Harry R. Schwartz

Software engineer, nominal scientist, gentleman of the internet. Member, ←Hotline Webring→.

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Graduating the CMC’s Alpine Climbing School

Graduating the CMC’s Alpine Climbing School

Published . Tags: colorado, outdoors, personal.

Sunrise Couloir on Mount Evans

Over the last year I’ve been spending a lot of time going on trips and taking some classes with the Colorado Mountain Club. In particular, I recently graduated from their Alpine Climbing School.

Classes and trips are designed to teach the technical elements of rock and snow climbing, including the use of ropes, anchors, ice tools, protection, crampons and specialized skills to safely negotiate challenging terrain. The class modules are ideal for individuals with goals such as leading fifth-class rock, ice climbing or ascending difficult peaks.

That includes a couple of classes on navigation with a map and compass, learning to walk in crampons and self-arrest with an ice axe, and building snow anchors with pickets and deadmen.

St Mary's Glacier

There’s plenty of theory in the form of lectures and some reading, but it’s mostly hands-on practice and getting out on trips. For example, my group climbed the Sunrise Couloir on Mount Evans (14,271’) in early June.

Climbing Sunrise Couloir

Walking the ridge to Mount Evans

We also got some climbing practice, both in the gym and on some local crags. I’ve done some top-roping before, but I’m a pretty mediocre climber, so that training was really useful! We also spent plenty of time practicing rigging up regular and extended rappels.

Climbing Mt Bancroft

All that came in handy for our graduation climb up the East Ridge of Mt Bancroft (13,250’), which was a solid class 3-4 scramble with a 5.2 crux and a 75’ rappel.

Rappelling Mt Bancroft

I feel like I’ve gone from a moderately capable day-hiker and car-camper to… well, I’m sure not going to solo K2, and I feel like a bit of an impostor calling myself a mountaineer, even, but I’ve gotten pretty confident scrambling around on almost any kind of non-glaciated peak.

Along the way I got some Wilderness First Aid training, too. That’s not technically part of the ACS curriculum, but it’s certainly a good idea, and the CMC provides subsidized classes to members. Getting some practice identifying and patching up injuries and managing evacuations seemed like an obvious thing to do.1

Anyhoo, if you’re in the Denver area and wanna step up your hiking game pretty significantly, I’d hugely recommend the CMC’s Alpine Climbing School. Totally a blast!

  1. In fact, I’m planning on continuing that education by doing a WFR this December, which is approximately midway between wilderness first aid and an EMT certification. 


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