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Thread: Denali National Park in the winter?

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    Default Denali National Park in the winter?

    Hello dear sirs, I am new to this board and I would like to ask a few questions regarding Denali National Park- I understand that the park remains open year-round, but I was wondering if it is safe to hike there in the fall/winter months, say from September to January, and also are there trails closed to inexperienced hikers during these months, or any time of the year?

    One more thing, I came across Denali Park after reading up on Christopher Johnson McCandless' story, after reading the book. I understand that the famous bus in which McCandless spent his time is quite close to Teklanikla river. Is it possible to visit the area at winter time?

    Thanks very much in advance!

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    the park will remian open... however there are NO services after september 15.

    And the gloritiesd bus is out the stampead trail aways... you can get there on a snowmobile... but most around there consider him an idiot.
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    Hello dear sirs, I am new to this board and I would like to ask a few questions regarding Denali National Park- I understand that the park remains open year-round, but I was wondering if it is safe to hike there in the fall/winter months, say from September to January, and also are there trails closed to inexperienced hikers during these months, or any time of the year?

    One more thing, I came across Denali Park after reading up on Christopher Johnson McCandless' story, after reading the book. I understand that the famous bus in which McCandless spent his time is quite close to Teklanikla river. Is it possible to visit the area at winter time?

    Thanks very much in advance!
    1. The park is not closed. But most facilities are (but not all - they maintain a visitor center 364 days-per-year and HQ offices are open year-round except on weekends and holidays.)

    2. It is perfectly safe to hike in the winter, so long as you bring snowshoes and very warm clothes Why, they don't even make you stay on the trails It is below zero beginning in October and many weeks don't see temps above minus twenty beginning in late December.

    3. Don't talk to me about the bus! McCandless was an intelligent fool who would be alive today if he had been on medication, and his story would be known to about a dozen people instead of millions if he hadn't been such a complete idiot in the end. Of all the things to see in Alaska in the winter I would rank that darn bus right up there on the list with rabbit turds and dog poop piles.

    But wait, ask me how I really feel

    If you must go, the bus is not "quite close" to the Tek River, but rather about nine miles beyond it for a total of about thirty miles from the highway along the trail. It is a two or three night adventure by snowshoe or ski, one night by dogsled, day trip by snowmobile if you know where you are going.

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    http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/index.htm

    At the bottom of this link is a .pdf brochure for winter visits. It covers stuff like fees, which campground and visitor center is open, etc.

    Vince is correct, the park is open all year. And The Bus is a little ways outside the park.

    We don't require any particular experience for you to head off into the park. That said, if you're headed out in winter -- especially by yourself, we'd strongly suggest being sure of yourself in terms of self sufficiency and run your route/plans past someone who knows the area. You're unlikely to see many people in the park, especially in the first half of winter. Who was it who said, "40 below is no problem unless there's a problem..."

    That said, some years, after the buses and road lottery vehicles are off the road in mid-September, there is a fairly long string of nice cold, clear days where you can drive the park road to Mile 30 (Teklanika River). And then hike or bike from there. It's all weather dependent.

    From the few times I've skied at Denali, it's nicer after February when you've got longer light. I imagine snowshoeing would be the same. For skis and dog teams, there's usually a pretty well broken trail from headquarters heading west by mid-winter as the park dog teams start heading out (eventually running all the way to Kantishna).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskaflyer331 View Post
    1. The park is not closed. But most facilities are (but not all - they maintain a visitor center 364 days-per-year and HQ offices are open year-round except on weekends and holidays.)

    2. It is perfectly safe to hike in the winter, so long as you bring snowshoes and very warm clothes Why, they don't even make you stay on the trails It is below zero beginning in October and many weeks don't see temps above minus twenty beginning in late December.

    3. Don't talk to me about the bus! McCandless was an intelligent fool who would be alive today if he had been on medication, and his story would be known to about a dozen people instead of millions if he hadn't been such a complete idiot in the end. Of all the things to see in Alaska in the winter I would rank that darn bus right up there on the list with rabbit turds and dog poop piles.

    But wait, ask me how I really feel

    If you must go, the bus is not "quite close" to the Tek River, but rather about nine miles beyond it for a total of about thirty miles from the highway along the trail. It is a two or three night adventure by snowshoe or ski, one night by dogsled, day trip by snowmobile if you know where you are going.

    Thanks Flyer i was having a hard time saying it polilitly...
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    Alright folks, thanks a lot, you all have been very helpful

    Just to clarify things a little, I share your views about McCandless being the intelligent fool that he was, and I certainly have no intention of following his footsteps in any way. However, I do feel that the book which was written about his life's story touched me somehow. When I started looking online for more information I came across many magnificent photographs of Denali Park, and those pictures just gave me such a strong desire to visit there. If I could, on the way, see where a brave but foolish man ended his life trying to live as free and as wild as he could, well, that's one more reason for me to go there.

    Again, thanks a lot for the information provided here. I have another question- how many hours of daylight should I expect in Denali around September/October?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    Alright folks, thanks a lot, you all have been very helpful

    Just to clarify things a little, I share your views about McCandless being the intelligent fool that he was, and I certainly have no intention of following his footsteps in any way. However, I do feel that the book which was written about his life's story touched me somehow. When I started looking online for more information I came across many magnificent photographs of Denali Park, and those pictures just gave me such a strong desire to visit there. If I could, on the way, see where a brave but foolish man ended his life trying to live as free and as wild as he could, well, that's one more reason for me to go there.

    Again, thanks a lot for the information provided here. I have another question- how many hours of daylight should I expect in Denali around September/October?
    Then read Sam White or the Wolf Man or many others that didn't end in a stupid death.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    Again, thanks a lot for the information provided here. I have another question- how many hours of daylight should I expect in Denali around September/October?
    Well, September has the equinox remember? There is still plenty of daylight, days really don't start to get short here until November. September/October would actually be a good time to visit if you can't make it here in the summer. Outside of the park there will be hunters. Inside the park the facilities will be closed but we can get some fabulous weather in those months - though nights are chilly. Or it may rain. Or snow. You never know. After mid-September the park road is open to anyone driving to mile 31 so long as there is no snow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    Again, thanks a lot for the information provided here. I have another question- how many hours of daylight should I expect in Denali around September/October?
    Here's a chart that has a listing of the average daylight hours per city.

    http://www.absak.com/library/average...olation-alaska

    It lists about 14-1/2 hours daylight Sep. 1, 11 hours daylight by Oct. 1.
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

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    Default the bus

    http://edplumb.blogspot.com/2007/11/...t-bus-142.html

    http://packrafting.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html

    Here are a couple well written blogs from well known and experienced Alaskans who have traveled out to the well know 'Bus'.

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    Friends, I hope I'm not bothering with so many questions, but I have a few more

    As someone who was born and raised in Mediterranean weather, I realize that hiking through Alaska in winter time may be rougher on me than on those more accustomed to icy temperatures. I've looked around this wonderful board, but I'm afraid I haven't been able to find a list of items I'd need to have in my gear for the hike, so if anyone would be so kind to type down at least the basics, I would appreciate this. What materials of clothes or sleeping bag I should get (I understand that cotton is a no-no), which sort of tent, etc.

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    Couple of ideas on a quick search. Keep in mind that there is not usually enough snow here in the north side of the Alaska Range to build much of a snow shelter, especially in the fall.

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...xpedition.html

    http://www.nols.edu/courses/pdf/teto.../winter_el.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    Friends, I hope I'm not bothering with so many questions, but I have a few more

    As someone who was born and raised in Mediterranean weather, I realize that hiking through Alaska in winter time may be rougher on me than on those more accustomed to icy temperatures. I've looked around this wonderful board, but I'm afraid I haven't been able to find a list of items I'd need to have in my gear for the hike, so if anyone would be so kind to type down at least the basics, I would appreciate this. What materials of clothes or sleeping bag I should get (I understand that cotton is a no-no), which sort of tent, etc.
    Whoa. Ok- my first suggestion is that you get some experience in Alaska before you ever try to do this trip in Denali. There are a number of places you can camp overnight to get a feel for it. Please test your skills, equipment and physical abilities before you place yourself in a position from which you may place your life in danger. I don't mean this to insult you. You would probably say something similar to me if I was headed to the Mediterranean and wanted to immediately try a survival trip- I wouldn't have the relevant experience.

    Moving on:

    Carry the 10 essentials, of course.

    Down sleeping bags are generally warmer but I actually shy away from them because I have yet to find a condition in Alaska where there is no chance of getting my bag wet, and down is worthless when wet. You need to know if you are a "cold" sleeper and if so get a bag with a better rating than the temp is supposed to be. Pack it in something waterproof, just in case. In fact, pack all your clothes in something waterproof, too.

    You were right about cotton. Wear synthetics, and wear them in layers so you can peel off or add to as necessary. Avoid sweating. Travel and work at a pace that minimizes sweating. Have extra clothes.

    Know in advance how you will bivy - tent or snow shelter- and practice in advance. Tents aren't particularly warm, and they condensate in the winter, which can run down and get your bag wet. Snow shelters are generally warmer. I would suggest being prepared to go either way, depending on conditions.

    Practice your method of traveling in advance. If you are going to use snowshoes or skis, practice on them in similar terrain so you have some idea what your pace will be and can plan your trip accordingly.

    Make sure you have a good stove that is rated to work well in cold temps. I use a MSR Dragonfly. They are noisy but they run well in terrible conditions and they boil water fast. There are a lot of good stoves out there- plan to spend the money for a good one, and know how to repair it if something goes wrong. Carry a repair kit with you.

    Boiling water just before bed and pouring it into your water bottle (or a couple) and then wrapping them up in a sock or something and taking them with you into your sleeping bag can keep you toasty warm. Be certain that the caps don't leak, so that there's no chance you can get your bag wet. This also ensures you have unfrozen water to use in the morning for drinking and cooking.

    Another way to keep water from freezing is to stick your water bottles upside down in the snow outside your shelter. This ensures any layer of ice forms on the bottom of the bottle and not at the top. The snow will normally keep it from freezing solid.

    Take a lightweight shovel with a handle.

    In the winter I tend to gravitate towards dry foods that don't freeze. Since snow is usually in abundance, water usually isn't a problem, so I'll carry freeze dried food and live off that. Carry more than you think you'll need. Not only will you be burning tons of calories moving, you also burn more calories just to stay warm, and you should have a day or two extra worth of food just in case of inclement weather or if you get lost. Freeze dried food is lightweight, so it won't add too much to your load. In fact, if you are traveling in winter, you might consider pulling most of your load in a sled and just carry a light pack.

    Drink plenty of water. Your body has to bring all the air you breathe up to 100% humidity with each breath, and this uses a lot of water. Winter air is dry, and so requires more water than summer air. I assume you know the best way to check for proper hydration, so I'll not go there.

    File a trip plan when you go.

    I recommend carrying a GPS and a PLB. In this day and age, it seems stupid to not have the tools that can save your life if you get disoriented or in trouble.

    I'm sure there is way more, but that is what I can think of off the top of my head.
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

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    Default Climate change

    Take into account what climate you are living in before coming into the harsh Alaskan climate. You don't want to fly in from Arizona or wherever land in Anchorage where it is -10 farenheit and go on up to Denali area where it is -30 below and start living in a tent. If you aren't used to cold weather and you come up here it can hurt. May want to plan on hanging out in civilzation for a couple of days before heading out.
    Be safe and educate yourself on living out in dangerous weather elements. Good luck.

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    Thank you very much, to all of you, for these very useful tips (EagleRiverDee, I'm not insulted at all, you are absolutely right). I now understand that there will be much preparations for me to go through before going on this trip. As for the physical experience, although I will definitely bring into account the weather which I am totally not used to, I'm ex-army infantry, and have had a great deal of experience in long and enduring hikes in tough terrain.

    From what you guys are saying, it seems to me that the more proper course of action would be to travel around urban Alaska for a while and get used to the entire climate before jumping straight into the wilderness.

    By the way, what's a PLB? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that term.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    By the way, what's a PLB? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that term.
    Sorry about that- it stands for Personal Locator Beacon.
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

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