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Best place to test Denali gear this winter?

Original Post
Sara Campbell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 10

Hey, looking for some suggestions that are not too long or expensive. Want to find some place where we could test all of our cold weather gear and maybe practice snow shelters and things. It would be good if there wasn't so much objective hazard and we could just concentrate on the winter camping aspect and being cold and windy and whatnot. I was looking at maybe Rainier in the winter but not sure if there would be too much avy risk. Any suggestions would be great. Want to test out the -40 degree bags and whatnot in elements similar to what would be on the mountain. We will be winter camping as much as possible in the high mountains of CO, but that won't get cold enough to really test our gear. Thanks for any advice!

Ian Cavanaugh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 615

Montana. There are usually snaps in late December and early feb around Bozeman that reach highs of -15-20 in the day. I've been camping in the gallatin range and Beartooths in the winter with temps at night around -30+ w/o wind chill. Best place I know for that

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

The Presidential Range gets pretty lovely in January/February if you're looking for cold and windy.

Jason Denley · · CO, AK · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 95

Hey Sara,
I work on Denali guiding the west buttress. I have just a few suggestions for you.
Dial your cravasse rescue skills/ sled rigging and develop a plan with your team and practice. know what you are going to do if you fall into a cravasse with you pack/sled/snowshoes or skis on and what your partner or team are going to do in response. Know your navigation plans for whiteout conditions (gps/ gaia). Dial your layering system and how you will be packing your pack to make easy access to possible conditions of that day.
As for your a place to practice your winter camping it highly depends on the time of year you are going to be climbing Denali. The time of year you go to climb Denali is monumental to the different conditions you will see. practice all your winter camping skills. As for your worry of the cold I hope you dont see negative 40 on your trip. The main thing i would concentrate on is dialing your systems for travel to camp skills. I would recommend high Colorado mountains for your training trip because it will be plenty cold and if you really wanna test your self go when high winds are projected. Bascially any high mountains with wind and cold will help you out. This is very vague but just a quick response to get you on your way. Good luck and remember its about the experience and the journey to get there so keep it fun and safe, summit day is just one day of your journey. Best of luck see you out there.

Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,767
t.farrell wrote:The Presidential Range gets pretty lovely in January/February if you're looking for cold and windy.
I've been told Mnt. Washington is where they train for antarctic expeditions, etc.
t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60
Morgan Patterson wrote: I've been told Mnt. Washington is where they train for antarctic expeditions, etc.
Average temp in January is 4 (F) with an average wind speed of 45 mph with common gusts above 70 mph. Combine that with the east coast humidity, and you have the perfect place for someone to discover the meaning of cold. The only real issue with Mt. Washington would be the lack of snow. It doesn't really accumulate because the wind usually just blows it all away.
Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 73

Hi Sara,

I just wanted to chime in to say how awesome I think it is that you are planning a Denali have really been getting after it these last few years! I clearly have no Alaska range experience but I have always thought hauling sleds up to Arapaho pass during one of a cold snaps in Dec or Jan would be a decent shake out for the West Butt and can be done over a weekend from Boulder...should get you near -20F and be nice and windy.


climbing coastie · · Wasilla, AK · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 90

May sound crazy, but Alaska. Alaska airlines is having the biggest sale of the year and many others are trying to compete. Rental cars are dirt cheap in the winter out of Anchorage.

Sara Campbell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 10

Thanks so much for the replies and advice, everyone! Yeah I did Mt Wash during the winter once and it was very cold and windy.... But I've never been somewhere in my life where I needed double boots (much less doubles + overboots!) so I'm not really sure what it will be like existing in those temps. We are going in June. Haha maybe we should just go to Alaska... Maybe we could see the northern lights!

Nat D · · Seattle, WA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 765

Rainier is cold but to get up high where the conditions are similar to Denali will come with some objective hazards. Guiding companies use both Baker and Rainier to put on Denali/high altitude expedition prep courses though, it's a proven way to prepare.

On the other hand I've been in some delightful -40 and high wind conditions in Fairbanks Alaska area without having to climb an inch! Might do the trick haha.

Ryan R · · East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

Mt. Washington is a great place to train. It's close to a lot of things, and readily accessible. The weather is extremely varied. I've been up there in January with whiteout conditions and brutal cold. It's definitely a place to dial some of the skills for big mountains. Before I did Rainier, Washington was a huge stepping stone for me. It helped teach me the skills I needed to be able to deal with the cold. Katahdin is also a great option, especially if you want to do winter camping, sled work, and the like. Getting a permit may not be the easiest, but totally worth it.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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