altitude Glacier Mountaineering Experience
Pico de Orizaba – Mexico
Cotopaxi – Ecuador
Aconcagua – Argentina

Additionally, it is highly recommended that you have honed your glacier mountaineering skills with successful summits of various PNW peaks such, Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Mount Olympus, and Mount Rainier.


22 days in Alaska
Grade: Advanced


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At 20,310 feet, Denali is the highest peak in North America and one of the most spectacular and challenging climbs of the famed Seven Summits. Denali means “the tall one” in the local Koyukon language, a fitting name for a mountain where the base-to-summit elevation relief is roughly 18,000 feet – greater than any other peak situated entirely above sea level. Set in the midst of more than six million acres of wild land, Denali offers a serious and beautiful wilderness mountaineering experience. Climbers must confront severe weather, high altitudes and the rigors of a multi-week expedition. Their reward is an experience of a lifetime in one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet.

Denali • West Buttress • 22 Days

Mountain Gurus climbs the classic West Buttress route, which was pioneered by the legendary mountaineer Bradford Washburn in 1951. We ascend in traditional expedition style. We acclimatize while establishing a series of camp higher and higher on the mountain and then ascend to the summit when our fitness and the weather allow. We schedule 22 days for this climb. That is usually more than enough time, but we have the option of extending our expedition if persistent storms occur.

On Day 1, our team gathers for an orientation and gear check in the famous town of Talkeetna south of Denali National Park and Preserve. The next day we fly 60 miles to our base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,200 feet. Over the next two weeks we alternate rest days with gear carries as we establish Camp 1 at 7,800 feet, Camp 2 at 11,000’, Camp 3 at 14,200’ and eventually Camp 4 at 17,200 feet. With plenty of potential summit days in our itinerary, we hunker down at Camp 4 and wait for a weather window. Then we dig deep and complete the 10- to 12-hour roundtrip climb to the top of North America and back to Camp 4. We descend the route to base camp and fly back to Talkeetna.

When is the best time to climb Denali?

This is one of the most common questions we receive. There is no perfect answer for it because mountain conditions change from year to year and severe storms can occur at any time. That said, the most popular climbing season on Denali runs from mid-May through mid-June. This “high season” falls into a sweet spot. Expeditions that begin in mid-May usually arrive on the upper mountain after the severe cold and high winds of early spring have subsided. They also avoid the significant crevasse hazard that can hinder travel on the lower glacier beginning in July. Still, the timing of an expedition depends partly on personal preference. Some may prefer to visit Denali in the shoulder seasons before or after the most popular window, when fewer people are on the mountain and climbers enjoy a more pristine, wilderness experience.

How should I prepare for an ascent of Denali?

An ascent of Denali is an excellent goal. It can be a fantastic source of inspiration as you progress in your climbing career. This expedition demands significant mountaineering and expedition living experience. To maximize your chances of success, you should be familiar with roped glacier travel while using an ice axe and crampons, and familiar with basic knots and ropework. You should have excellent physical fitness and a positive, flexible mindset that allows you to be a committed, contributing team member while living at high altitudes in the cold.

You should already have a solid foundation of these skills by the time your flight touches down on the Kahiltna Glacier. To prepare, we encourage you to climb glaciated peaks in the Pacific Northwest and join one of our 3-day Intro Mountaineering or 5-day Glacier Mountaineering courses on Mount Baker, or our 6-day Expedition Training Course on Mount Rainier. You will also benefit from international high-altitude mountaineering experience on peaks such as Mount Elbrus, Island Peak, Cotopaxi and Aconcagua. Winter ascents of Mount Washington can serve as good training as well.

For more tips on how best to prepare for an ascent of Denali, please read our Four-Legged Stool blog post. Please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with us directly. We would be glad to help you design a training plan to take you to the top of the highest peak in North America!

*MG operates Denali climbs through an authorized concessionaire

Climb Highlights

  • Climb North America’s highest peak
  • 22 day expedition in Alaska
  • Spectacular flights to and from Kahiltna Glacier
  • Orientation in Talkeetna
  • 2 nights hotels in Talkeetna
  • All meals on the mountain
  • All group expedition gear
  • Pre-rigged custom sleds
  • Land transportation between Anchorage and Talkeetna
  • Support from Mountain Gurus office staff

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Talkeetna, Alaska • Gear check
Day 2 • Flight to Kahiltna Glacier • 7,200 ft
Day 3 • Move • Camp I • 7,800 ft
Day 4 • Carry • Kahiltna Pass to cache gear
Day 5 • Move • Camp II • 11,000 ft
Day 6 • Back carry • Kahiltna Pass
Day 7 • Carry • Windy Corner • 13,500 ft
Day 8 • Move • Camp III • 14,200 ft
Day 9 • Back carry • Windy Corner
Day 10 • Carry • 16,200 ft
Day 11 • Rest Day • Camp III
Day 12 • Move • Camp IV • 17,200 ft
Day 13 • Rest Day • Camp IV
Day 14 • Summit Day • Denali • 20,310 ft
Days 15 – 16 • Kahiltna Glacier Basecamp
Day 17 • Return to Talkeetna, AK
Days 18 – 22 • Contingency Days


Denali • West Buttress

Expedition begins and ends in Talkeetna, Alaska

Day 1 • Arrive Talkeetna, Alaska

Meet afternoon in downtown Talkeetna for group orientation, gear check, and expedition lunch packing.

Accommodations: Hotel in Talkeetna
Meals Included: None

Day 2 • Flight to Kahiltna Glacier • 7,200 feet

We eat breakfast then stop by the National Park Service office for a mandatory orientation. After reviewing climbing skills we will need when we touch down on the glacier, we board our plane (weather dependent) in the afternoon and fly 60 miles to our base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier in the famous Alaska Range.

Distance: 60 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,850 feet

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Base Camp
Meals Included: Dinner (D)

Day 3 • Move • Camp 1 • 7,800 ft

After a glacier travel and crevasse rescue drill, we pack up our entire camp and descend Heartbreak Hill to the main fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. We pull sleds on our gradual, 5-mile ascent to Camp 1 at the base of Ski Hill.

Distance: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Climbing Time: 6-7 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 1
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 4 • Carry • Kahiltna Pass • 9,700 feet

After breakfast, we ascend Ski Hill carrying equipment and food for the upper mountain up. This is an excellent way to acclimatize and practice pulling sleds. We caching our gear and descend to Camp 1.

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
Climbing Time: 5-6 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 1
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 5 • Move • Camp 2 • 11,000 feet

Carrying the remainder of our gear and food, we leave Camp 1 and establish Camp II at 11,000 feet.

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Climbing Time: 5-6 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 2
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 6 • Back carry • Kahiltna Pass

We descend back to Kahiltna Pass to collect our cached gear. This is an active rest day that also helps us acclimatize.

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: None
Climbing Time: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 2
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 7 • Carry • Windy Corner • 13,500 feet

We ascend Motorcycle Hill and cache equipment and food at Windy Corner to prepare for our move to Camp III.

Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
Climbing Time: 3-4 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 2
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 8 • Move • Camp 3 • 14,200 feet

We move to 14,200 feet and establish Camp III.

Distance: 2.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Climbing Time: 4-5 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 9 • Back Carry • Windy Corner

We descend back to Windy Corner to collect our cached gear. This is an active rest day that also helps us acclimatize. In the afternoon, we practice on a simulated fixed line in camp to prepare for the terrain above Camp 3.

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: None
Climbing Time: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 10 • Carry • 16,200 feet

Today we complete the last carry of our expedition. We ascend fixed lines to 16,200 feet, where we cache gear for Camp 4.

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Climbing Time: 5-6 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 11 • Rest Day • Camp 3 • 14,200 feet

Rest and recovery at Camp III. We will also review fixed line use in preparation for the next few days.

Distance: None
Elevation GainNone
Climbing Time: None 

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 12 • Move • Camp 4 • 17,200 feet

We re-ascend fixed lines to our cache at 16,500 feet, collect our gear and continue along an exposed ridge to Camp 4.

Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet
Climbing Time: 4-6 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 13 • Rest Day • Camp 4

A rest and recovery or contingency day at Camp 4. Most teams need a rest day after moving to Camp 4.

Distance: None
Elevation Gain: None
Climbing Time: None

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 4
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 14 • Summit Day • Denali • 20,310 feet

We wake early and traverse the 40-degree slopes of the famous Autobahn on our way to Denali Pass. Milder terrain on the summit plateau takes us to Pig Hill and eventually the corniced summit ridge of the highest peak in North America. We celebrate our success then carefully return to Camp 4.

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,120 feet
Climbing Time: 10-12 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 4
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 15 • Camp 3 • 14,200 feet

We pack our gear and descend the fixed lines to Camp 3 for a short night’s sleep.

Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Loss: 3,000 feet
Climbing Time: 2-4 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Camp 3
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 16 • Kahiltna Glacier Basecamp • 7,200 feet

With the most challenging terrain behind us, we sleep in, enjoy a 2-hour brunch, take a nap and then pack our sleds and descend the entire route back to base camp. We arrive in base camp at around 4 a.m., when cool temperatures contribute to firm, strong snow bridges on the lower mountain.

Distance: 12.25 miles
Elevation Loss: 7,200 feet
Climbing Time: 6-8 hours

Accommodations: Bivy at Base Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner (B, PL, D)

Day 17 • Depart Talkeetna

Flight to Talkeetna. Begin travel home. 

Day 18 – 22 • Contingency Days

Contingency days allow us to adjust our schedule for weather, mountain conditions, or team needs.

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner


Deposit and Payments

  • Balance due at time of acceptance, due with application.
  • The balance can be paid by bank transfer, or wire transfer.

Price Includes

  • Scheduled roundtrip flight to Kahiltna Glacier
  • 2 nights lodging in Talkeetna before the climb
  • One-way ground transportation Anchorage to Talkeetna
  • National Park Service special use fees
  • Base camp fee
  • Tented accommodations
  • All meals on the mountain
  • Professional mountain guides
  • All group equipment for the expedition
  • Pre-rigged custom sleds

Price Does Not Include

  • International and domestic airfare and meals during travel
  • Non-scheduled meals and lodging in Anchorage and Talkeetna
  • Transportation from Talkeetna
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal gear
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Excess baggage fees
  • Tips and gratuities


A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic. Must cover the ears.
  • Buff or Bandana: For sun protection
  • Heavyweight Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Two (2) pairs. Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields.
  • Goggles: One pair with dark lenses to protect from snow and wind and adequate ventilation to prevent fogging.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Nose Guard: To protect your nose from sun.
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring extra sets of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: Two synthetic long-sleeve shirts. Hoods for sun protection are recommended.
  • Mid-layer Top: A synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: A breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Light Insulated Jacket: Light synthetic insulated jacket
  • Expedition Down Parka: Insulated hood: 700+ fill down


  • Lightweight Gloves: One pair of lightweight liner gloves.
  • Softshell Gloves: One pair of everyday gloves with leather palms for durability and grip. (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended.)
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.
  • Expedition Down Mittens w/ wrist straps: One pair
  • Handwarmers / toe warmers: 3 sets of each

Lower Body

  • Lightweight Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton.
  • Midweight Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton.
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated.
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your Hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Insulated Pants: One pair of synthetic insulated pants with full side zips.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full-shank, crampon compatible, double plastic mountaineering boots or heavyweight synthetic / hybrid mountaineering boots, or 8,000-meter mountaineering boots, are required.
  • Overboots: One pair for cold temps on the upper mountain. Not necessary if you are bring 8,000-meter boots with built-in overboots such as the La Sportiva Olympus Mons.
  • Camp Booties: Down or synthetic booties with friction soles for use around camp.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: Two pair wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.
  • VBL Socks: Vapor-barrier liner socks to keep your boots dry. (Optional)

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.


  • Sleeping Bag: One warm bag rated to at least minus 20ᵒ Fahrenheit.
  • Inflatable Pad: A full-length inflatable pad.
  • Foam Pad: A full-length closed-cell foam pad.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 70- to 100-liter pack with good support, large enough to carry all of your personal gear and some group gear. Your pack should fit properly, have a good waist belt, and be able to carry gear between 45-70 pounds.
  • Stuff Sacks: A variety of sizes to organize your food and gear while climbing and camping.
  • Duffle/zip Bag: One large size, transporting gear via sleds.
  • Duffle/zip Bag: One medium size, store non-mountain gear during the expedition.
  • Liner Bags: 2-4 large plastic contractor bags.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-65cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (3) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-locking Carabiners: (10) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Ascender: Left- or right-handed
  • Rappel/Delay device: Figure 8 recommended
  • Prussik Cord: 40 feet, 6mm perlon
  • Nylon Sling: (2) 60cm nylon slings
  • Snowshoes: Lightweight snowshoes for glacier travel. Must have traction binding to prevent your foot from slipping sideways.


  • Water Bottle: Two, 1-liter, wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©
  • Water Bottle Parkas: Two, fully insulated water bottle covers.

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Toilet paper (2 rolls)
  • Blue bags or wag bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Toiletries
  • Pee bottle
  • Lighter
  • Earplugs



Program Location:
Begins and ends in Talkeetna, Alaska

Visa/Entry Information:
No visa requirements for US citizens.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required.

Flight Travel Information:
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), Anchorage, Alaska

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in-country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in the country’s destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in the pre-departure packet upon reservation. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Denali Fitness & Training

Climbing Grade: Advanced   

Some consider Denali to be the hardest of the Seven Summits due to its remote location and severe weather. From base camp to the summit, we climb 13,000 vertical feet, that’s more vertical gain than on Everest. Along the way, we are completely self-sufficient. All team members must carry large packs and tow sleds laden with gear. Be prepared to carry as much as 70 pounds on your back and pull a sled with up to 100 pounds of gear.

Before your expedition we recommend that you take, at minimum, a mountaineering course and climb other high-altitude peaks.

Here’s a suggested progression of climbs before attempting Denali:

  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
  • Glacier Mountaineering Course
  • Aconcagua

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you ensure my safety on Denali?

Mountaineering in Alaska is a serious undertaking that can reward us with experiences of a lifetime. On every expedition, we encounter hazards posed by terrain, weather and altitude. Safety is our first priority, and our expert guides manage these risks through careful planning, extensive training and experience, and first-rate client care. All of our guides are certified Wilderness First Responders and many are EMTs. They are overseen by some of the world’s leading experts in expedition medicine, and some of the most experienced guides in the Alaska Range. All of our teams are equipped with the highest quality mountaineering gear, medical kits, radios and satellite phones. We cannot eliminate the possibility of an accident, but we take pride in our ability to minimize the risks you face and the consequences if one should occur.

How should I prepare to climb Denali?

For Denali, you should develop your technical, altitude and expedition living skills. For many of our climbers, the path to the top of North America begins on one of our mountaineering courses on Mount Baker or Mount Rainier. From there, we recommend that you gain high-altitude international expedition experience by climbing Mount Elbrus, Island Peak, Cotopaxi, Aconcagua or other peaks of similar difficulty. For more information on mountaineering training, please refer to our Goals and Fitness page.

What is included in a Denali expedition?

Our Denali expedition is all-inclusive. Your trip fee covers everything you will need to access our basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier and climb the mountain, including roundtrip transportation between Anchorage and the Kahiltna, National Park Service fees, professional mountain guides, all group expedition equipment including sleds for gear, and tented accommodations and meals on the mountain. Your fee does not include: travel to and from Anchorage, lodging in Anchorage, trip insurance, personal gear, gratuities and other expenses as listed.

How much weight will I have to carry?

You should prepare to carry a backpack as heavy as 60 pounds on the lower mountain while pulling a loaded sled. On the upper mountain, we have to carry larger packs – as heavy as 75 pounds – because the terrain prevents us from pulling sleds. You must carry your personal equipment and a share of group expedition gear.

What will we eat on Denali?

We know that on an extended expedition like Denali, serving healthful, nutritious food is a key factor for a successful summit. We offer some of the best food on the mountain. We order much of it directly through organic wholesalers in Washington State, then store our cheese, butter, meat and other perishables in refrigerators in Talkeetna to ensure it is as fresh as possible when it arrives on the glacier. Few other outfitters can offer such fresh food.

Will I be able to contact friends and family while on the mountain?

This mountain is extremely isolated. There is no cell phone service or internet once we leave Talkeetna. A satellite phone will be on hand for emergency purposes.


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