Denali 2022

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  • #59104

    Seems like a number of us are heading for Denali next Summer so thought it might be worth it having its own thread so we can share questions, tips etc. Also a few who have already done it that can provide useful insight I’m sure.

    I leave UK on 20 May and the plan has us being in Talkeetna (via LA and Anchorage) for 22 May – I’ll be the jetlagged one looking for coffee! 3 of us Brits are booked through a great UK company called 360Expeds but will be joining AAI once we get to Alaska.

    Denali has been on my list for some time and I’m stoked that I’m finally training for it.

    I’ve already started asking @MARK questions abut introducing sled pulls into the training as I’ve never used a pulk.

    Look forward to hearing about other folks’ plans.

  • Participant
    Edgar Carby on #59107

    I’ll be in Anchorage on June 15 with RMI and Dave Hahn. I am *extremely* excited which probably explains why I am hammering this board with so many questions. So so so many questions. I’m almost as excited about the training and learning that goes along with the actual climb.

    Boot question – I’ve got Scarpa 6000 with neoprene overboots for the summit, and I need to get the heel snugged up a little bit. I bought some Intuition liners but I liked them less than the stock Scarpa liner (which I think is maybe made by Intuition?).

    What about just layering some duck tape on the heel of the inner bootie to fill that space? Is there a better option out there short of custom? Otherwise, they fit almost perfectly.

    Kieran Lilley on #59115

    I’m on the 21 May Denali climb with Alpine Ascents, coming from Sydney, Australia – haven’t made any firm plans for when I’d get into Anchorage as of yet, but thinking I might spend a bit of time in the States beforehand to help kick the jetlag.

    Keen to follow this thread!

    Eicke Hecht on #59116

    Have been on Denali 2019 without a guide just with a friend so in case you have specific questions feel free to ask. For the boot question I would say test if it’s comfortable and if the solution can withstand some wear on the trip

    Mary Beth Kepner on #59119

    HI, I’m scheduled to climb Denali starting June 15th with RMI. I live and train in Anchorage. I’m super excited about the climb. I see that mountain on my daily hikes when the weather permits. It’s super inspiring.

    Edgar Carby on #59121

    Mary Beth,
    We will be climbing on the same trip! Sour Patch Kids!

    Mary Beth Kepner on #59123

    That’s super cool. Where do you live and train? I did the mountaineering skills seminar with RMI on the Kahiltna Glacier last May. It gave me a little taste for the mountain.

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    Edgar Carby on #59126

    I live and train in the mountains of Mississippi 😉 I did Rainier – DC Route last June with RMI and had a blast.

    Edgar Carby on #59177

    On the boot question, I did 40 min of step ups in my Scarpa 6000s and determined that my heel is slipping inside the bootie (not much, but enough to make me concerned) and not the bootie slipping inside the shell.

    Any recommendations for an insert?

    Anna Hern on #59261

    Quick question for you Denali folks. Denali is a dream but I was told it’ll never happen (at least with a guided group) because I cannot carry a 65 lb pack. (I’m about 105 on a heavy day and just don’t see myself carrying 62% of my body weight on a mountain like Denali). I saw some of y’all are going with groups but also read some people are training to pull sleds. Is there a guided group that allows sled pulling? I feel like that’s more realistic for me.
    I fly in and out of ANC a few times a month from Asia and am often graced with beautiful views of Denali. I wish I was going with y’all!
    Thanks in advance and wish y’all all the best.

    Nate Emerson on #59271

    It’s great that you are already trying this out and figuring out your boot. You are miles ahead of some other climbers! Dave will be psyched.
    A good fit for a high altitude / cold weather boot for Denali can feel like it has too much movement in the heel. There’s not much in those boots that you want “snug” if you want to have adequate warmth. If it’s just minor heel movement with step ups and step downs, you first have to evaluate your body and your technique. After that you can look for issues with the boot. Since I don’t know your full mountaineering/athletic history, I’ll explain some background points:
    1. If your rear foot heel is slipping: Your boot has a full shank, so it’s important that your technique is modified – you need to step up using the whole foot, similar to squat or deadlift. This is not a natural movement pattern – our rear foot wants to flex and push off the toes to assist the new stance foot. Even guides and pro athletes spend 98% of their lives in footwear with flexible soles, and need to modify technique when they put on full shank boots.
    2. If your stance foot (raised foot) heel is slipping: A majority of recreational athletes have restrictions in ankle mobility. This can often lead to excessive heel “lift” (not to mention it can be a huge contributor to over-pronation – these often go hand in hand). Even with good technique, restrictions in ankle dorsiflexion can make it feel like there is a problem with the boot. This applies to a lot of alpine skiers out there as well.

    Try loosening your boots and doing a few minutes of step-ups with them extra loose. This can help show whether you are stepping off a flat foot or rocking onto your toes.

    Keep in mind, snugging up the heel too much can lead to too much friction which can lead to blisters. Some climbers prefer the more slippery feeling liners, because they feel it’s less likely to cause blisters. You might even check how the sock interacts with the liner.

    It’s important to look at the whole picture to figure out what is causing the heel “slipping”. If you think it’s the boot, make sure that you are seeing a specialist that really understands the nuances with fit for a boot like this. Boot fitting is really hard to do without seeing someones foot and the way that they walk. I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in a typical big-box retail salesperson.

    Nate Emerson on #59272

    1. In the Female Uphill Athlete Forum, Scott wrote out a thoughtful reply on the “disadvantage” smaller climbers have on Denali. It doesn’t mean Denali is impossible, it just means that the training and planning have to be even more meticulous. To summarize: much of the gear that is used on the mountain is not “scaled-down” to smaller bodies, so the smaller climbers usually have to carry a disproportionate load. You can offset it by being very careful about all of your personal gear, making the best choices for lighter gear and a spartan packing style, and train like you mean it, with a very disciplined approach to a good strength training progression specific to Denali.
    Knowing who is on your trip could reduce the wild card of being on a team that’s forming strategies off of different body types.
    2. Sled are used by all teams up there, but you have to be prepared for the occasional tough days without sleds. Different teams will use different strategies, so you should be prepared for some heavy pack days, sometimes quite early in the trip with double carries in conditions that are tough for sleds.

    A good way to feel it out would be to do an Alaska Range skills trip like Mary Beth referenced. The tactics are similar, but the loads are not as heavy as Denali.

    Eicke Hecht on #59332

    @Anna Sleds can be used only till 14.200′ Camp. The Headwall is too steep for a sled and the ridge afterwards is also not suited for a sled. So there is no point in taking the sleds beyond camp 3. Depending on the conditions your backpack may also be very heavy when going around windy corner as the slope there is sideways to the path and a heavy sled that is moving from behind you to below you can throw you off balance. Thus most people try to carry more stuff on their backpack that day. Other than those occations i would try to pack up to 2/3 of the weight on the sled. But in any case keep the center of mass from the sled very low to avoid that the sled rolls over all the time.

    Edgar Carby on #59337

    @Nate thanks! I will give it a go flat footed and then dissect from there.

    Edgar Carby on #59344

    @Nate it’s the rear foot heel. Rocking up on my toes to push off. Gonna take some practice to get used to pushing off with the whole foot. But really glad to have the issue diagnosed AND on the path to resolution with a few strokes of the keyboard.

    This is a bit off topic but where/when do step ups with a rest step come into play (if at all)? Are they more ME workouts or do they count as a hike? Are step ups with a rest step a dumb idea?

    I’m interested in developing the rest step process more. I remember being about 100 feet from the Rainier summit and thinking “next time less half marathons and more comically slow steep hiking”

    Nate Emerson on #59408

    @Edgar Glad that you are sorting out the heel issue!

    You raise a great question about the rest step. We could go down a rabbit hole with the discussion…

    On Denali, you’ll need to be strong with a rest step and with a more normal gait. Using a good rest step can sometimes make sled pulling feel more difficult. But the upper mountain demands a good rest step. So you should train for both situations:

    Early in the program, the training is general and the terrain doesn’t really require a rest step on most days. If you are finding terrain steep enough, and you need to pace yourself enough to stay in your target zone, then you can employ a rest step or partial rest step.
    Later in the program, as training is more specific, it could be beneficial to do rest-stepping when you are in the terrain that demands it, and wearing footwear that is more specific (full shank mountain boot). Heavy weighted carries will slow athletes down, and those session might bring some of the MTG athletes down to a rest step pace if they are on steep enough terrain. This will be different for everyone.

    On the mountain:
    Knowing how to move a heavy sled using a “modified” or “minimal” rest step is important on Denali.
    A normal rest step will usually let your sled come to a complete stop, and it can sometimes take a fair amount of effort to break that friction and get it moving again. Having a slow gliding gait or a modified rest step will keep the sled from stopping completely and will sometimes feel more efficient than a proper rest step. Again, this will probably affect each athlete differently, and conditions and sled setups will be different too. Those with a strong preference to rest-stepping sometimes prefer to allocate more weight to their shoulders because a “sticking” sled can be frustrating and difficult. This is not an option for most climbers.
    Above 11k you’ll usually feel it’s less of an issue, because of the tactic that Eicke highlighted. Some teams reduce the number of sleds per rope team above 11k, so it’s possible that you might already be without a sled at that point.
    Above 14,200′ the rest step will be very important. It would serve you to train with it whenever steep terrain, heavier training loads, and/or longer sessions call for it. If some sessions don’t call for rest-steps, then don’t force the rest-steps – these sessions will end up more relevant for the sled-pulling situations.
    Without the challenge of altitude and really heavy loads, most athletes will need pretty steep terrain for a rest step to come into play in training.

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