Archive for the ‘CMC Domestic (Non-CO) Trips’ Category

AMS students compleat a tough 2017 season

February 13, 2017

AMS, or Advanced Mountaineering School, is always a challenge, but some years the field trips are tougher than others, just due to conditions. This is a mid-course description of my observations of the course based on descriptions from the students I encountered through my teaching of the Ice Clinic.

AMS consists of a sequence of field trips that covers the full range of winter  high peak mountaineering, interspersed with lectures to help prepare for the field trips, covering all the topics that go into this demanding sport. It is considered the culmination of all of the outdoor courses taught by the Boulder Mountain Schools for those who aspire to the full mountaineering experience. Entrance to the course is by application the previous fall for consideration the following winter. The course and application process is described on the Boulder website.

I taught the Ice Clinic this year, consisting of a lecture at the Clubroom and a weekend field trip. This year there were enough students to divide the field trips into two groups going out each day that weekend. At the lecture, I was expected to discuss the basics of ice climbing, but this was preceded by a debriefing of the previous weekend’s field trip, which was the winter camping trip. The site that had been selected was at Left Hand Resevoir in the Indian Peaks. The approach is not difficult, a hike up a road for a couple of miles, but the location is purposefully exposed to conditions, necessitating the construction of snow shelters as a survival skill. As I listened to the students nonchalantly recount their experiences, I had to admire their strength and resilience. What they discovered, unfortunately, was that the snow at the site was very difficult to dig into there, which foiled attempts to construct an igloo, or even to build A-frame shelters. They did have some tents as backup shelters, but not enough for everyone. Consequently, several of them had to sleep in exposed conditions in high winds, basically in a trench in the snow, which would be tough for anyone. Everyone survived without risk of injury from exposure, though it sounded like it was difficult and uncomfortable experience, more for some than others.

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Val Hovland, AMS Director, addressing the 2017 students & instructors, Feb 7, 2017 in the Clubroom

Fortunately, the Ice Clinic field trips do not require overnight camping!

I led the two weekend field trips for the Ice Clinic, on Saturday and Sunday, February 11th and 12th. The two days were quite a contrast, illustrating what extremes conditions in Colorado can swing between. On Saturday, I chose to stick with a site that AMS had used in the past, Silver Plume, due to its short approach and (normally) greater amount of ice to climb. I, as well as the other assistant instructors, were concerned about the unseasonably warm temperatures that the Front Range had been experiencing recently. The ice at Silver Plume is directly south facing, and in full sun most of the day. Arriving there early Saturday morning, I could see there was much less coverage on the approach, and was wondering with some dread what the actual ice climbing conditions would be like.

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On the way up to the ice at Silver Plume, about 7:30am

What we saw when we got there was something akin to an ice climbing horror show:

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The main flow at Silver Plume, February 11, 2017: a fraction of its normal size in previous years

The main flow was only a shallow curtain of ice, and on the right side, where there were normally big pillars of ice, were flowing streams of water. Though seriously disappointed, I was determined to make the most of the situation, and not have the day be a total disappointment for the students. I asked my assistant instructor, Scott Edlin, to proceed with assisting the students to prepare for the other activities while I hiked up and around a side gully to set up a top rope anchor from above. There are bolts in rock above the ice, though I found that it would be necessary to place a directional ice screw to position the top rope above the one remaining ice flow. I attempted to do this, placing an ice screw into some ice of questionable integrity. As I began to rappel down, I found out just how questionable it was: it failed, and I unexpectedly twirled and pendulumed to the right, out of control. Fortunately, I had rigged an autoblock on my rappel device, which stopped me even though I lost control of the rope. Fazed but unhurt, I reassured the class that I was ok, and cursed the failed ice screw, now dangling from the rope in front of me.

One might have thought that this warning sign would have signaled a sign that ice conditions were not good enough to climb. But AMS instructor that I was, I was determined to provide my students a worthwhile experience, and placed another directional ice screw on rappel on the way down. Once at the base, I discussed a plan to place more ice protection on mock leads on the way up the flow, and hopefully reach the top. I asked what student would like to go first, and Jan Rous gallantly volunteered. A tough looking Czech, he had much rock experience, and some on ice. After I explained the plan, I stepped back to my pack to organize the gear for the exercise.

As I was fumbling around in my pack, I heard a loud, unexpected swooshing sound, and looked up to see the sky immediately above me full of slush and chunks of ice raining down. Expecting some major impact, I ducked in towards the snow, hunkering down to lessen my exposure. In a few seconds it was over, but the shock of the experience was not. No one else had been struck but me, but now clearly alarmed at the danger we were in, I loudly exclaimed to the class to pack up and get out of this danger zone. No one saw the avalanche as it happened, but it must have been some ice that was or near the top of the ice wall above me, since above that is a flat area.

Fortunately, nothing else came down as we all packed up our gear, and moved over to a gully on the right side. In this safe zone, the class was still able to practice using a mechanical ascender on a fixed line, one of the drills. Meanwhile, I hiked up to the anchor again to clean it, rap down and retrieve the rope. As we were hiking out, we saw some of the larger ice chunks that had come down, the largest the size of a big microwave. We were lucky that day. And I learned a lesson the hard way to not attempt to anything on ice that in such marginal condition.

The next day was blissfully uneventful and genuinely fun. We went to the East Portal of Moffat Tunnel, near Rollinsville, where the ice is quite shaded, faces northwest and sees almost no sun. It is a smaller area, but it was enough to share between our group and another climbing party. Here we were able to conduct all the drills for the Ice Clinic: climbing on top rope, mock leading on top rope (optional), placing and retrieving ice screws, making V thread anchors, and ascending and descending a fixed line with a mechanical ascender.

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Rob Dunkel, assistant instructor, starts up leading the ice pitch. Kahle Toothill turned around as I took the photo. 

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Daniil Gladkov, Chris Marchbanks and Ben Feinstein enjoying the start of the clinic.

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Jordan Holquist intently belaying a climber above, and Scott Edlin shows Kahle Toothill about ice screws in the background. 

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Jennifer Buechler practices descending a fixed line with a Petzl ascender…which is trickier than it looks!

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Jordan Holdquist takes a lap, as Rob, Daniil and Chris observe. (A second, non-CMC group is climbing on the right.)

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Chris Marchbanks puts full body weight on his V thread anchor, as instructor Scott Edlin looks on

Next weekend will be the last exercise for the AMS students, climbing a Fourteener in winter with a required overnight campsite. I wish them all a safe and successful trip!

 

 

CMC + NSP Avalanche Course Recap

January 12, 2017

This past weekend, the National Ski Patrol and CMC geared up and headed outside for two full field days to conclude the Level 1 avalanche course.

Day 1: Saturday, January 7. Instructors and students headed to St. Mary’s Glacier for a day of analyzing snowpits, using beacons to locate buried beacons and learning about decision-making in avalanche terrain.

Day 2: Sunday, January 8. A much longer hike into the backcountry along the Second Creek Trail on the north side of Berthoud Pass led instructors and students into a winter wonderland (pictured below).

Students rotated between stations that focused on analyzing snowpits, making good decisions, finding beacons, immediate search training and complex immediate searches. The final exercise (complex immediate searches) acted as real-life scenarios with multiple burials–beacons and wetsuits were buried in the snow and students were instructed to locate them as quickly and efficiently as possible in the midst of chaos.

At the end of the long, snowy day, students were given certificates of completion at the trailhead, while instructors were applauded for their hard work and dedication.

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Along the Second Creek Trail on the north side of Berthoud Pass

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Instructor Jordan Lipp (left) teaches students how to dig and analyze snowpits to study the many layers

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Students got down on their hands and knees when they approached buried beacons, before they started digging to find them

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Instructor Cindy Gagnon (right) teaches students how to read the information displayed on their beacons before beginning another beacon-finding exercise

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Instructor Lin Ballard points to avalanche terrain, explaining to students how to identify dangerous slopes and estimate safe distances from them

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The view from Broome Hut along Second Creek Trail on the north side of Berthoud Pass. Students traveled up to the hut during one of their rotations to study the terrain and (thankfully) warm up for a few minutes.

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The weekend concluded with the presentation of certificates to students and applause for the volunteer instructors.

Denver Group is Bringing Climbing Self-Rescue 2 Class to Boulder

January 12, 2017

Jerry Allen and Bill Haneghan of the Denver Group will be teaching this advanced rock climbing self-rescue class in the Boulder clubroom on 3/21 and 3/23 with a field trip on 3/25. They’ll teach skills to help you get out of difficult situations, using only the people in your group and the gear you have with you. The class size is very limited, and we’re especially interested in enrolling Boulder group members who have an interest in teaching this class as one of our offerings in the future. If you fit that description, please contact brs@cmcboulder.org.

Wilderness First Aid Class in the Boulder Clubroom Feb 4-5

January 12, 2017

WFA is a great way to prepare yourself for outings in the backcountry and nearby parks and instill confidence in your first aid skills. This two-day class is being offered at a deeply discounted rate of only $75. WFA is now a requirement for trip leaders including senior class instructors, and they will be given priority to register for the class until Jan 15th with a passcode available from chair@cmcboulder.org. After that it’s open to everyone, space permitting. For more info, visit the state website here.

Spring/Summer 2017 Boulder Mountaineering School Open for Registration

January 12, 2017

This spring, we have a full slate of classes to teach hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and snow travel skills! Our goal is to help you enjoy the mountains with a better focus on safety, preparation and stewardship. For more information and a complete list of classes please see our website here. Registration limited so sign up early. Also, if you’ve taken any of these classes before and would like to volunteer to help teach, please email brs@cmcboulder.org. Hope to see you in school!