By Drew Ludwig

Preparing for any climb requires a number of steps, some of which can be stressful, and some that come at you so quickly that intuition is your only guide. One step along your journey to the summit of Denali will find you at a small airport with a large group of climbers that you hardly know, and an inconceivable amount of gear that needs to find its way to Base Camp. This is a moment when stress can be high, as this is your last chance to remember anything you may have forgotten. The noise of the planes and a closing weather window tend to escalate pulses as well. Good preparation should put you at ease and enable you to relax and enjoy the flight, as it’s one of the most beautiful in the world.

I thought it might be helpful for you all to see what I have in my pack and on my person right before I step into the ski plane. I have omitted some guide-specific items such as sat phones and rescue gear.

What I’m wearing before I board the plane:

  • Socks, mountain boots
  • Gaiters (if needed)
  • Light base layer bottoms
  • Soft shell pants (lip balm and small sunscreen in pocket)
  • Synthetic Sun Hoody (I’ll wear it for the whole trip!)
  • Expedition weight fleece
  • Shell jacket, with my facemask and Buff in the pockets
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Sun hat
  • Sun glasses (with their lens cloth in my pack lid)
  • Nose guard

I have three bags for which I am responsible before I fly onto the glacier:

1) My duffel bag, which will be used as my sled bag
2) My camera bag
3) My backpack

Here is what I have in each:

1) My duffel bag: (Important: All sharp points need to be protected!)

  • Helmet
  • Crampons
  • Carabiners
  • Accessory cord
  • Harness
  • Bag of my lunch food (big sandwich from Carrs in Wasilla!)
  • Ski poles
  • Snowshoes
  • Foam sleeping pad

Note: I wrap my poles and snowshoes in my pad for extra protection.

2) My camera bag:

  • My bag often contains my digital SLR, as I work as a photographer in my other identity. Typically, I recommend that you bring the smallest, lightest, and highest quality camera you can find with extra memory cards and batteries or your iPhone!

3) My backpack:

  • Everything else!

Thanks for peering into my bags with me and enjoy your preparations.

Happy climbing!
– Drew