High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS)

Registration for HAMS 2018 is now OPEN. Registration closes on December 31, 2017. 

The High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS) is for CMC members who are interested in learning and practicing the alpine skills that are needed to safely climb and enjoy high, glaciated mountains, including Mt. Rainier, Denali, the Andes, and the Himalayas! HAMS culminates in a high peak climb of Mt. Rainier or a similar high, glaciated peak.

The HAMS curriculum features the “Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions” module, which includes several field trips for glacier travel, crevasse rescue, and glacier camping practice.  Students who complete HAMS will be able to demonstrate proficiency with advanced mountaineering technical skills, including:

  • roped glacier travel (including ice ax and crampon technique for ascending and descending, self-arrest, building snow anchors, executing a running belay, and using ascenders on fixed ropes)
  • crevasse rescue
  • glacier camping
  • basic ice climbing

The skills covered in the Glacier Travel module will be taught on field trips in January, February, and March  (refer to the schedule below). To complete HAMS , students must also complete a co-requisite module, HAMS Basic Ice Climbing (or have equivalent experience); they must participate in an Expedition Camping and Couloir Climbing weekend in the spring; they must have climbed at least three Colorado snow couloirs; and they must participate on a high peak expedition trip, typically Mt. Rainier.

In addition to the technical skills associated with glacier travel that were listed above, the HAMS program will teach you what it takes to mount a successful expedition: planning, logistics, conditioning, nutrition, awareness of high-altitude medical issues, backcountry risk management, and most importantly, TEAMWORK.

All HAMS Senior Instructors have been on multiple expeditions to climb high, glaciated peaks – learn from those who have been there!

HAMS Pre-requisites:

This is not a school for beginners!  HAMS students should have BMS-equivalent rock and snow experience:  i.e., you must be proficient with climbing knots, belaying, rappelling, navigation, crampon and ice ax technique, self-arrest, glissading, and ascending a rope.
Most importantly, you must have proficiency climbing hard-snow couloirs.

The formal pre-requisites for admission to HAMS are:

  • Successful completion of the Basic Mountaineering Certificate or equivalent.  In particular, students must have completed the following modules (or have equivalent experience) from the CMC’s Technical Climbing School:
    • Navigation 2
    • Intermediate Rock
    • Technical Snow
    • Rock Self Rescue Level 1 (Intermediate Mountaineering Certificate course), since you must know how to ascend a rope.  Note that if Rock Self Rescue is your only missing pre-requisite, we will consider conducting a make-up class to cover the critical skill of ascending a rope.
  • A high peak alpine snow climb (as required for Basic Mountaineering certificate), e.g. Longs Peak via Lamb’s Slide and the Clark’s Arrow route.
  • Ideally, all HAMS students should have climbed at least three couloirs, but at a bare minimum we require at least one completed couloir climb (as required for Technical Snow), with the understanding that no students will be allowed to participate on a grad climb (e.g. Mt. Rainier) unless they have climbed at least three couloirs prior to the grad climb.  A single, incomplete couloir attempt is not sufficient to qualify for admission to HAMS.

HAMS Graduation and Alpinist Certification:

To graduate from HAMS, a student must complete the “Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions” module, demonstrate proficiency at crevasse rescue and glacier camping, complete at least three couloir climbs, and participate on a self-led (or “lightly-led”) expedition to a high glaciated peak, such as Mt. Rainier.  However, we feel that an accomplished high-peak alpinist should also have basic first aid training and avalanche training, so we award a HAMS Alpinist certificate to HAMS graduates who also achieve the following:

  •  A “D” hiking classification or equivalent experience
  • Completion of Wilderness First Aid course (which also happens to be required to achieve a “D” classification)
  • Completion of AIARE 1 avalanche training

2018 HAMS Schedule

The 2018 HAMS schedule will include the following lectures and field trips.  Note that we may need to adjust the order of lecture topics based on availability of guest speakers.  Dates and lecture content are subject to change.

Lecture 1, Monday, Jan 8 at AMC

  • Introduction to HAMS
  • Fitness and training
  • Knot test
  • Group formation and Equipment/Gear (needed early so students can begin to plan to purchase gear needed for the class)

Lecture 2, Wednesday, Jan 17 at AMC

  • Mountain weather  (this lecture topic will be presented via a pre-recorded video and should be viewed outside of class)
  • Roping up (divide ropes; kiwi coil), basics of roped travel
  • Review self-arrest
  • Review snow anchors
  • Intro to crevasse rescue, Z-haul

Field Trip 1, Saturday, Jan 20 at St. Mary’s Glacier

  • Rope up
  • Roped travel
  • Self arrest
  • Snow anchors
  • Crevasse Rescue (if time allows)

Lecture 3, Wednesday, Jan 24 at AMC

  • High-altitude medical issues
  • Nutrition
  • Z-haul practice

HAMS Basic Ice module wall night
, Wednesday, Jan 31 at AMC
HAMS Basic Ice module field trip, Friday – Sunday, Feb 2-4 at Ouray Ice Park
Targeted for beginner ice climbers.  For those with ice climbing experience, you may submit a request for a HAMS Basic Ice Climbing module waiver, and you are welcome to accompany us on the trip to Ouray, which tends to be a highlight of the program.   Note:  a HAMS-specific Basic Ice module will be taught by HAMS, so do not register for this module at this time.

Lecture 4, Wednesday, Feb 7 at AMC

  • Running belay / passing pro
  • Use of ascenders
  • Sleds
  • Z-haul practice

Field Trip 2, Saturday, Feb 10 at  St. Mary’s Glacier

  • Rope up
  • Roped travel with belay to cross a snow bridge
  • Running belay
  • Self arrest
  • Ascend / descend a fixed line
  • Crevasse Rescue

Lecture 5, Tuesday, Feb 13 at AMC  (freeing up Valentine’s Day to make the partners happy :-)) 

  • Team Dynamics
  • Risk Management and Lessons Learned in the Backcountry
  • Z-haul practice

Lecture 6, Wednesday, Feb 21 at AMC

  • Expedition planning (including guided vs. unguided)
  • Wrap-up and plans for remainder of the class
  • Climbing 6000m – 8000m peaks

Field Trip 3,  Saturday, Feb 24 at location TBD

  • High peak ridge climb
  • Glacier travel skills practice

Expedition Camping Lecture,  Wednesday, March 07
Expedition Camping Weekend Field Trip,  Saturday – Sunday,  March 24-25
(We may possibly make this two camping nights and add Friday, so please reserve the ENTIRE weekend.)

Mt. Rainier Planning Meeting:  Wednesday, March 14 at AMC

Couloir Climbs:  Mt. Rainier training climbs – March through June, trip schedule TBD (and weather-dependent).  Note:  to qualify for a Mt. Rainier climb, you must have climbed at least three couloirs.

HAMS Glaciated Peak Grad Climb

  • High Glaciated Peak expedition, usually Mt. Rainier:  June or July

HAMS Application Form:

Application Form – MS Word format (preferred)

Application Form – PDF format


The Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions Module - Registrations on or before December 1, 2017: $400  Registrations after December 1, 2017: $425

The HAMS Basic Ice Module: $100 (not required for students with ice climbing experience, although highly recommended that all students participate)

ALL applications must be submitted by December 31, 2017 !  Class size will be limited.
Once approved by the Director, you will be provided a registration link.

For more info, please contact the 2018 HAMS Director, Brandon Daniell at brandon@dialoghealth.com .

Other Links:

CO Avalanche Info Center

CMC Denver Group

Backcountry Snowsports Initiative



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

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