Winter learning

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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tehchad
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Winter learning

Postby tehchad » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:05 pm

I've done several, but I am a complete noob when it comes to winter, avy, winter camping, cravasse work, et al.

Those of you who have done any of the above, how did you learn it? I see the Boulder Rock Club has a mountain school in Estes that does this type of training and I lean towards that. Right now, my goal is to climb Denali in the next couple of years. If I find someone here who is capable and willing, awesome! If not, I'd like to be able to contribute to a guided group (RMI or etc).

What are your thoughts?
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MatB
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Re: Winter learning

Postby MatB » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:25 pm

Don't mean to hijack your thread, but I am in a similar position. Don't have any ambition to climb Denali but would like to have the knowledge to climb in the winter. As fall comes to a close, my focus will be this spring and learning how to safely climb couloirs. With next summer's focus being on learning more about roped climbing, specifically how to set up rappels as that would open more hiking/climbing options for me (getting down is typically my biggest concern on sketchier terrain).

More throwing this out there in case there are any out there looking to add someone to their crew (who they may have to teach).

Last thing I throw out there is I teach and do not have any teaching buddies with the same passion for the mountains (I hike solo the majority of the time during the summer). So if your in a similar boat, shoot me a pm.
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rking007
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Re: Winter learning

Postby rking007 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:36 pm

Hopefully there will be another Winter Welcome on Quandary or some such peak this year. This would be a great way to climb with knowledgeable folks who are also 14ers.com members. Seems like a great way to put your toes in the water, so to speak, and also meet a ton of cool people! As for myself, I've also learned more than a ton of things from browsing these forums and humbly asking questions and listening.
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Re: Winter learning

Postby pseudoghost » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:43 pm

I'd recommend the CMC. As others have said on this board before, the CMC has a lot of bureaucracy, and it's pretty painful for someone who's already experienced with hiking in the beginning... But they have great classes, and it's a good place to meet fellow mountaineers. Your other option is to pay a lot more to take classes from a mountaineering school. I wouldn't recommend relying on the charity of strangers to learn skills that your life may depend on.
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Re: Winter learning

Postby TomPierce » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:11 pm

tehchad: As an initial step I'd suggest taking a full-on avalanche course here in Colorado. Why? Think about it: Even if your mountaineering goals are in areas other than Colorado, the bulk of your training will surely be on winter Colorado climbs. And if you take such a course you'll quickly learn that due to geography the avalanche conditions here are among the most dangerous in the US. Assessing avalanche conditions is an essential snow survival skill, and IMO taking either a quicky crash lesson as part of a multi-day mountaineering course, or in another part of the country with much different conditions (eg the PNW) is not giving enough focus to this essential topic.

After that, the CMC (or other vendor) winter camping/high altitude mountaineering courses could be a good start. I know climbing_rob on this site is well skilled in teaching the CMC course.

Just my opinions.

-Tom
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tehchad
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Re: Winter learning

Postby tehchad » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:22 pm

TomPierce wrote:tehchad: As an initial step I'd suggest taking a full-on avalanche course here in Colorado. Why? Think about it: Even if your mountaineering goals are in areas other than Colorado, the bulk of your training will surely be on winter Colorado climbs. And if you take such a course you'll quickly learn that due to geography the avalanche conditions here are among the most dangerous in the US. Assessing avalanche conditions is an essential snow survival skill, and IMO taking either a quicky crash lesson as part of a multi-day mountaineering course, or in another part of the country with much different conditions (eg the PNW) is not giving enough focus to this essential topic.

After that, the CMC (or other vendor) winter camping/high altitude mountaineering courses could be a good start. I know climbing_rob on this site is well skilled in teaching the CMC course.

Just my opinions.

-Tom



So you would suggest an avy course to begin, then some experience just doing it, and THEN something with CMC. Correct?

I'm considering the Denali prep course from CMC. http://www.totalclimbing.com/page.php?pname=course&course_id=533&category_id=44 I must wait until Dec, but it appears to be comprehensive.
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d_baker
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Re: Winter learning

Postby d_baker » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:28 pm

tehchad wrote:I'm considering the Denali prep course from CMC. http://www.totalclimbing.com/page.php?pname=course&course_id=533&category_id=44 I must wait until Dec, but it appears to be comprehensive.

That would be CMS (Colorado Mountain School).

CMC is Colorado Mountain Club, which Tom is referring to in regards to climbing_rob.

Good luck finding and choosing a method for gaining the skills to reach your goals!
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Re: Winter learning

Postby smoove » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:34 pm

I'm considering the Denali prep course from CMC. http://www.totalclimbing.com/page.php?pname=course&course_id=533&category_id=44 I must wait until Dec, but it appears to be comprehensive.


That's actually CMS, not CMC. I have no doubt that's a great course, but it's a whole lot pricier than the CMC. I'd have to double check, but the CMC's HAMS course is probably $150 tops. They're starting HAMS seminars on Oct. 1 at the AMC in Golden, actually. If you're interested, you may just be able to show up at 6:30 at pay $7 at the door. You might have to take BMS before HAMS, though. But I'd recommend BMS anyway. Main drawback to that (if you're not allowed to waive into HAMS) is that you'd have to take BMS next summer and then HAMS in Jan. 2014.
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Re: Winter learning

Postby climbingaggie03 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:34 pm

I'd say it depends, the way I learned was doing alot of rock climbing, with reading freedom of the hills obsessively and then practicing in non-threatening situations and working my way up from there. I did have friends who were in a pretty similar boat and we all learned winter mountaineering together. It's kind of hard to do crevasse rescue in CO but honestly it's not that complicated. If you can set up the rope systems on flat ground, you can do it on a glacier.

Honestly I think the best thing you can do is get out there! An avy course is a great idea and a guided climb on Ranier or something like that could teach you alot too. RMI also does crevasse rescue classes. It doesn't take too many times of winter camping to figure out the tricks of the trade. I'd also think about learning to ski tour, skis are much better than snow shoes for non technical routes and Skis also make great tent stakes in snow.
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Re: Winter learning

Postby TomPierce » Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:22 pm

To clarify, I think avalanche awareness/avoidance/rescue is such a key skill that compressing it into a module of a larger mountaineering session probably isn't realistic for the recreational climber, ie it'd take a solid 2+ days to cover avalanche stuff alone. I suspect most can't take the time off work for a 8-10 day session to cover everything. If you look at how/why people die in the Colorado winter backcountry, avalanches rank way up there. Get that dialed in, then learn from there.

Another save-your-ass skill for glaciated peaks is crevasse rescue, but IMO the better skill to try and master is crevasse fall avoidance, ie reading a glacier. I'm very far from advanced on the topic, only a novice really, but I've learned a little and believe that that's where to spend your time and money; go to AK or the PNW to learn from experts.

Just my .02.

-Tom
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Re: Winter learning

Postby Scott P » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:14 am

We're doing a hut trip on November 30-December 1 if anyone is interested. We'll be climbing Shrine Mountain and Wingle Ridge, which is a good way to practice for winter climbs.

Since we'll be staying at a cabin, you won't need winter camping gear.
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Dave B
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Re: Winter learning

Postby Dave B » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:07 am

If you're new to winter climbing and camping a Denali prep course or something similar to the HAMS class the CMC offers would be too much in my opinion.

Basic winter travel requires skills in:

1. Snow travel (including self arrest and some crampon technique)
2. Avalanche awareness
3. Proper gear and use (including emergency bivy)
4. Navigation
5. Rational decision making

...and HAMS or a Denali prep courses will assume you already posses these skills.

I haven't taken the BMS class but something along those lines will educate you on basic ice axe technique and snow travel. At a bare minimum an avy awareness class or cover to cover reads of Snow Sense (or the like) and then maybe some instruction on winter camping and a general education of navigation. I think many here would insist on an AVY I class before winter travel in the backcountry, but some basic knowledge of how to avoid avy prone slopes (including traveling below them) and numerous resources of avy safe routes will allow for some winter excursions.

Of course nothing beats real world experience and with all types of climbing the best way to get this is to climb with people who are more experienced than yourself.
The mountains - whose summits reach or exceed arbitrary thresholds for elevation and prominence - are calling and I must go.

-John Muir

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