Kahiltna 12-day Course

Garrett Madison at Alpine Ascents International offered me a 12-day course on Denali's Kahiltna Glacier. It had been three years since my last visit to the Kahiltna. The 40-mile long Kahiltna Glacier is a dramatic setting for mountaineering skills and has a great social scene.

My crew on the course was fired up and fun: Ian Davies from Brisbane, Australia; Daniel Krebs from Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and two Army Rangers, Clint Holladay and Trevor Tow from Savannah, Georgia.

Talkeetna Air Taxi flew us from Talkeetna to the 7,000-foot Kahiltna Base Camp in a DeHavilland Turbo Otter. We schlepped our kit up glacier and camped for five days to cover mountaineering skills and climb Control Tower.

Ian and Clint hauling Trevor from the hole during crevasse rescue practice on day four. 

The dramatic ridge of Control Tower.

The Triangle Face of the Kennedy-Lowe route on Mount Hunter as seen from Control Tower. The serrated ridge at the top of the face is a famous and fearsome, Alaskan double-corniced ridge. See High Alaska for a close up of the first ascent.

Denali attracts guides and like-minded people from around the US. Tim Remick, a friend who I haven't seen in years, was spending a week at Kahiltna Base Camp photographing haggared Denali climbers.

On day seven we moved camp up the Kahiltna Glacier to 8,000 on the West Buttress route of Denali. Despite an ominous start, low clouds and snow kept the temperatures down and the snow firm letting us move during the mid-day rather than the typical night schedule.

We moved camp again to 9,600 feet below Kahiltna Pass. Our goal was climbing 12,525-foot Kahiltna Dome, but constant clouds and snow killed that plan. Instead we climbed a 13,350-foot peak next to Windy Corner. In this photo Daniel is standing near the summit of Peak 13,350 below the 16,030-foot end of the West Buttress.

The posse: Daniel, Ian, Clint, Trevor and Joe on the summit of Peak 13,350.

Trevor leading down the West Buttress to the 11,000-foot West Buttress camp. Below lurks fog and our camp at 9,600.


We couldn't resist having a crack at Kahiltna Dome. Instead of summiting we found a blizzard and great alpine climbing practice. As the storm intensified, Daniel led us across the bergschrund without falling in, and found a patch of ice. We set up a semi-hanging, EARNEST ice anchor, climbed the 55-degree ice using American technique to a picket anchor. We then climbed 10,790-foot Mount Capps (we thought) and then returned to the picket anchor. I belayed them back down to the ice anchor and I joined them by counterbalance rappelling off an ice bollard.

These southern boys love storms! The orange rope from Daniel leads up to the bollard that I'm counter-balance rappelling on. The next morning, when clouds lifted, we saw we'd been far from Mount Capps summit. Everything is exciting in a summer solstice storm! Thanks for a great trip guys!