Denali + Mittens

7:20 p.m. on January 15, 2005 (EST)

a.k.a. Chris

Where is everyone lately?

I'm headed for the West Buttress in late May and I need mittens. I know that many folks never even need to take them out of their packs or just need them on summit day. I really don't want to spend $180 on OR Alti Mitts that Imight use once. Guide services imply that I ned them and that there is no substitute and I know that's bunky.

What have you guys used that was sufficient? I have a large hand and would ned nothing smaller than XL. Even the Mountain Hardware Expedition Mitt would be $50 cheaper.

Anyone care to rent/sale thiers to me?
Thanks Guys,

9:09 p.m. on January 16, 2005 (EST)
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If you look almost all the way down this page, you will find a post entitled "Extremities" from Bill S about using mitts and gloves on Denali. There might be a few other posts from others as well.

11:42 a.m. on January 17, 2005 (EST)
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Cheap shells and liners...

Check out MEC. Anything that has a Canadian flag symbol they'll ship to the US.

I used OR shells with a dachstein wool mitt. Worked great.

A lighter option would be a super light shell with a primaloft mitt (like, say a shell made of sili nylon).

I don't think, especially for the West Buttress, you need anything that high tech. Be nice if you could self arrest in them, is about as much as you'll hopefully never need to do.

I have BD Mercury mitts too, but, they're heavy, bulky, and with a leather palm and primaloft in multi waterproof layers, would be VERY slow to dry out if they got damp. But, probably one day use is I really think a single light layer nylon (nothing fancy!) shell over a thick primaloft or pile type liner mitt would work just fine. Take some shake and warms just in case.

Good luck,

Brian in SLC

1:36 p.m. on January 17, 2005 (EST)
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As noted, there is a post by me way down at the bottom of this page (something like July 2002) discussing gloves, mittens, and such. The guide service recommendations are generic for their full range of expedition dates - go in early May and you will need much more warmth than in late June. Most of them seem to recommend down pants, with some recommending down pants plus heavy fleece. Most recommend multiple layers of fleece plus expedition down parka. But I do know that the guides usually tell people at the gear check before boarding the air taxi to leave a lot of the overly warm stuff behind. So you are likely to get to Talkeetna and have the guide tell you to leave the down pants and expedition mitten liners behind.

I did use mittens, but with a mid-weight liner and a thin poly glove, rather than the heavy expedition liner, while building and rebuilding wind walls. I never used mittens while climbing, although I did carry the expedition liner for my OR mittens on two of my trips. I understand that some guide services recommend taking 2 pair of the expedition liner. I am not sure what the reason is, since you would never wear 2 liners plus shell at the same time - you couldn't close your hand around your ice ax if you did. Then again, I tend to have warmer hands (and feet) than most people, so I usually get along just fine with glove shells and mid-weight liners plus a thin poly liner (the thin liner is so I can take the gloves off to manipulate the camera without freezing to the metal).

Mittens are significantly warmer than gloves. But, as I said, I use the mid-wt liners. For things like Denali, I prefer removable liners, so I can dry them overnight (warm hands means often sweaty hands and damp liners by the end of the day). I have tried down-filled mittens, but find I can't manipulate things or even hold the ice tools or rope very well with them. Only use I ever found for them was when sitting around camp on BC ski treks in the Tetons at -40F. Even then, my plain shell plus mid-weight liner was plenty warm if the rest of me was warm.

I agree with Brian that a super-thin sili shell with a primaloft liner would be very light and warm, but I also agree that this is way too hi-tec for Denali. Plus, silicone-coated nylon shells are probably too fragile for use on the fixed ropes, and the primaloft liner (for me at least) are likely to be too bulky to use with your ice ax. So I would tend to say, go for the cheaper nylon shell with a mid-weight liner.

I think I would recommend a glove shell with mid-weight liner glove (plus spare to dry overnight) plus a mitten shell plus a mid-weight liner mitten (don't need a backup for this, since you will likely only need it during windwall building and repair), plus several pairs of thin poly liner gloves to wear under the mid-weight liner. By the way, the thin liner gloves have a couple of problems - if you manage to get white gas on them, they wick very well and will make for a spectacular hand-torch (saw this a couple times). Also, if you spill boiling water/hot coffee/hot tea/hot soup on them, they wick it all over your hand (saw this more than once, too - makes for nice scalds). Being synth, they also will melt if you subject them to flames or anything very hot - don't try to use them as hot pads.

Brian's suggestion of the handwarmers is very good. Take a set of them for each of several summit attempts. The iron-oxide ones are not as warm above the 14k camp on Denali, thanks to less oxygen, but if you stick one in each mitten or glove, they are more than adequate, and will make up for not having the expedition liner, while leaving the dexterity. Oh, yeah, I have found that the expedition glove liner cuts off the circulation to my fingers somewhat, even the XL. Another reason I use midweight liners. If your mitten or glove shell is large enough for the expedition liner, it will be sloppy-loose with a mid-weight shell.

If you want, I have an unused (except for trying it on) OR expedition mitten liner that I will send you for half the catalog price plus shipping. Wasn't even carried in my pack on any trip. I might even throw in the ones I carried up to the 17k camp - but they have been worn sitting around camp on BC ski tours.

10:47 p.m. on January 17, 2005 (EST)

a.k.a. Chris


I REALLY appreciate the response and the offer. So far I have:

Mitts: OR Modular Shell XL, GoreTex, with XL single liner
-generic but warm XL Wool mitts

Gloves: 2 light polypro
NF Windstopper, XL (love these)
2 pr. basic fleece gloves
OR XXL Goretex shells
OR XXL Pile liners (single)

I felt that with everything here I could get by on Denali but the guide service has a snippet in their gear list that says Expedition Mitts (synthetic or down)are required and that each year there are people that are required to buy expedition mitts in Anchorage/Talkeetna because they didn't bring anything warm enough.

Arrival on Kahiltna is ~May 22 so I expect a summit attempt in early June.

I am interested in the mitten liners and the other ones mentioned. I have a pretty big hand (the XXL OR Shell Gloves fit nicely when layered up with polyproliner, NF windstopper and the shell)so I need a liner no smaller than XL. You can email me at - what is you asking price?


10:50 a.m. on January 18, 2005 (EST)
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Unfortunately ...

I am apparently much tinier than you. My exped liner mittens are L, so at least one size smaller than your minimum. As Brian said, though, and given my own experience, I doubt you would need the expd-wt mitten liners. I would suggest you call the guide service and have a talk with their chief guide, plus one of the actual guides who will be on the hill if you can. Or, as Brian suggested, use heavy wool liners (Ragg comes in the largest sizes, IIRC). As I said, I only used them when working on windwalls at 17k or sitting around in camp, and even then it was at -30F and lower with a lot of wind (35 kts and higher on my little wind meter).

By the way, a suggestion - You probably will be taking overboots. Go to your local OSH or other hardware store and get some of the "friction strips" that are intended for stairs. It is about an inch wide and you measure the length. Glue this onto the sole of your overboots - several strips of the stuff crosswise. Another alternative is what Brian has done - put ShoeGoo or one of the similar products on the sole and embed sand in it while it is setting up. While you are in camp, you will be walking around in the overboots (good substitute for taking down or primaloft booties, maybe use your boot liners in them). The soles of the overboots are plain nylon or cordura and are quite slick on snow or ice, so some sort of friction coating helps a lot. Yeah, your guide service probably also says take the booties. But since you will take overboots for summit day at least, just use these instead.

2:37 p.m. on January 20, 2005 (EST)
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No sand...

"Another alternative is what Brian has done - put ShoeGoo or one of the similar products on the sole and embed sand in it while it is setting up."

I use freesole. Goop the overboot with it (on the boot already) and then install your crampons. Let it dry. Makes a nice little memory shelf and mucho easier to put on the crampons later.

I made friction strips on my overboots by just putting on strips of freesole. And...use SUGAR instead of sand if you want/need more traction. When the glue dries, you just wash them a bit and the sugar melts out. Neat-o.

Brian in SLC

5:48 p.m. on January 20, 2005 (EST)
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Sweet ...

It was sweet of you to put in the correct info. But I always thought you generally got down to the nitty gritty.

You gonna be back in SLC while the show is still on? I'm hoping to get some ice in, or a short BC tour. Looks like most folks are tied up, though Matt has a possible opening. I have to start back on the Tues (closing day). Mebbe brews at least?

8:54 a.m. on January 21, 2005 (EST)
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No ice...

Yeah, should be around at least on the weekend.

Not much ice. Way too warm. Temp's at 10k were in the low 40's (and have been).

Skiin' should be ok, but, more spring than winter.

-Brian in SLC

5:07 p.m. on January 21, 2005 (EST)

We did Denali v early in the season in the coldest year for 12 years, so take my advice with this in mind.

As those familiar with me will know, I have always had glove 'issues' never seeming to get happy with my system. As a result I own 13 pairs of gloves.

That said:

- Down low (KIA to camp at bottom of ski hill - 7,600'?)I wore liners or powerstretch with nothing over the top - mainly as sun protection.
- That camp to 11k camp I wore powerstretch, with lobsterclaw shells if cold. At night as camp gloves I wore some gator gloves and they were FANTASTIC! They are neoprene gloves made for fly fishing at you can cook in them, stick them in snow without worrying etc and were toasty.
14k and above it got too cold for gators (sweat froze inside them) and I reverted to liners + powerstretch + windstoppers most of the time.
- Above this we had some colder weather (down to -55deg w/o wind chill, and it was windy) and so used mittens on a number of occasions. Had some TNF polar3D mitts that I bought on sale in Seattle (~$150?). They were quite good, nice and warm but had one prob. I bought them a bit small and could not get the powerstretch gloves inside them, only liners. This was OK below 17k camp on the ridge, but above that we had some seriously cold weather and it would have been nice to get the powerstretch on underneath, as was quite cold when had to take mitts off to do anything.

If I had tried to stuff the thicker liners or windstops in I think I would have got frostbite problems due to circulation impairment and so didn't try. As it was got frostnipped toes when had to hunker down in a cave to wait out a storm.

So I could not have got by without the mitts.

My $0.20


July 16, 2018
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