La Crête Cassin
Doug Scott &
South Face Direct
Notice & Disclaimer
This map and
only serve as
general guides to the
five major routes on
Mt. McKinley because
of daily and seasonal
On a big mountain,
no guide or map
can safely be
Copyright © 2001
by Dennis Cowals.
All rights reserved.
Ice axe and rope logo
copyright © 2001
by Dennis Cowals.
copyright © 1981
by Dennis Cowals
copyright © 1976
by the Alaska
Mt. McKinley (Denali)
Rock & Ice Magazine
Park & Preserve
Regulations & Information
Denali National Park
North to Alaska?
are good folks
over the years.
Hudson Air Service
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Club of Alaska
The Mountaineers Books
The American Alpine Club
Mountain Rescue Association
National Ski Patrol
Climbing equipment needed for an expedition to Mt. McKinley is basically the same as that needed for a high mountain ascent anywhere in the world, only with greater emphasis, perhaps, on items of clothing capable of keeping climbers warm and dry.
Polarguard sleeping bags, for example, have proven more effective when wet than down bags. Some climbers now use both types in combination, slipping a down bag inside a synthetic outer bag to increase insulation in wet conditions.
Pile garments have very much come into their own in recent years. Now, they're almost standard as part of the mountaineer's uniform. On McKinley, they have proven to be very practical, especially if worn under wind-proof shell parkas of nylon or Gore-Tex. Much lighter than the traditional heavy woolen sweaters, pile sweaters and zip-front jackets have proven themselves more versatile and much faster drying than wool.
Synthetic plastic and nylon double climbing boots are replacing traditional leather double boots; and they have proven adequate to McKinley's temperature demands. Insulated gaiters and overboots are still preferred by many climbers. But the warmest boot of all is still the U.S. Army surplus vapor barrier boot which was originally developed during the Korean War. They're available as Korean Boots or Mickey Mouse Boots, or as VB Boots at many surplus outlets. However, they are not well suited to McKinley's more technical routes. Import copies, unfortunately, have not been as durable or as warm as original U.S. Army surplus fabricated by American manufacturers.
More and more climbers are carrying 10-foot squares (3 meters by 3 meters) of heavy black plastic for use as solar stills to melt snow for drinking water. In June and July, when daytime temperatures soar, the black sheets can melt an entire party's water supply during the day while climbers are relaying loads. Their use helps conserve fuel which may be needed during a storm emergency higher on the mountain.
Children's plastic sleds, likewise, have been found to be of considerable value on long, relatively flat approach marches across glaciers or snowfields. It's easier to pull a load than to carry one. Using the bathtub-shaped sleds also makes it easier to remove equipment and trash from the mountain, a practice highly recommended by the National Park Service and environmental groups.
If fixed rope is used, three-eighth inch (9mm) polypropylene is usually satisfactory. However, on critical sections such as the Japanese Couloir, it is recommended that 8 or 9mm kernmantle rope be used for safety.
Mt. McKinley Summit 1:25,000 scale - adapted from U.S.G.S.
U.S. Army surplus Korean (vapor barrier)
boots,* or double boots with gaiters or
Skis with ski-mountaineering bindings,
climbing skins and poles, or 10 x 56-inch
(25 x 140-cm) snowshoes
Ice axe* and piton/ice hammer**
Seat and chest harness
with locking caribiners
Four carabiners,* or more**
Three Prussik slings,* or Jumar, CMI,
Petzl or Clog ascenders and foot slings**
Three ice screws (tube type)
Four pairs of wool socks
Knickers or long wool trousers
Wool shirt and sweater
Down parka and pants
Wind parka and pants
Cagoule or poncho (for rain
on the Muldrow approach)
Sun hat and wool stocking cap
Balaclava or face mask
Two pairs of light gloves
(wool, silk or nylon)
Two pairs of heavy wool mittens,
and one pair of nylon shells
One pair of down mitts
Down or Polarguard sleeping bag
rated to -40° F/C
Large capacity packframe,*
or large soft pack**
Two pairs of climbing goggles
Personal First Aid kit, prescription
medications, toothbrush & toiletries
Diary and pens or pencils
Camera with extra batteries and film
Plastic mixing bowl, cup and spoon
Bandanna or small towel
Two widemouth, liter water bottles
Two plastic butane lighters
Headlamp with spare bulb and batteries
Plastic sled 17 x 48 in. (40 x 120 cm)
One 120-foot x 9mm climbing rope for every two
climbers,* or one 150-foot x 11mm climbing rope**
One spare rope for crevasse rescue
Fixed rope: 1,000 - 5,000 feet (or more)
of 3/8ths inch (9mm) polyproplyene rope.
(Available locally in Anchorage from
Alaska Industrial Hardware and others.)
One pump stove for every two or three climbers
Aluminum or stainless steel cooking pots
Liquid soap, scouring pads, etc.
One-half pint of fuel per climber per day.
Five gallons (19 liters) is usually sufficient
for a four-man party.
Tents: four-man tent with rainflys,*
or two-man tents with rainflys**
Two large, aluminum shovels (grain scoops)
Two snow saws
Food: 4,000 - 5,000 calories per climber per day
- about 2 pounds (890 gm) per climber per day
200 flagged willow wands,*
or 100 flagged willow wands**
Repair kit for stoves, tents, packs,
ski and snowshoe bindings, etc.
Spare crampons (adjustable),
ice axe and sun glasses
Paperback books, chess/checkers set,
playing cards, etc.
* Recommended for West Buttress
and Muldrow Glacier Routes.
** Recommended for West Rib,
South Buttress and Cassin Ridge.
All equipment needed for an expedition to Mt. McKinley is available in Anchorage, normally the starting place for most groups. No equipment is available at Denali National Park & Preserve. Climbers planning to obtain needed equipment in Alaska should contact suppliers in advance to make certain items are available.|
Two Talkeetna climbing shops now offer equipment sales and rentals, including sleds, white gas, CB radios, maps, photos, ice axes, snow saws, skis, snowshoes, overboots, snow pickets, wands, and a variety of last-minute items.
Talkeetna Outdoor Center
P.O. Box 748
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone and Fax: (907) 733-4444
Toll-Free: (800) 349-0064
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-1600
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Muldrow Glacier | South Buttress |
West Buttress | West Rib |