yes, one needs to be in the best shape of their lives, but don't go overboard which could lead to training injuries which would prevent your climb and don't stop having a life because all you do is train. You could be in the best shape of your life and altitude could affect you, thus bringing your trip to an unexpected halt. Many people have climbed Everest and the following year returned only to have altitude hit them unlike the previous year. It is a gamble. Being in great shape will certainly give you a better chance, but there have been studies which have shown that those who trained for a marathon actually did worse at high altitude than a normal guy who did not train as hard. It had to do with the marathon runner's body requiring more oxygen per breath.
One does not race up Denali. One camps their way up. As climbabout mentioned, there is indeed A LOT of down time. I have chatted with numerous professional mountaineers who have been up Denali more than a few times. As Bill O and Climbabout also hinted at, the endurance aspect is what one really needs to work on. Usually for most guided trips you will plug away for an hour then rest, then repeat. So, if your workout times are less than 1 hour, you will have to deal with another mental aspect once you get there, but that is really what it is, mental.
I have friends who would be strong enough for Denali, but they would admit themselves that they lack the desire and mental fortitude for such an undertaking. Climbing Denali's West Buttress is indeed no glorified hike with a heavy pack, but an endurance marathon of cold, pain and playing the hurry up and wait game. I was given this nugget of advice from a mountaineer up in North Conway:
"The ones who are most successful on mountains like Denali, are those who have no agenda, they are just there and enjoy the moment. They are not constantly worrying about whether or not they will summit." This is great advice and while I too have experienced summit fever before, I will be going with this advice in my mind's eye this coming summer.
One more thing. I strongly agree with Bill O that one who is going to climb Denali should make him/herself very familiar with the route through photos, books, journals, informative videos and through talking with people who have been there. This is an obvious must for anyone going unguided, but is certainly a great advantage to those who plan to go guided. I have spent the last year and a half getting very familiar with the West Buttress route. It has only made me more pumped for this summer.
Last edited by iceclimber; 12-17-2008 at 08:38 AM.
"Commitment is doing the thing you said you'd do, long after the mood you said it in has left you." - Bear Grylls' mother