Roping Off Gorilla Rock
West Buttress
Le Contrefort
  de l'Ouest

South Buttress
Le Contrefort
  du Sud

Muldrow Glacier
Le Glacier

West Rib
Westliche Rippe
La Côte
  de l'Ouest

Cassin Ridge
Cassin Kamm
La Crête Cassin

Coming Soon
Doug Scott &
Dougal Haston's
South Face Direct

Notice & Disclaimer

This map and
the climbing
descriptions can
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
for good

Copyright © 2001
by Dennis Cowals.
All rights reserved.

Ice axe and rope logo
copyright © 2001
by Dennis Cowals.

Mountaineers edition
copyright © 1981
by Dennis Cowals
ISBN 0-89886-020-2.

First edition
copyright © 1976
by the Alaska
Alpine Company.


Ken Bayne's
Mt. McKinley (Denali)

Carl Ockier's
Climbing Dictionary


Great Outdoor
Recreation Pages

Mountain Zone

Outdoor Review



Rock & Ice Magazine

  Alaska Alpine Logo   The Mountaineers MMCG Cover

Denali National
Park & Preserve

Mountaineering Guidelines,
Regulations & Information

Mountaineering in
Denali National Park
& Preserve


Click for Talkeetna, Alaska Forecast

North to Alaska?
These friends
are good folks
to contact.
We've shared
many climbs,
rescues and
over the years.

Doug Geeting

Hudson Air Service

K-2 Aviation

Talkeetna Air Taxi

Mountain Trip

Alaska-Denali Guiding

Alaska Mountain
Rescue Group

Alaska Alpine Club

Club of Alaska

& Hiking


The Mountaineers Books

Alaska Alpine Co. MMCG Cover

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.

USGS 1:25,000 McKinley Summit Section

Mt. McKinley Summit 1:25,000 scale - adapted from U.S.G.S.

West Buttress    Muldrow Glacier
West Rib    Cassin Ridge    South Buttress


  • U.S. Army surplus Korean (vapor barrier)
       boots,* or double boots with gaiters or
  • Crampons
  • 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
  • Helmet**
  • 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
  • Underwear
  • 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
  • Insulating pad
  • 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
  • Pocket knife
  • Compass
  • 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
      and utensils
  • 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.
  • Medical kit
  • 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.

    Alaska Wilderness Companion Cover

  • 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

    Windy Corner
    Downtown Talkeetna
    Talkeetna, AK 99676
    Phone: (907) 733-1600

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