CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
User avatar
SWriverstone
Posts: 83
Joined: January 26th, 2016, 8:28 am
Location: Eugene, Oregon

CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by SWriverstone » October 17th, 2018, 11:18 am

Hi—sorry if this topic has been beaten to death; I'm capable of Googling and have been digging around, but sometimes it's helpful to have more knowledgeable folks sort the wheat from the chaff. :-)

I'm looking for a good, basic/intro course on winter mountaineering. I'm a highly-experienced and very fit backpacker and hiker who wants to safely get into non-extreme winter climbs of some local Oregon peaks. Yes, I realize any place, anywhere in winter can become "extreme" if you aren't careful. By "non-extreme" I mean climbs that are non-technical, straightforward climbs in summer (think South Sister, Diamond Peak, etc.)

So I guess I'm looking for good training in using an ice axe (self-arrest), crampons, hazard recognition, etc.

I'm down in Eugene. I know the Obsidians offer a good course. Alas, it's become so popular that getting in is like trying to win an eBay auction, LOL (meaning if you aren't one of the first dozen people to click "Enroll" the first minute the course is opened online, you won't get in).

Any other recommendations are appreciated!
Scott

Webfoot
Posts: 987
Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Webfoot » October 17th, 2018, 11:28 am

Have you considered the AMGA Alpine Skills Course?

User avatar
SWriverstone
Posts: 83
Joined: January 26th, 2016, 8:28 am
Location: Eugene, Oregon

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by SWriverstone » October 17th, 2018, 12:33 pm

Webfoot wrote:
October 17th, 2018, 11:28 am
Have you considered the AMGA Alpine Skills Course?
Never heard of it—but I'll check it out—thanks! <tapping away on keyboard> Hmm...those course are pretty expensive, but I'm sure they're great for $1600 (or should be!). I'll have to look at the budget...

Scott

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1138
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Water » October 17th, 2018, 1:39 pm

formal training can be helpful for sure. But you could go a long way with meeting the right person(s) willing to give some tutelage.

There is the Mazama program BCEP, which I learned to 'climb' from. Based out of Portland so that would be quite the trek for you. Consider looking into the https://chemeketans.org in Salem?

I too was in your shoes over a decade ago, plenty of backpacking know-how and willing to learn but when potential life and death was involved I felt it prudent to take a class, as I knew nobody who was involved in the sport. At the end of the day 90% of what I learned in BCEP was useless/retread of backpacking/general outdoors principles, but the 10% that remained was essential. Actually I only ever did one climb with Mazamas, the capstone to the course, climbing Mt. Hood with my contingent (11 of us or so). But I met one person in that class and we climbed a lot, and from there I managed to meet others. And reached out to others like yourself when I needed partners and had the time to help get someone up to speed on things. I don't know if other clubs intro courses are as laborious/tedious as Mazamas was, so I can't speak to anything else.

The book Freedom of the Hills by Mountaineers Press is basically the guidebook that any climbing class will refer you to. It covers the gamut from knots, to terrain evaluation, emergency procedures, crampon nuances, rope travel, etc..
It does not however evaluate or give feedback. But if you were able to cover a lot of the things in that book, on your own, someone with a bit of time and patience could probably help you get the rest of the way there on a moderate snow climb or two.

For basic snow stuff, like going up a hill, with crampons and an ice axe, in winter.. isn't radically different than backpacking. More extreme, yes, more consequences for mistakes, yes, but it's more of an extension of backpacking than fundamentally different, in my opinion. Which isn't to downplay it at all but, if you can find someone.. ...also going to a class will introduce you to people at a similar level with which to go climb with, so there's that value too.
Feel Free to Feel Free

Schrauf
Posts: 67
Joined: June 17th, 2014, 10:28 am
Location: NE Portland

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Schrauf » October 17th, 2018, 7:07 pm

Good topic. What about something in between an extended course, and a book plus seeking out new friends that can teach you the ropes (no pun intended, since you're probably not actually looking to rope up - ha).

Something like a brief course with Timberline Mountain Guides (TMG), who I haven't used, but have heard good things and considered before. Their 1.5-day Mt Hood Summit Program is $780, and the Steep Snow Clinic (which is the same instruction but without the summit climb) is half that, or less if you can get a buddy to join you. Or maybe a TMG private guide for a day or two isn't much more costly than these programs, and they might be able to really cater some training specific to your needs.

https://timberlinemtguides.com/trip/mt- ... t-program/
https://timberlinemtguides.com/trip/ste ... -climbing/

Or, a local college course, such as all these options with MHCC - Intro to Mountaineering, Winter Backcountry Travel, etc. Lane or UO might have something.

https://www.mhcc.edu/Course-Descriptions/

Webfoot
Posts: 987
Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Webfoot » October 17th, 2018, 7:51 pm

I have not taken any mountaineering course; my back wouldn't stand for it—figuratively and literally. However I would be inclined toward the full five days of certified instruction for $1600 (AMGA) versus $780 for 1.5 days. Crevasse rescue; high-angle snow travel; avalanche training; ice climbing; snow & ice anchors—which one of these things do you plan to learn in a day?

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1138
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Water » October 17th, 2018, 9:29 pm

fwiw certainly a 5 day course will teach more. but the idea that you could actually be anything more than topically aware and rough understanding of all the topics covered isn't serious either. Avalanche 1 training alone requires 24hrs of field/classroom instruction.

So if you only want to travel on steep snow capably.. ..it's possible a single weekend trip for under $1000k (or even significantly less if you find a partner to take it with you) might just be easier and do the job just fine.

5 days covering crevasse rescue, high angle snow, avalanche training, ice climbing, snow and ice anchors... while not the exact same would be a bit like a 5 day course covering ultra-marathon running, canyoneering, rock climbing, desert survival, and wilderness first aid.

This isn't to detract but to suggest you'd be proficient in any of them any more than you'd be proficient with steep snow after 1.5 day climb is not fully accurate assumption.
Feel Free to Feel Free

Webfoot
Posts: 987
Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Webfoot » October 17th, 2018, 10:31 pm

It sounds like we agree. I am worried that someone will take a 1.5 day class with the only specific goal of summiting and think himself ready. I don't know the curriculum of the AMGA ASC; it may not cover the things I listed. I see a five-day class as a minimum, after which you will at least "know what you don't know" if instructors are good. Five days for $1600 still seems like a better buy than one and a half for $780.

Schrauf
Posts: 67
Joined: June 17th, 2014, 10:28 am
Location: NE Portland

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by Schrauf » October 18th, 2018, 6:06 am

My idea for the steep snow clinic course (1 day, $250 with a buddy, or $780 if you combine with a guided summit climb) leaned more towards the original poster's goal of more knowledge with ice axe, crampons and hazard (crevasse, avalanche?) recognition. Basically I think he just wants to hike in steep snow and ice and not get into trouble. Nothing like roping up or rock/ice climbing and setting anchors and belays, but I could be wrong. That AMGA course among other things requires leading 5.6 climbing experience as a prereq. From what I can tell it's intended for people who eventually want to guide and already have a lot of background in rock or alpine travel, although I'm sure many people take it without that intention.

Agree that a 1-day course is only a starting point, but combined with a book and some trips with experienced friends (or paid guides) can lead to a good foundation.

User avatar
SWriverstone
Posts: 83
Joined: January 26th, 2016, 8:28 am
Location: Eugene, Oregon

Re: CURRENT recommendations for winter mountaineering course?

Post by SWriverstone » October 18th, 2018, 7:16 am

Thanks everyone for all the good info and suggestions!

As Schrauf said above, I'm not looking (anytime soon at least) to do any "serious" mountaineering requiring travel over/past crevasses, roping up, setting protection, etc.

I have this idea in my head (which could be totally wrong) that there are lots of peaks in Oregon that can be "walked up" in the summer/fall, and can still be "walked up" in winter under snow as long as you have a decent set of crampons, have plenty of practice using/arresting with an axe, and understand at least the basics of the kinds of conditions that could result in an avalanche. (And of course the usual careful attention to weather conditions.)

But as I said, perhaps some of these "walkup" peaks become "death traps" in winter under snow? (And would require roping up with advanced skills?)

For more examples, I'm thinking of peaks like (previously mentioned) South Sister and Diamond Peak; Mt. Bailey, maybe McLoughlin, or peaks in the Wallowas like Sacajawea.

Again, I obviously have zero experience on peaks like these in winter, so I might be way off-base thinking you could walk up them fairly safely in winter with just crampons and an ice axe.

I'm an avid XC skier and love skiing trails up near Willamette Pass in winter. And while I love snow and winter conditions, truth is I'm also really just looking to extend my hiking season to year-round. Right now it drives me nuts to basically have to quit hiking the higher peaks from November to August every year.

Finally, I've experienced many situations hiking even lower-elevation, snow-free trails in winter where (above 4K' for example) you'll encounter a steep snowfield on a north-facing slope (with a dangerous dropoff) that has ended my hike right there. I'd like to have the know-how and gear to keep going safely across those steep snowfields!

Scott

Post Reply