High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS)

The High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS) was created 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.

As with the Basic Mountaineering School, HAMS has adopted a modular approach:  the curriculum will comprise the “Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions” module, whose basic pre-requisite is BMS.  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 and February  (refer to 2017 Schedule below).  To complete HAMS , students must also complete two co-requisite modules (or have equivalent experience) — Expedition Camping and Basic Ice Climbing; 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 – learn from those who have been there!  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, ascending a rope, and have couloir climbing experience.

HAMS Pre-requisites:

  • Successful completion of the Basic Mountaineering Certificate or equivalent.  In particular, students must have completed the following modules (or have equivalent experience):
    • Navigation 2
    • Intermediate Rock
    • Technical Snow
    • Rock Self Rescue Level 1 (note that if this is your only missing pre-requisite, we will consider conducting a make-up class to cover the critical skills that are taught in Self Rescue 1, but you will have to complete that module in order to complete HAMS)
  • A high peak alpine climb (as required for Basic Mountaineering)
  • At least one completed couloir climb (as required for Technical Snow)

HAMS Co-requisites:

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

2017 HAMS Schedule

The 2017 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 are subject to change.

Lecture 1, Wednesday, Jan 11 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 18 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 21 at St. Mary’s Glacier or Berthoud Pass

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

Lecture 3, Wednesday, Jan 25 at AMC

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

HAMS Basic Ice module wall night
, Wednesday, Feb 1 at AMC
HAMS Basic Ice module field trip, Friday – Sunday, Feb 3-5 at Ouray
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 (at a reduced fee), so do not register for this module at this time.

Lecture 4, Wednesday Feb 08 at AMC

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

Field Trip 2, Saturday Feb 11 at  St. Mary’s Glacier or Berthoud Pass

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

Lecture 5, Wednesday, Feb 15 at AMC

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

Lecture 6, Wednesday, Feb 22 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 25 at location TBD

  • High peak ridge climb
  • Glacier travel skills practice

Expedition Camping Lecture,  
Thursday, March 09
Expedition Camping Weekend Field Trip,  Saturday – Sunday, 18-19

Mt. Rainier Planning Meeting:  Wednesday, March 15 at AMC

Couloir Climbs:  Rainier training climbs – May & June  Note:  to qualify for Rainier, you must have climbed at least three couloirs.

HAMS Glaciated Peak Grad Climb

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


Cost:  $260 for HAMS module (the HAMS Basic Ice module will be billed separately).

HAMS Application Form:

Application Form – MS Word format

Application Form – PDF format

Submit Application by December 31!  Class size will be limited.
Once approved by the Director, you may register and make payment at this link:  High Altitude Mountaineering School

For more info, please contact the HAMS Co-Directors:
Debbie Markham at luv2byk2@msn.com or John Martersteck at jmartersteck@yahoo.com

Other Links:

Backcountry Snowsports Initiative

CO Avalanche Info Center

Hiking Denver



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

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