Front Range Mountain Guides of Colorado

Snow I
Introduction to Snow Climbing

Where : Front Range Mountains, Colorado
Length : One or Two full days outside
When : February - Mid June. Any day of the week.
Max Climbers : Up to 6
Cost : $ 160 ea. / $ 200 Private

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The one day snow climbing course is one of our most popular classes as it is quite comprehensive, teaching all the basic skills for safe travel on snowfields, steeper snow climbing techniques, as well as winter and high altitude considerations. Its comprehensive enough that the Gilpin County Search and Rescue Group has chosen it as its basic training class for snow travel.

Many of the people who seek out this class are planning to climb Mount Rainier, Mt Hood, Mexico's Pico De Orizaba, the Ecuadorian volcanoes or other Latin American climbs, as well as those who want to do wonderful classic snow climbs right here in Colorado with us.

The course location is within an hour and half drive from Denver so some people fly in to Denver, spend a day in area hiking at lower elevations to acclimate some, then take the course the next one or two days and fly home the evening of the third day.

The course begins with digging snow pits on slope we are practicing on, and learning to read snow layers, something everyone should know before they venture onto snow covered slopes anywhere. We learn what types of layering makes for potential slide situations and what types are safe to travel on.

Next, you will learn all about the ice axe, its functions and how to choose the correct axe type and length for your needs. You will learn how to use an ice axe to arrest a fall on snow while tumbling head first, feet first, on your back, or on your stomach! We also teach you how to avoid falling by using the axe to aid in your ascent.

You will learn about various crampon styles, how to select the right one for your specific needs, and how to adjust them to your boots whether you are using step in, strap on, or semi auto type crampons.

We then practice climbing up and down as a group and introduce you to the methods of ascending with crampons, including "rest-step" climbing which is vital to keeping a slow, steady, and controlled pace while ascending multi-hour high altitude climbing routes.

Next you will learn about the use of snow anchors called "pickets" or "snow stakes" and "snow flukes", how to place them, and which one of these is appropriate to the snow conditions you find yourself in. We also cover marking a route with wands and why we do so.

We then introduce you to the climbing harness, how to put it on correctly, and how to tie in properly using "middle man" and "end man" knots. We teach you the art of moving as a roped team up a climb, practicing proper verbal signals, practicing falling and arresting as a group, and how to safely stop and take a break on steep terrain as a group, all while using proper climbing signals.

While your group is roped up as a team, we ascend a nearby peak in the afternoon reaching over 11,400 feet. While ascending, we introduce you to proper climbing signals and rope handling skills to keep you off the rope and on your feet.

You will also be briefed on the effects of high altitude illness, how to recognize symptoms, and how to avoid becoming a victim to high altitude illness.

Here in Colorado, we often use all these techniques to climb steep snow climbs in the months of May and June when the snow is condensed and packed solidly to safely climb long routes between 1,400' and 2,400' in length on 12,000', 13,000' and 14,000' peaks. We have plenty here, only an hour or two drive from our front door! We often have these routes completely to ourselves as we ascend, making for an awesome experience.

This one day course is required before joining us on any of our snow climbs. If you opt to do the two day course, we will choose a peak to climb on the second day that is currently safe from avalanche danger, and appropriate for your skill and fitness level. We utilize some or all of these newly learned skills to reach the summit for a very rewarding experience. We will camp out that night or you may opt to get a nearby hotel room at your expense, for extra rest before tackling a nearby peak. If you are at all interested in climbing on snow, anywhere, this is the class for you.

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