Gear Guy

What would you pack for a Denali ascent?

I'm gearing up for an ascent of Denali in May 2002. Could you advise for clothing and size of compression sacks appropriate to bring? I weigh 114 pounds so I want to minimize what I have to pack. Jeanne Stawiecki Charlton, Massachusetts

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Yeah, I can advise on clothing: Lots of it. I also can advise on compression sacks: Use them. Anyway, Jeanne, you’re in for a slog. There’s no way to really trim the load just because you want to -— take liberties with gear on Denali, and you risk coming back minus a few toes and fingers. In short, the basic clothing list goes like this:

Full set of light synthetic long underwear. Full set of “expedition weight” long underwear. Polartec 200 jacket and pants, or equivalent mid-weight fleece such as Mountain Hardwear’s Monkey Phur, used on the Monkey Woman jacket—$110. Waterproof-breathable shell and pants. I recommend parka-length shell with lots of interior pockets. Bibs are best for the lower torso and legs. At the very least, an expedition-weight down parka. If climbing in May, down pants also recommended. If climbing in June, you’ll probably be OK with a layered approach. All sorts of hats, gloves, and mittens, including expedition-weight shelled mitts. Insulated overboots that COMPLETELY enclose your boots.

A few compression sacks will help shrink this bulky load, particularly down-filled items such as sleeping bag and parka. Compression sacks are moderately effective on fleece things as well. So, probably three compression sacks—for bag, parka and maybe Polartec stuff. Everything else can be stuffed into nooks and crannies on pack or sled. Of course, the regrettable thing is that nobody has devised a “lightening” sack, which shaves ounces as you cinch the straps. Alas, the compression sack increases density and reduces volume, but does not cut weight.

Good luck with the climb!

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