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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Denali Part 8: Indispensable Gear

Perhaps one of the hardest things about Denali was getting the necessary gear together.  Fortunately, friends like the Straightchuter, the Powder Whore. and Brian Harder were able to point me in the right direction. I also relied on the American Alpine Club's Denali gear checklist and Mark Westman's Alaska Climbing.  Through these sources, I put together a gear list.  If you, by chance, think you might want to give Denali a go, I'd be happy to share the list with you.

Of the 75 pounds of gear that I took, there were a few pieces that proved indispensable.  By this, I mean that without this gear, the trip very likely would have failed.  Here is my top 10 list in no particular order:

Exped Downmat 7 UL -- Combined with a Z-rest, this mat kept me off the snow and very comfortable.  Towards the end of the trip, ice got inside the mat, but it still functioned well.

Jetboil Helios with custom carbon stove board -- The word on the street for stoves was MSR's XGK.  However, after experimenting with the Helios, I felt it made more sense.  This was confirmed on Denali.  The Helios is a system that has a built in heat exchanger and cozy on the pots.  The pots fit firmly on the stove.  The stove has an integrated wind screen.  Although the stove requires propane/butane canisters, it allows for a liquid fuel feed, which allows the stove to work fine at higher altitudes and colder temperatures.  Finally, the whole system was very efficient.  For 1 large Jetboil fuel cannister, Aaron and I got 3-4 days worth of water and cooking.  

Aaron with his carbon stove board and the Helios Guide cooking system
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 -- This tent protected us in gale force winds and withstood meters of snow.  Inside it was roomy for two people and has lots of pockets for organization.  



Julbo Trek Glasses -- I had no idea how bright glaciers were.  Luckily, I had these.


La Sportiva RST Skis w/ Spitfire Boots w/ RT Binding -- The RST ski is a light mountaineering ski. Combined with the RT binding and Spitfire Boots, the setup was key to being efficient and fast going up and down.  For true ski mountaineering, the Spitfire boot is really on of the only options out there.  It has a full coverage sole.  It keeps snow from entering the front of your boot.  It has good ankle articulation (not the best, but good enough for hardcore mountaineering).  It is pretty minimal with only two buckles--light, but has good support as well.  

Extolling the virtues of the Spitfire
Camp X3 600 Pack -- These packs weigh about a pound, yet are able to hold all that is necessary for a summit bid.  I've used this pack in nearly all of my other mountain projects.  For most of the trip, it was relegated to a sled duffel, except for summit day.

Climbing up the "fixed" lines with Camp X3 600 Pack.
Montbell Thermawrap -- I've had this piece for 3 years.  It's been used a lot.  It got used on Denali every day.  It's probably the best puffy I've owned.  It's got holes in it; it's discolored, yet it still functions well.  Having been through so much with me, it's developed a high sentimental value.  

Gore Active Shell (Arc Teryx Alpha FL top, Millet bottom) -- Active shell is a newer product from Gore.  What makes it great is that it is much more breathable than other hard shell materials, yet it still is a hard shell.  It keeps wind and weather out, but breathes well enough to allow a person to put out a reasonable aerobic effort without getting drenched.  From base camp to the summit, I wore my Active Shell pants almost exclusively.  Above, 14k my Active Shell top was a mainstay.

Action Suit:  Active Shell clothing, Camp X3 600 pack, Julbo glacier classes w/Buff and visor, La Sportiva Skis







                                                                                                                                                                          Snow 'Chutes -- Brian Harder supplied these.  Their weight to utility/strength ratio is very very high.  We used these things to anchor our tents.  Dig a little hole, put a snowball in, then stomp, and voila, an anchor is set.

Gregory Whitney Pack -- This is a gear hauler.  There were a couple days where I couldn't get this thing on my back without assistance.  Once Aaron hoisted it onto my back, I was able to slog in relative comfort up the mountain.
A 60 pound load. 

Other essential items:

Steel spade
Snow Saw
IPad 


6 comments:

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

What, no details on the wonderful sled that led to so much hilarity on the flats?
Seriously, thanks for all these details posts. Although I have no desire to ski Denali (too much suffering + too much waiting around!), I do enjoy reading about the details of skiing a mountain that is usually just climbed, plus the joy of your summit day post was very touching.
As for gear, I'm amazed though that a canister stove -- even if inverted -- worked in such cold temps ... remind me again what the lowest was in which you cooked? (Although no wind, right, since you cooked inside the tent?)
I suppose the offsetting factor is that you were at higher elevations, which actually helps a canister stove.
And the single canister must have been that really elongated monster one like this? --
http://shop.jetboil.com/index.php/catalog/product/gallery/id/67/image/555/

Jared said...

The sled. . . . indispensable but hateful.

The stove worked just fine at 20 below, inverted. No wind. Upright, the higher you go, the less effective a canister is. However, inverted, they seem to work fine.

Yep, we took 6 of the big elongated canisters and 2 small ones. Only used 4 of the big ones.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

I'm not sure what is more impressive: minus 20F temps inside a temp, or a canister stove still functioning well at those temperatures!
I'm quite sure though that the elevation helped the canister performance, since the lower pressure helps the liquid fuel to vaporize in the canister and give gas to the burner.
I have used a canister stove successfully at minus 10F at sea level (inverted, with a flux ring pot), but it was a pretty feeble burn (yet still sufficient to melt snow -- barely) and would have been very tedious on a long expedition.

Zac Davies said...

Any chance you could hit me with your complete gear list for Denali? I will be up there for 6 weeks starting in May.

Thanks for the posts!

James said...

It Looks like an amazing trip, though i certainly shivered when looking at how little amount of layers you had one. I like the use of the Downmat, I use the Exped Downmat 9 and find it is perfect when the temperatures start to drop on the trails.