Planning 2021 winter training climbs for Denali

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  • #59600

    Could help me to plan a few climbs before Denali? I am planning to climb Denali from 5/23 to 6/13. If I were to add climbing Rainier for 5 to 7 days before Denali, what month/weeks in the training should I plan it? Also, I would like to add a couple more mountains (Shasta and Whitney) to train in weather and altitude, get used to gears and daily routine. What would you recommend? What’s too little or too many? Kazu

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    mattmay3s on #59627

    Who are you climbing Denali with? I leave on same day with AAI.

    Nate Emerson on #59634

    Great question Kazu. Each individual has to find the right answer to “too little or too many”. The answer depends on fitness, experience level, familiarity, and skills.

    1. If developing your fitness will be your biggest point of leverage: focus more on the training plan
    2. If developing your skills will be your biggest point of leverage: try to integrate specific training (not specific climbs) and maybe a Denali Prep Course
    3. If developing your comfort in a snow/winter environment will be your biggest point of leverage: try to do a Denali Prep Course or set aside time for some winter backpacking to test some of your gear
    4. If you feel like you are coming into this program with a good base and you can integrate a few climbs in the specific period (~4-8 weeks before the trip), then by all means try to schedule a few.

    Those who have a very big resume with recent climbs of the same nature may not need to do any additional climbs in the lead up to a big climb. Those with only a handful of climbs with similar qualities should try to plan some additional skills and experiential training. It’s generally a good idea for most mountaineering athletes to have some intermediate climbs or skills training. Anyone intending to integrate a few climbs should do so after building a strong base. Ideally this is in the specific period, before a taper. Roughly 4-8 weeks before the trip would mesh well with training.

    Each athlete needs to evaluate how strong their skills are. A big simulation climb doesn’t necessarily create time to fine-tune your crampon skills like a specific training day. Likewise, you might camp quite differently on a quick winter climb up Whitney versus a 5 day winter backpacking trip or ski traverse (more specific to Denali).

    Early season Rainier can have a wide range of conditions, and occasionally high avalanche hazard / poor weather make it an unreliable pick if summiting is your goal. That could make it a poor pick to include in an organized schedule. On the other hand, most climbers benefit from the Denali Prep Courses on Rainier. Summits are not guaranteed, but the training and time on snow is helpful for most climbers.

    If you are climbing with a guide service, they can often recommend an appropriate intermediate climb based on your resume. Doing a 14er could clearly be helpful, but keep in mind a late winter / early spring ascent is often more advanced than a summer climb. Snowpacks are *generally* becoming more stable at this time, and daylight is increasing.

    Each athlete is coming with a different level of experience and training history, and they’ll need to choose their own balance between following the plan as close as possible, and integrating some specific winter skills and mountaineering training. Some athletes might be using most of their annual leave for a big trip, so it’s nice to know alternatives to a training climb.

    Just like training, the steps towards your goal should *occasionally* be specific. It’s possible to do intermediate climbs and trips that check some – but not all – of the boxes for Denali training and still be effective.
    *We often see many Denali climbers who have a challenge living on snow for three weeks. It’s psychologically challenging, so it’s nice to have a warm up trip to become more familiar with your Denali camping and sleeping kit. This can reduce anxiety on the trip.
    *It’s important to be comfortable moving on snowshoes with a load on flat terrain, as well as moderate to steeper hills – mostly on packed snow. If this isn’t familiar, it’s easy to work harder at a much slower pace compared to your training hikes.
    *It’s also important to be comfortable moving on your crampons. Keep in mind that crampons always have a potential tripping hazard – you don’t want to get hurt right before your Denali trip. Know your own skill level and train accordingly. If this isn’t familiar, it’s easy to overexert yourself when you are moving in crampons.
    *Continue to do many of your workouts outdoors. Whenever it’s safe to do so, doing your workouts in inclement winter weather can be a great way to get used to exertion and moisture management in some of your Denali clothing. Always be mindful of avalanche terrain and the potential difficulty of travel in winter. A large number of winter search and rescue calls happen close to trailheads on popular summer routes. In western Colorado, for example, numerous summer trails cross through some of the biggest avalanche paths in the Rockies. Make sure to know your terrain.

    kazu.ishidera on #59651

    Hi Nate,

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive answer. It gave me a good idea. I will think through my training plan with my priorities.

    I have already decided to join the IMG Denali expedition seminar. I try to narrow down the dates to join a seminar. Thus, I asked the question.

    My partner/mentor and I are going to climb without a guide. (I will look for you Matt or please look for two Japanese climber teams) My focus should be on fitness. We have climbed more technical climbs in the past. But, the altitude, very cold weather, heavy load, length, and expedition tactics are all new. So, I tried to figure out the best plan. This process is half of the fun I suppose. Now that you suggested I can train and snowshoe up with a load in Tahoe or Yosemite in winter. I should think more creatively to make my workouts combine with outings as well.

    Thank you again. This forum has been so helpful.

    mattmay3s on #59656

    Will do Kazu – hope to see you on the Mountain

    speroandrew on #60250

    Winter presidential range traverse in new hampshire would be a great training run for denali with minimal objective hazard compared to bigger peaks. Its by no means a walk in the park.

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