Alpine Scrambling Course

Alpine Scrambling Course (ASC) 2017

Enrollment Opens March 1st
Should the course fill, CMC members can get on the Wait List by going through the standard enrollment process.  No tuition money would be paid until that member is moved to the official Participant List.  Should there be an opening, moving to the Participant List is not automatic but will be done by the course director.  Individuals will be notified by email and will be asked to contact the CMC office to now pay their tuition.

The course consists of two evening lectures and four field days, plus the possibility of optional field days.

Lecture Dates and Location:
Student Meeting #1:      Thu, May 18      Location: CMC Conference Room A     Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Student Meeting #2:      Thu, May 25     Location: CMC Conference Room A      Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Attendance at both lectures is a prerequisite to participate in the field days.  Within the current session there is no provision to make-up a missed lecture so please ensure you are available for these dates.

Field Days:

Student Field Day 1:    Sat, June 3     Location: TBD    Time: 5am – 6pm
Alternate Field Day 1 in case of bad weather:  Sat, June 10

Attendance at field day 1 is a prerequisite to participate in the subsequent field days 2-4.  Within the current session there is no provision to make-up that first field day so please ensure you are available for these dates.

Student Field Day 2-4:    TBD within each student/instructor group    Time: 4am – 6pm
End of Session:    Mid-September all field days will be completed

The ASC field days will typically be rated at the Denver Group C hiking classification level, but some may be in the D classification range.  The C classified trips can be up to 15 miles roundtrip and/or up to 3,500 feet in elevation gain.  D trips can be over 15 miles roundtrip and/or over 3,500 feet in elevation gain.


  • Denver Group Course Tuition:  $115
  • Non-Denver Group Tuition:  $135

Required Equipment: Approximately $260

  • Ice axe with waist leash – $80
  • Adjustable climbing helmet – $60
  • Seat harness – $60
  • Locking carabineers (one large and one small) – $25
  • Webbing and accessory cord – $13
  • Text book: A Hiker’s Guide to Scrambling Safely by Tom Morin – (Hardcopy book out of print; E-book available at no additional cost once accepted into Course)
  • Guide book: Colorado Scrambles by Dave Cooper – $21 (at the CMC office)

Required equipment will be discussed in the first student meeting; please refrain from buying until after.  However, if you get an REI 20% coupon and would like to purchase early, then consult the Supplemental Equipment Information link (below).  The last page in that document provides specific equipment recommendations.


  • CMC Wilderness Trekking School (WTS) with successful ice axe self-arrest during WTS snow day
  • Denver Group C hiking classification (contact the CMC office with questions)
  • Very good physical condition
  • Age 14 and older

Course Overview

Alpine scrambling is a form of mountaineering that primarily involves off-trail travel.  Off-trail travel can consist of steep rock, loose rock, loose talus, scree, low angle snow, stream crossings, and bushwhacking; sometimes all on one trip.

Since most Colorado summits are accessible by scramble routes, the skills acquired in this course will provide the means to reach the summits of the Colorado 14ers as well as hundreds of other peaks.  The Alpine Scrambling Course is a great choice for those interested in climbing semi-technical routes.

While much of the enjoyment of scrambling is freedom from technical gear and complicated rock climbing techniques, unroped scrambling in exposed situations is potentially one of the more dangerous aspects of mountaineering.  For this reason, education and training specific to scrambling is important for safe and confident climbing.

The ASC student will practice elementary emergency techniques in preparation for the more challenging scrambles.  An initial review of ice axe self-arrest, basic map and compass, fit and usage of the seat harness and helmet will all provide for a more confident and safe climbing environment.

Leaders of scrambling trips will carry a rope and some protection gear during the field days.  The technical gear may be used for security on exposed sections, or to facilitate a safer retreat in case of difficulty.  Sustained use of the technical gear is not taught in this course.  ASC students need to be comfortable, or plan on getting comfortable, with exposure since that is a significant aspect of scrambling.

Although many find the ASC a comfortable bridge between WTS and the harder modules within the Technical Climbing School, others find the ASC an end in itself.  For those with modest goals and aspirations, the ASC will provide a rewarding experience.  For those with more lofty ambitions, the ASC will add skills, confidence, and conditioning in anticipation of moving to the TCS program.

In addition, CMC members currently taking TCS modules, or for graduates of the TCS, the ASC also offers real-world scrambling experience allowing those individuals that prefer to learn while doing, an additional opportunity to broaden their suite of skills.

And as a few final comments, the physical and mental demands of the ASC are not to be underestimated.  A typical 4:00am meet time, long approach hikes while carrying a 25 lb pack, challenging scrambles with exposed climbing, and a late afternoon return to the trailhead, can take its toll on the mind and body.  Please consider this when applying.

For those individuals who have never scrambled or believe they may have significant issues overcoming their fear of exposure, you are highly encouraged to enroll in this class with an open and flexible weekend schedule. The scrambling team leaders make every attempt to schedule easier scrambles earlier in the season allowing students to gradually increase their comfort level with this new activity. Missing one of these scrambles may result in attempting a later and more difficult climb before you are mentally prepared for it, which can be discouraging, and has led past students to resign prematurely.

Although the official field days 2 – 4 are scheduled within each student group, there are typically optional field days you may want to make time for.  Early in each session (i.e. June) there may be easier warm-up scrambles to see how folks do, and later in the year there may be harder, extra credit field days.  Coupled with the official field days, these optional outings allow for a more comfortable progression from the moderate scrambles to the more difficult scrambles, which many students find valuable.  Those students that preserve scheduling availability for the optional field days will get the most out of this course, and find it more enjoyable.

Learn More

You may consider the following sources of information beneficial:

For additional information, please contact the ASC Director, Rich McAdams:

Support Aid for Leader Training (SALT)

If you are a Denver Group trip leader, working toward becoming a trip leader, or a senior instructor in a Denver Group school, you may be eligible for free tuition for this course under the SALT program.  Click the link for more information as well as to access the SALT application form.  Please note, for free tuition, you must register for this school through the SALT link, not this school’s site. Click here for more information.

1-Ascending 2-Crossing Snowfield 3-Summit Success 4-Descending



Follow CMC Denver at @HikingDenver
Follow Colorado Mountain Club at @ColoradoMtnClub

Something to Say?

mountainsmith coupon