Denali West Buttress Equipment List - Introduction

Selecting and preparing the equipment you will bring to Denali are among the most important aspects of your expedition and will have a significant effect on your comfort, security, and chance of success. Items that are prone to failure or difficult to repair in the field should be left at home or replaced with more reliable gear. Any new gear you are considering should be very carefully evaluated and tested before bringing it on the mountain. You should be very familiar and comfortable with the fit and function of your equipment; your pre-trip training process is a perfect time to accomplish this. Once you are on Denali you will be glad you took the time to critically evaluate the appropriateness of every item you brought.

Personal and group success and safety depends on you carefully choosing an array of clothing and gear that will protect you from the threats of temperature extremes, high wind, stormy weather, and solar radiation. There is no single combination of clothing and equipment that is “the” right system, and each guide and climber will have personal preferences that may slightly affect the items and systems described below. Almost without exception there are a number of climbers on each expedition that need to make a trip to the store after their gear check as a result of substituting items and making adjustments to the list below. Please do your best to adhere strictly to this list and consult us before deviating substantially from what is described.

  • The temperature fluctuations on the glaciers surrounding Denali can be extreme. 100 degree F temperature fluctuations are a reality on Denali’s valley glaciers. It is normal to start a day at –20F (-29C) and peel layers in sweltering 80F (27C) heat just hours later. High on the mountain, temperatures can dip below –40F (-40C) without the added cooling effect of windchill.
  • Windless days on Denali are uncommon. Even a slight breeze can make conditions feel far colder. The combination if extreme low temps and high winds on the upper mountain creates serious frostbite and hypothermia hazards.
  • Almost every Denali climber will encounter severe stormy weather at least once during their expedition, whether it be wet rain and heavy snow low on the mountain, or blowing snow and intense wind high on the mountain.
  • Strong solar radiation is compounded by the high reflectivity of snow, thus making sunburn likely in uncommon areas, such as the bottom of your nose, inside of your mouth, and behind your ears.

Your best clothing and gear options should work in concert with each other. They must be versatile and compatible enough to protect you from the wide-ranging environmental factors listed above. You must balance lightweight with sufficient equipment. Excluding extra socks and underwear, you should be able to wear all of your clothing at once. Strive for minimal redundancy. If you have any doubt regarding extra clothing or gear, please bring it with you to your rendezvous in Anchorage. Your guides will assist you in making the best choice of what to keep and what to leave behind.

When preparing your equipment for travel to the Alaska, please remember to protect your equipment by covering your ice axe, crampons, snowshoes, and trekking poles with cardboard or other protection to prevent puncturing or tearing less durable equipment. Travel clothes and various odds and ends that you won’t need during your expedition will be left at the airstrip in Talkeetna.

The Equipment Shop at the American Alpine Institute

The Equipment Shop at the American Alpine Institute provides clothing and equipment for purchase, rental gear, and advice. Shop staff members are great climbers themselves and deeply involved in evaluating and testing gear. They are considered by many outdoor gear manufacturers to be the most expert in the country. They thoroughly understand the needs of climbers who will be rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, or exploring the world on international expeditions.

Please consider our shop staff members a part of your resource team in preparing for your trip. AAI Equipment Specialists are on hand to consult with you on specific gear needs, to answer questions on the latest equipment and innovations, and to make recommendations on best choices of clothing and equipment.   They can assure that you are equipped with the best possible gear for your climbs.  And if you have any difficulty determining if some particular items of clothing or equipment you already own will serve you well on a particular trip, they can help you answer that question. If you have any questions, feel free to call AAI’s Equipment Shop at 360-671-1570.

The AAI Equipment Shop carries products in all of the categories described on this list; these can be researched, viewed, and purchased on our website Whether or not you rent or buy gear from the shop, we are here to advise you. Please use our knowledge and experience to help you prepare for this complex undertaking.

Get Free Gear Help!

Overwhelmed when you are looking at the gear list? Do you have a bunch of questions about what gear to buy? We can help you! AAI Denali Climbers are provided Free gear consultations that can be scheduled with one of our expert staff. Sign up on our Consultation Scheduling Page

How to get a hold of the experts at the AAI Equipment Shop

Your comfort and safety depend on being well equipped. Whether you get your gear from us or just need advice, we’re here to help you prepare.

Phone: (360) 671-1570


Equipment Shop Website:

Guides Choice International Field Testing

The Equipment Shop at the American Alpine Institute also administers AAI’s prestigious Guide’s Choice Award. Equipment and clothing that have been awarded the Guides Choice designation have proven to be the top item in their product category. The awards are made on the basis of excellence in design, performance, and durability demonstrated in rigorous international field tests carried out by the professional guides of the Institute. A large majority of the products at the Equipment Shop and on its website, have been field-tested or have been vetted and are in the process of being field-tested.

Gear Preparation and Maintenance 

Please take the time to properly label and identify all items of personal gear. With multiple climbers all sharing a single campsite and cook tent, it can be very easy to forget which water bottle or set of gloves belongs to you. Many items of gear that climbers bring are almost identical. Your name on a garment tag or a piece of colored tape on carabiners and miscellaneous items are easy ways to label your gear; fingernail polish is universally excellent. If using tape or colored markers, make sure your method is durable and water resistant.

Any items of clothing that are not new should be inspected to make sure that the seams, stitching, and waterproof properties of the garments are intact and adequate for the rigors of an expedition. Items of clothing such as shell jackets and softshell items should be cleaned and treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) such as Nikwax TX Direct, or GearAid Revivex. Gloves with leather or synthetic palms should be treated with a leather waterproofing agent such as the Nikwax product for leather and suede. Make sure all of your packs and bags have buckles and straps that are in good working order. Bringing an extra buckle or two in case one should break in the cold weather is a very good idea.

In short, ensure that your equipment is in excellent condition for this expedition.

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Other Essentials & Optional Equipment