As an avid rock and vertical ice climber I thought I knew a lot. This course was inspiring, challenging and most of all humbling. Jon and Willi were true professional and provided me with a confidence that I thought I would never have while climbing big peaks. Overall the course was more than I anticipated. Alpine Ascents has set the bar quite high. I used this program as a prerequisite for future expedition. I am confident that the itinerary covered all that is needed to give an individual the information needed to conduct a self-assessment of their own limitations for future climbs. Ernie B.
Alaska 8-Day: Beginner Climber Education Program
Distinguished among climbing schools, the Eight-Day Alaska program is a progressive-development, hands-on program. Our goal is to educate climbers in mountaineering essentials and give graduates a firm understanding of alpine climbing skills. In addition, we'll attempt to summit two peaks.
This course was formerly a six-day course, but the additional two days have added to the scope and dimension of what our instructors can teach and guide. In one of the finest alpine environments imaginable, the curriculum covers the essentials of mountaineering, including glacier travel, self-arrest, navigation, route finding and snow skills. The course culminates with a summit attempt of one of the peaks in the area of the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, such as Mt. Francis (10,450 ft.), Kahiltna Dome (12,525 ft.), Point Ferene (9,300 ft.), Control Tower (8,670 ft.), or Mt. Crosson (12,800 ft.) (full list of course objectives is below).
In addition to the skill set listed below and the summit attempt, we look for this program to be a remote mountain experience. We'll apply skills as we learn them with a keen eye on safety, personal maintenance, environmentally friendly campsite construction and Leave no Trace ethics.
Sleds are used early in the course to familiarize students with their use on an Alaska Range expedition, and to facilitate getting to our first training camp. Later in the course, we will try to avoid sled use and have students pack carefully and properly when moving camp.This is simply to help acquaint students with proper packing skills, which are necessary in most alpine climbing areas of the world. It should be noted that the use of sleds can broaden meal choices.
This course serves as a prerequisite for many of Alpine Ascents' intermediate-level climbs, including Denali, and as a stepping stone for more technically difficult mountains.
Increasing technical knowledge/skills in all aspects of snow and alpine climbing including:
Developing educated, self-reliant climbers with the ability to evaluate subjective/objective hazards including:
Our guiding team is comprised of world-renowned guides and full-time professional climbers. While some of these guides have historical climbing achievements synonymous with their names, others are well known for their guiding and teaching experience. A number of our guides have been recipients of coveted climbing awards and scholarships.
Our guides are an integral part of Alpine Ascents because they understand and share our climbing principles. These individuals are dedicated to sharing their excellence with others. Many of our guides have been with Alpine Ascents for over five years, with a handful of veterans working with us for most of their careers. The quality of our Guide Staff is the primary difference between us and our competitors.
The role of an Alpine Ascents guide is to impart knowledge, use calculated judgement and assist individual climber development. Our guides are experienced educators who evaluate their strengths by monitoring climbers' achievements. Thus we stress our acute ability to provide students and expedition members with personal attention, realizing the commitment to assist each climber in obtaining their goals.
On our Alaska courses, we operate at a 4:1 climber-to-guide ratio or less.
The program was fantastic. It complemented and advanced what I knew about mountaineering and helped me feel comfortable leading climbs on glaciated peaks. Both guides get a 10/10 in my book. The program itself was well conceived as it taught us established fundamentals of mountaineering but then allowed us to tailor the course material to our individual needs and interests. - Sam L
The Alaska Range is home to Denali (20,320 ft.), the highest mountain in North America. Denali has numerous vast glaciers that flow down to an altitude of 2,000 ft., creating over 18,000 ft. of glaciated terrain and the highest relief from top to bottom of any mountain in the world. Surrounding Denali are hundreds of peaks, many of which represent the most sought-after climbs in the world. Most noteworthy are the vertical rock walls and narrow corniced ridges of Mount Huntington and the endless ice routes of Mount Hunter.
Climbers reach the Alaska Range via ski-equipped planes. En route to the glacier air strip we fly through the Alaska range, scanning breathtaking views of some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Instruction takes place on the glaciers surrounding these mountains and we complete our course by climbing one or two of the smaller but equally magnificent peaks in the area.
Alaska Range Challenges
Control Tower (8,670 ft.) is one of the peaks that is climbed during the six-day course. It is a central landmark located behind our camp on the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. We ascend Control Tower from the North East. The route we climb is exciting; we traverse a narrow ridge, then up a final steep section. This climb is a great stepping-stone in the Alaska Range.
Mt. Frances (10,450 ft.) is centrally located between Denali, Hunter and Foraker, and offers stunning 360-degree views from its summit. Our climb ascends the narrow East Ridge on snow and ice for approximately 2,000 ft., providing excellent climbing using all the skills we have learned during the course.
Mt. Crosson (12,880 ft.) presents a two-day climb in which we set high camp halfway up on the South East Ridge. This ridge is steep and continuous for over 5,000 ft., offering excellent climbing and a great challenge for the aspiring alpinist. This climb is truly a classic.
Kahiltna Dome (12,525 ft.), another Alaska classic, offers excellent climbing up the three-mile-long North East Ridge. The entire climb offers superb views of the West Buttress of Denali and Mount Foraker.
Point Ferene (9,300 ft.), centrally located on the Kahiltna Glacier, is a satellite peak of the Kahiltna Dome. Ascending from the north, we use the same approach route as the climbers for Denali. The climb is a beautiful, moderate glacier climb.
The 8 Day Mountaineering Course was a great in depth introduction to mountaineering. The guides were very informative, sharing mountaineering and winter camping tips throughout the whole day. Alaska was an amazing place to spend eight days as well! The mountains were beautiful and I cant wait to get back and attempt Denali with Alpine Ascents in the future! - Rob M.
In the best interest of personal safety, success and team compatibility, adequate training and excellent physical condition is required. Prior experience carrying a heavy pack for multiple days serves as excellent preparation for this course; Climbers must be able to carry an average of 50-60lbs. Climbers need to be in excellent physical condition for both personal enjoyment and to be an integral team member. We encourage you to contact us so that we may assist you in developing a training program that meets your particular needs. Comprehensive training information can be found here.
Note from Alaska Director : Willi Prittie
Training to a level of fitness above what the minimums of a course call for should be done for several reasons: 1) For anyone continuing on to a Denali expedition; 2) For safety, because the more fit you are, the more reserve energy you have to deal with problems if something goes wrong (and the better you will enjoy your course if you are not whipped every night); and 3) for the best retention of things you are learning on the course. If you are still fresh instead of worn out at the end of the day, you will have far better retention of skills learned and even be able to accomplish some self-directed additional practice at camp at day's end. This latter point is highly recommended and guides are happy to assist as well, because the more practice time you put in on many of the rope-oriented technical skills, the faster and better you will be during climbs. This is particularly true with things such as tying into the rope in various positions, buddy checks, rescues, knots, etc.
We regularly organize private courses for individuals, corporate groups, families and friends. We encourage you to book these courses early as we are often able to cater these programs to group-specific desires. Please contact our office to further discuss the benefits of private courses.
Alpine Ascents International is an authorized concessioner of Denali National Park.Return to Top of Page