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Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Category?

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Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Category?

Postby mike_kadow » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:44 pm

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/04/denali-and-rainier-classic-climbs-and-challenges23065

(Posted only to read your guys' thoughts and concerns.)

Denali is on my list, but Rainier seems like a typical North American "training" ground for Denali, besides CO's 'new' crevasses. :-"

Moreover, what do you accomplished hikers think of this article?

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby mike_kadow » Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:18 pm

Fletch wrote: --- it's just not the same...


Right. I'm puzzled how and why so many people/authors think they are comparable. I just don't think they should be, even though.., they are "launching grounds" for one another.

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby John Landers » Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:57 pm

Rainier is interesting, challenging and tough - but on my first trip years ago we where on and off the standard route in about 33 hours in a successful trip.

Denali is cold and then you have the humping of loads among other things. Completely different altogether.

Not really sure what is the point of the article. Respect both mountains.

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby screeman57 » Sun Apr 21, 2013 9:12 pm

mike_kadow wrote:
Fletch wrote: --- it's just not the same...


Right. I'm puzzled how and why so many people/authors think they are comparable. I just don't think they should be, even though.., they are "launching grounds" for one another.


Not an expert by any means, and I agree with the above comments, but launching grounds for each other? People don't use Denali to train for Rainier, which would seem to indicate how dissimilar they are.
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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby shredthegnar10 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:45 am

I think that's what he meant.

Kind of a weird article -- the similarities they cite when comparing the mountains -- success rate, average fatality rate, and the fact that weather is a factor (because, it's not like weather is something that inherently exists everywhere on the planet and therefore has the potential to make or break a summit attempt on any mountain).
Also, I'd like to point out that it would be pretty unusual nowadays for Rainier to see 10 people die in one season. I wonder if this statistic (with respect to Rainier) comes from 1981, when a huge avalanche killed 11 people.
As far as the success rate statistics are concerned ... Rainier is kind of the go-to mountain in the continental US for learning mountaineering skills, so there's a huge range of skill and fitness levels on that mountain. My first time climbing it I managed to summit despite not being in the kind of shape I should have been, but there were still people who were worse off than I was, fitness-wise. So, for someone who isn't used to walking on glaciers with crampons, isn't used to being above 10,000', and isn't used to gaining 8k of elevation in two days, Rainier is going to be really difficult and there's a big chance that guy won't be able to summit.
I can't speak for Denali, but I imagine that while there might be a few "climbing gapers" on the commercial expeditions, it is mostly people who know what they're doing and are in shape and have the right gear and if they summit, or not, a huge part of it is getting lucky with weather and not having altitude sickness problems.
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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby mike_kadow » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:17 pm

screeman57 wrote:
Not an expert by any means, and I agree with the above comments, but launching grounds for each other? People don't use Denali to train for Rainier, which would seem to indicate how dissimilar they are.


A sincere thank you screeman57.
This is why I joined this forum: to learn more about hiking mountains from those willing to share and teach.
(I started hiking only a few years ago.)

Perhaps some background on my statement about launching grounds:
After our first year of hiking 14ers (I think 9), my main hiking partner of equal "skill", had me convinced to do Denali. It seemed relatively straightforward compared to Rainier's seemingly more technical routes.
My (minimal) research about Rainier included people using it to train for Denali, but it also appeared Rainier was more difficult in many aspects. Which yes, that makes fiscal and physical sense to train on if you live in the 48.
On the other-hand, the West Buttress route seems much less technical and therefore appearing easier.
And that is why I thought either could be used as a training/launching grounds for the other.

(Yep, I'm still a newb. 8-[ )

But now I'm wondering.., should I be focused on attempting Rainier before Denali?
Denali just seems and reads to be an easier go of it.., physically wise. Both are on the list.

Others' thoughts and concerns are welcome here...

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby shredthegnar10 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:42 pm

I can't really say much without knowing your experience level. Also, I don't know that I'm in a position to offer advice on Denali, because I haven't climbed it, but I am looking at the possibility in May 2014 (so I've talked to a few people about it). Most of what I know comes from talking to people who have done it -- which, in my opinion, is typically better than reading about it -- because you get a feel for where people are at in terms of climbing ability and experience and how that compares to your own.

Either way, unless you're planning on climbing Liberty Ridge in jeans and sneakers and carrying a keg to the top, I don't see how Rainier could be physically harder than Denali.

1. On Rainier, you'll have between 45 and 60lbs of gear, depending on what route you go and how big your group is. On Denali, most people have, from what I've heard, 120-140lbs of gear/food/fuel
2. Most routes on Rainier gain 8-9k of elevation. According to summitpost, the West Buttress on Denali gains about 13k of elevation.
3. For people who have never been anywhere remotely close to 14k before, altitude might be a problem on Rainier (and people do get sick and do turn around -- but that happens on Colorado 14ers too, though not as often), but it tends to be less of an issue, especially for someone who's been at 14k in CO and knows what it's like. I cannot emphasize enough how different 20k is (and, because Denali is so far north, 20k reportedly feels like 22-23k at lower latitudes, because of some atmospheric science thing that I don't feel like googling right now).

The other thing -- from reading your profile, it doesn't look like you have much experience with climbing on glaciers, which is something that you'd want to get before going to Denali, IMO. Logistically, Rainier (or other peaks in Washington/Oregon) are the easiest places to go to learn these skills ... I'm not sure how much the classes that American Alpine Institute or RMI teach cost, but they seem like the way to go.

BTW, if you want more info on any of this, feel free to PM me or whatever -- I just didn't want to derail the thread :wink: .
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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby John Landers » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:41 pm

shredthegnar10 wrote:1. On Rainier, you'll have between 45 and 60lbs of gear, depending on what route you go and how big your group is. On Denali, most people have, from what I've heard, 120-140lbs of gear/food/fuel
2. Most routes on Rainier gain 8-9k of elevation. According to summitpost, the West Buttress on Denali gains about 13k of elevation.
3. For people who have never been anywhere remotely close to 14k before, altitude might be a problem on Rainier (and people do get sick and do turn around -- but that happens on Colorado 14ers too, though not as often), but it tends to be less of an issue, especially for someone who's been at 14k in CO and knows what it's like. I cannot emphasize enough how different 20k is (and, because Denali is so far north, 20k reportedly feels like 22-23k at lower latitudes, because of some atmospheric science thing that I don't feel like googling right now).


A successful attempt on Denali on the West Buttress likely involves 20k of elevation gain or more as most parties are doing at least some double carries humping loads because of the length of the trip and the weight of the gear, food and fuel. Denali is a grind day after day. Rainier is short and physically easy by comparison.

People do not go to Denali to train for Rainier.

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby RoanMtnMan » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:54 pm

Both have challenged me multiple times. Both have exposed my mistakes multiple times. Both have handed me reward and defeat. Both seem to capture the thoughts and opinions of many climbers and media folks. So I guess they have a lot in common. Not sure what the mountain "categories" are, but you would be hard pressed to find two better training grounds in the US for about any other glaciated climb in the world.

You can construct an objective on either one of these peaks, on the right day, that will push your limits no matter how accomplished you are. The worst day of the year on Rainier is always more trying than the best day on Denali. So yes, they are in very similar in my mind. One is just higher and takes more resources to climb. Those two things aren't high on my mountain risk concerns.

I can't think of a single way that Denali could end my life that Rainier couldn't do equally well. Except perhaps a grizzly attack if I took the Wonder Lake path. That almost happened once. The McKinley River crossing may also be an exception. But Rainier has volcanic concerns that Denali doesn't to balance the scale.

FYI Fletch, your post reads to me as if the Wickersham Wall is on Rainier.
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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby Scott P » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:20 pm

I'm also not sure the point that the article is trying to make other than Rainier and Denali both have a similar number of deaths and similar success rates. Perhaps even for the same reasons, even if the climbs are in different leagues.

One that is interesting is that for most of the mountains that you can get statistics on, success rates (either measured or estimated) are all very similar.

Denali, Rainier, Longs, Timpanogos, Blanc, Aconcagua, etc., interestingly all have similar success rates (which doesn't mean that they are equal in difficulty) Strangely perhaps, success rates for most mountains, regardless of difficulty seems to be in the 40-50% range. Of course, there are exceptions (many of the really difficult mountains, mountains plagued by constant bad weather, the high Himalaya, etc. Some "easy" mountains actually have surprisingly low success rates (such as Kilimanjaro), probably because people rush them so much.

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby mike_kadow » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:23 pm

Thanks for the feedback guys.

Now that Colorado has exposed some of its crevasses (since late 50's) :( , it will be great and fun to train for anything that involves them.

"I can't think of a single way that Denali could end my life that Rainier couldn't do equally well. Except perhaps a grizzly attack if I took the Wonder Lake path. That almost happened once. The McKinley River crossing may also be an exception. But Rainier has the geologic concerns to balance the scale."

Wonder Lake would be fun and I've heard & spoken with people who have experienced the same.., namely Rangers of both parks.

Thanks again guys!

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Re: Denali & Rainier - Should They Even Be in the Same Categ

Postby Scott P » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:29 pm

"I can't think of a single way that Denali could end my life that Rainier couldn't do equally well.


Or better. One of these days Rainier is going to blow. Possibly not in our lifetimes, but in a geologic sense, probably pretty soon.

In Colorado, there is a saying something to the effect of; "Don't worry if you don't climb it today; the mountain will still be there tomorrow". That's not always applicable in Washington.
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