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Is a down suit needed for Denali?
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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Jan 15, 2010
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
Or, will down pants and a down parka suffice?

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By Brian in SLC
Jan 15, 2010
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch
Crag Dweller wrote:
Or, will down pants and a down parka suffice?


You talkin' about a winter ascent? Or a standard season ascent?

If it were me (and it was), if you were thinkin' you'd summit sometime in June, then maybe forget the down pants and just take a parka.

But, I wore a stretch cap. farmer john type "suitee" and with light cap under that, with a down coat, was plenty warm on summit day.

Just me, maybe, but I don't find that my legs get that cold. If you have gaiter on, up to below the knees, and a down coat that goes down over the waist, then you have very little of the leg area exposed.

Cheers.

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By jack roberts
Jan 15, 2010
I've always taken Puffball Pants by Patagonia as a backup and also as leisure wear around 14,000. When I use the pants in conjunction with a big (not HUGE) down parka I'm pretty comfortable in May or June. For me down pants would be too much.

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By Jeff Hatfield
From Tempe, AZ
Jan 15, 2010
The only time I was on Denali (in late-May, 1996), I wore a 700(?) fill down parka, but no down pants. I was fine with a polypro base, a light-ish layer of some sort on top of that, followed by a 200-weight fleece layer, then my Gore-Tex. That being said... at one of my potty breaks, I reached down to discover that something down there had gone numb. Scared the hell out of me, and for the rest of the trip I had a spare wool glove stuffed in there as well.

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By Jim Gloeckler
From Denver, Colo.
Jan 15, 2010
Well I have no idea what I am doing answering this thread but I have read a bunch about high altitude mountaineering. It seems that Denali is one of the worst mountains for folks showing up unprepared for trying to climb it. I've heard that groups from all over the globe arrive without the proper gear or experience. I know that Denali is one of the most unforgiving mountains to make that mistake on. Standard fare in the old days was to climb most 14ers here in Colorado first, then progress to the volcanos in Mexico next (17,000 ft.). After that Mt Hood and then maybe on to Denali. Remember the mountain is at 62 degress north latitude and is known to be the coldest mountain on the planet. Go with all the experience that you can get, dress in layers and have all of the necessary gear to be safe. Pick some good partners, plan your ascent well and then and only then; go kick it's ass. Good luck, and come back safely to the people that love you. It's not more important than they are!

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jan 15, 2010
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
Depends on the weather- seems to be warming up a bunch last 10 yrs. Worn as many as 7 layers bottom and top each and still cold with overgaitors and big plastic boots. Russians passed by us in summer hiking boots and thin wool pants and sweaters not seeming to notice the -35F with wind conditions. Down pants would have been nice - one piece gore-tex suits and farmer johns do make a difference up there and you can't have a down jacket big enough for that peak...unless it's warm?

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By Just Alice
From Burnsville, MN
Jan 18, 2010
Yeah, don't forget the long underwear!

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By Jim Davidson
From Fort Collins, Colorado
Jan 18, 2010
I was on Denali once and just wore a down suit for the first time on Cho Oyu. I would not take my down suit to Denali unless it was a winter ascent. My one trip to Deanli we had good weather - wore up to 3 layers on bottom, up to 4 layers PLUS a huge down coat on top - this was good. Flexibility for weather changes is good. On Cho Oyu, my down suit was great on summit day and great to sleep in, but on sunny days on the glacier I metled in it. Plus, down suits weigh 60 ounces or more, and are not very flexible as far as adding/substracting layers. For Denali I would take a HUGE down coat with down filled hood, warm farmer johns underlayers for up high, and maybe, maybe down pants if your legs get cold (mine don't). Forty Below overboots are great for Denali too.
Train hard. Good luck.

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By Steve Murphy
From Fort Collins, CO
Jan 18, 2010
Never taunt a goat
If you're going with a guide company, then ask them what they recommend. If not, then see what they recommend anyway by clicking on the links below.

I have four friends who have climbed Denali (one as a guide); none of them used or recommend down suits.

AAI
Alpine Ascents
Mountain Link
Mountain Trip
NOLS
Specific trip gear lists:
Climb for a Cure

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By Steve Murphy
From Fort Collins, CO
Jan 18, 2010
Never taunt a goat
But wait, there's more...

A copy of list I made of Denali-themed books (to a friend in Bellingham, thus the Bellingham library references) to get you excited...

BOOKS I'VE READ:

Surviving Denali : a Study of Accidents on Mount McKinley, 1910-1982 Jonathan Waterman. The first of his Denali books The title pretty much sums it up. Highly recommended. Bellingham Library doesn't have a copy--they may be able to do a request for it and get it. If not, then otherwise beg, borrow, or steal this book!

In the Shadow of Denali Jonathan Waterman. 796.522 WATERMAN The third of his Denali books. This is a mix of personal experiences and historical accounts. Well worth reading.

To the Top of Denali: Climbing Adventures on North America's Highest Peak Bill Sherwonit. 796.522 SHERWON Well written account of some famous (and not so famous) climbs. Well worth reading.

We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans Pete Sinclair. This is a mix of Denali, the Tetons, and rescue work. It is probably the most beautifully written book on this list, and is on my all-time favorite list of mountaineering books. The only reason it isn't the second book on this list is because Denali isn't the only, or even main, subject.

Denali Climbing Guide R.J. Secor. Basically a route guidebook. Includes Cassin, of course. It's a decent guidebook, and certainly shows the variety of climbs available.

Minus 148: The First Winter Ascent on Mount McKinley Art Davidson. Parts of this book are recounted in either Watermans' third book or Sherwonit's book. Read this if you've got time. I read it a couple of years ago.

BOOKS I'M PLANNING ON READING:

Mount McKinley, the Conquest of Denali Bradford Washburn. 796.522 WASHBURN I haven't read this one yet, but it's on my list. Washburn and Denali are inseparable. Almost all of the recent routes on Denali and the surrounding mountains are based on his pictures (like Scurlock and the Cascades). He discovered and first climbed the West Buttress, claiming even before he climbed it that it would become "the" route on Denali--and he was right. He also first identified as one of the great alpine routes what would be known as the Cassin Ridge.

Denali's West Buttress: A Climber's Guide to Mount McKinley's Classic Route Colby Coombs. Yes, a whole guidebook on one route. I will probably read this at some point.

Mount McKinley: Icy Crown of North America Fred Beckey.796.522 BECKEY I haven't read this, but probably will. It is by Fred Beckey, after all!

High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali, Mount Foraker, & Mount Hunter Jonathan Waterman. His second Denali-themed book. I haven't read this one. I'll probably save reading it for our second trip to Alaska when we do the Moonflower Buttress.

Deadly Ascent: The Dangers of Denali National Park's Mt. McKinley Nova. 796.522 DEADLY This is a DVD at Bellingham Library; I haven't seen it, but would if it was available to me.

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By Sunny-D
From SLC, Utah
Jan 18, 2010
Top of Jah-Man Sister Superior
I would not take a down suit unless you are going in winter. A big hooded down parka and puffy synthetic pants are the way I rolled up there. If you talk with the rangers they highly recommend synthetics. The books listed are great reads for getting ready for Denali. I think Surviving Denali would be at the top of my list as it tells all the mistakes people have made and how to avoid them. If you are interested I can dig up my clothing list and send it to you. It worked really well. I took into account many of the newer fabrics and clothing that are available now. I think the guided group lists are updated as well.
Food lists would be fun to see as well, I have mine. It is pretty hard to find food lists for that mountain. Take things you like to eat. Our favorite meal on the mountain was HOT DOGS (with buns). I like to cook so we had breads and other baked items as well. I have that list and could send it over if interested.
Dallen

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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Jan 18, 2010
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
thanks, everyone, for the helpful input and the reading recommendations. looks like i can cross down suit off the list of expenses for the trip, which is nice.

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By sstrauss
From Denver
Jan 18, 2010
Dream Weaver in it's death throws
Sunny-D wrote:
If you are interested I can dig up my clothing list and send it to you... Food lists would be fun to see as well, I have mine. It is pretty hard to find food lists for that mountain. Take things you like to eat. Our favorite meal on the mountain was HOT DOGS (with buns). I like to cook so we had breads and other baked items as well. I have that list and could send it over if interested. Dallen


I'd be interested in those lists and any advice you might have, as I'm headed that way in 2011.

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