Denali Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I climb Denali with IMG?
The advantages of IMG's program are clear. We personally select the group of 6 climbers based on their resumes and past experiences. Our group is small and manageable. The trip leaders are chosen for their past experience on Denali, but that is just one part of the equation. The lead guides have a wealth of climbing knowledge based on years of climbing experience around the world. Our guides go to Denali prepared to have a fun, relaxed trip, with a proven strategy for the best chance of success and safe return.
What are the requirements for participation in an IMG Denali expedition?
There is no textbook list of programs and accomplishments that will guarantee your success on Denali, but following are some of the requirements that IMG feels must be met prior to participation in a Denali expedition.
- Participation in a Denali focused training seminar
IMG examples: Denali Seminar, Winter Seminar, Himalayan Seminar, Mt. Adams Seminar
- Snow/Glacier climbs in the lower 48 States
This is a must. You must participate in more than one snow/glacier climb in the lower 48. IMG examples: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Adams, Mt. Shuksan
- Moderate to high altitude glacier climbs abroad and in Alaska (not required, but certainly helpful). Additional experience abroad and on other peaks in Alaska will only add to your readiness for Denali.
IMG examples: Mexican Volcanoes, Alaskan Ascents, South America (Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru), Alps Classics, Mt.Elbrus.
- Overnight backpacking experience
Get out and do some overnight and multi night trips carrying a backpack and camping in tents. The experience will help you to become more self sufficient on bigger expeditions. Practice A LOT carrying a heavier backpack, 50-60 pounds.
- Winter weather
Go on snowshoe hikes, ski, backpack in winter and camp overnight in cold weather. Again, the experience will help you to become more self sufficient in cold weather conditions. Use your cold weather gear and become familiar with it.
We recommend starting with a Denali specific training program six months to a year prior to your expedition date. Keep a good base level of training going, and work up to 3-4 days a week with up to an hour of varied cardio training per session, not including weight training. Slowly add more and more hill work with heavier and heavier weight on your back. Work on slow, steady improvement and try to avoid overuse or stress injuries. Get out and do some longer trail sessions on the weekends whenever you can. Get outdoors in all conditions! Please see our detailed suggestions for Denali training below.
How do I train for a Denali Expedition?
The best training for the mountains is in the mountains. Unfortunately, most people who work a regular work week are limited to evenings, weekends and vacations for exercise. For this reason it is imperative that your training periods be focused, simulating as closely as possible the mountain environment. Run hills, trying to avoid flat asphalt. If no hills are available nearby, get creative. Run stadium stairs or high-rise fire escapes. Whenever possible, get in longer, slower sessions, an hour or more. If you train in the city, get permission to hike up the stairwell of the highest building around. Wear a pack. Time yourself and do as many flights of stairs as possible in an hour's time. Take the elevator down to save your knees. Don't lock yourself into one type of exercise exclusively. Stairmaster devices are a good example. They are easy to cheat on and too specific a motion. Get out on trails, even if it is only on the weekends.
For the six to twelve months prior to your expedition, you will need to be a bit selfish. You must commit to a regular training schedule and increase your efforts gradually, with the goal of peaking just prior to the start of the trip. Keep a training calendar and record your efforts each day. This is a good way to keep yourself honest and to measure your progress week to week. Don't overdo it at the start. You will lose more if you become injured and have to lay off for several weeks. Start off moderately and build up your training gradually. Do not start a new exercise program without first consulting your doctor.
Learn to make the most of your regular training workouts. You must exercise for an hour to an hour and a half at least three times a week, and preferably more. When running, increase your mileage gradually, working up to at least six miles a session on the hilliest terrain available. Work on your speed until you can run hills at a sub-eight minute pace. Keep your training fun and varied. Bike, swim, play basketball or racquet sports. When confined to the gym, fit in several 20 plus minute sessions on the exercise bike, Stairmaster, etc. in between your weight training to keep it as aerobic as possible. Definitely exercise your back, shoulders, chest and arms, but focus on your legs. Get some advice from a trainer or physical therapist and work on exercises to strengthen your quads without injury to your knees. Stronger quads will help to support your knees better in other types of training such as running. Work on your hamstrings and calves too. With any weight training I would recommend working up to 3 sets of 12 or more repetitions. Move up in weight only when you can do 3 full sets in good form.
Hike up hills with a pack whenever possible. Start with 30 pounds and work up to 50 plus. Don't try to run, but do stride. Use ski poles to involve the arms for a more complete workout. Pack your pack with a sleeping bag or some type of filler, then put the heavier weights (like full water bottles) close to your upper back. Take it easy on the downhill. Lighten the load if possible.
Whenever the opportunity arises, camp out in cold weather. Practice with your gear combinations. Figure out how your clothing combinations work together and how to use them to regulate your body temperature as you hike. Practice things like adding pile pants underneath your Gore-Tex pants, while wearing gloves. One hint is to add zipper pulls to all of your zippers. Train in your plastic boots whenever possible and if you have access to snow and snowshoes, train with snowshoes on as well. Learn how to pace yourself over a long day of hiking and start to figure out what your food and water requirements are for a stressful day in the mountains. Learn how your gear works and learn how your body works.
The closer we get to departure date, the more important it is to get out on long, slow distance training sessions with lots of hills. However, don't try to cram all of your training into the last two weeks. Ease off a little, and relax. It is important to arrive at the mountain rested and healthy. Avoid exposure to colds and illness if at all possible. A great way to start the climb exhausted and run down physically is to try to do too much last minute business in the days immediately prior to departure. Wind business down early and spend some time with your family and friends. Your body will thank you and so will your teammates.
How do I get there?
What kind of insurance do I need?
We invest in insurance coverage for commercial liability and medical and disability insurance for our employees while participating on our programs. We cannot insure you for your personal needs, but we do expect you to be as fiscally responsible as we are. We require that you insure yourself against potentially expensive difficulties that may arise. First, Trip Cancellation Insurance may provide financial relief should you be forced to withdraw from the program before it even happens. Next, make sure you have adequate Travel Insurance for coverage should you have a problem during the trip. Medical care and evacuation in remote locations can be expensive. For more information, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
What immunizations will I need?
No immunizations are currently required. Please consult your physician or local health department for their recommendations. We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
What's included in the trip cost?Cost Includes:
The bush pilot fee, group climbing food, group equipment (tents, stoves, shovels, ropes, sleds, etc.), and park concession fees.
Airfare to and from Anchorage, the new rescue fee imposed by the Park ($200), group transportation to Talkeetna (IMG will arrange), or food and lodging in Talkeetna. There are several motels and informal eating places in town.