*** Two people are signed up for a one day Mt. Washington ascent on Jan. 5th, looking for two more. Please fill out our contact form if you are interested. ***
***Our January 19-21, 2013 Intro to Mountaineering Course has three people confirmed. Looking for one or two more.***
***Looking for one or two to join three day Intro to Mountaineering Feb. 16-18, 2013***
***Looking for two or three teenagers to join two 14 year olds for a three day Youth Intro to Mountaineering Feb. 17-19, 2013***
***Looking for one or two to join two day Intro to Mountaineering course Feb. 23-24, 2013***
***Looking for one, two or three people to join three day Intro to Mountaineering course Feb. 22-24, 2013***
Please fill out our contact form if you are interested in joining.**
For the 2012/2013 winter season we will be offering our very popular Intro to Mountaineering course weekly from early December through mid April. The three day course will run every week from Friday to Sunday, and the two day course will run each weekend on Saturday and Sunday. We are also happy to set up custom dates any time mid week, whether you are on your own or have your own group. We have several excellent guides on our roster this season in addition to Mark, which means we can essentially customize a course for you or your group according to your individual needs and schedule. We can also teach this course as a one day offering, though obviously we will not be able to cover the full curriculum.
Please note that the course cost includes all of the technical equipment including: mountaineering boots, crampons, ice axe, harness and helmet. However, we do not offer a discount if you have your own gear. We offer this equipment free of charge because we do not want a lack of gear to inhibit someone from getting into this sport. If you need some clothing, we do rent some items such as jackets, gloves and mitts. Please note that pants are no longer available for rent - you will need to provide your own.
Here’s a sample itinerary for a three day intro to mountaineering course.
We either meet in town or up in Crawford Notch at Willey’s Slide. The usual meeting time is 8:30am. After getting outfitted with boots, crampons, axes, harnesses and helmets, we’ll hike up to the base of the slide which takes about twenty minutes. At the base of the slide we stop at a flat, safe area off to the side where we put on our harnesses, crampons and helmets. Typically the very first thing we’ll do is an introduction to walking and climbing on snow with crampons on. We’ll cover the basics you’ll need to know like French technique, piolet traction, front pointing, plunge stepping, etc. We will quickly add a mountaineering ice axe into the equation and you’ll learn the various axe techniques which match with the different foot techniques. We’ll talk about how to carry and grip the tool (self arrest versus self belay, pick or adze forward), caning, high and low dagger, as well as a discussion of ice axes in general and how to choose the right tool.
Once we have covered the basics of French Technique we usually will move straight into self arrest practice. The snow slope at the bottom of Willey’s Slide is absolutely perfect for this exercise. To avoid injury we remove our crampons, then we’ll practice sliding down in various positions, then rolling into self arrest and aggressively digging the pick of the tool into the snow. You’ll practice this in the sitting position, then we’ll try it head first (on your chest, then back), and by the end of the practice session most people are relatively proficient at this important skill.
The next thing we’ll do is break out the rope and if you haven’t used one before we’ll go over your tie-in (figure eight), belay techniques, and a quick introduction to snow and ice anchors. The second half of the day is spent putting your newly learned skills to the test on an ascent of Willey’s Slide. The climb is about 600 feet long and several hundred feet wide. We typically climb together on the lower section, which is low-angle snow, then on the steeper upper section we belay three pitches with the rope. Depending on how hard we want to make it, we can do the entire ascent on steep snow or we can take a more direct line up the middle where you’ll get a small taste of swinging the axe into blue waterfall ice.
Along the way you’ll learn how to move efficiently over various types of terrain, and how to apply the right technique in the right place. The belays will all be nice ledges where I will hook you into the anchor before heading up the next pitch. After I reach the next ledge, I will put you on belay, you’ll remove the ice screw belay and climb up to me. This outing gives you a great first introduction to ropework and rope management.
At the top we’ll talk about the climb and you’ll get an overall critique of your climbing technique, then we will choose from a couple or different descent possibilities. One option is to rappel off trees at the top, then continue rappelling down the ice with the use of v-threads (tubes we drill into the ice with ice screws). Alternately we can scramble down trails in the woods on either side of the main flow. Both of these trails eventually bring you back onto the lower snow apron where we’ll practice downclimbing, glissading and more self arrest.
If your course includes an overnight, we normally head up onto Mt. Washington on day two. Your day will start at the Pinkham Notch Visitor center where we’ll carefully look over our gear, making sure we have the essentials and nothing more. This will include a careful analysis of our food, stove and fuel. After a quick review of the day’s avalanche and weather forecast, we’ll hike the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail and set up a camp either at the Hermit Lake area or outside the Harvard Cabin below Huntington Ravine (these are the only two places we are allowed to camp on the mountain).
Typically the approach to camp will take around 1.5-2 hours, and then another hour to get camp set up. If everything goes according to schedule, we should have camp established and be ready to continue on into one of the ravines by 11am. Next we’ll hike up into either Tuckerman or Huntington Ravine where we’ll pick up your apprenticeship where we left off. Activities for the afternoon could include a number of different options such as: an easy gully climb like Left Gully in Tuckermans or South or Central Gully in Huntington; an intro to glacier travel/crevasse rescue; toprope ice climbing on the Yale Ice Bulge or one of the various flows in Tuckermans, or an introduction to avalanche awareness and an analysis of the snowpack and it’s stability or lack thereof. The afternoon typically goes by fast and by dark we will be heading back to camp.
At the bivi we’ll talk about stove use, economizing fuel, fire safety, and how to get your gear dried out for the next day. You’ll probably also be forced to listen to some of my stories, as over the years I’ve had just about everything go wrong that possibly could.
The plan for day three is to attempt a climb to the summit. The route we take will depend on a lot of factors including how you have progressed up to this point, and the weather. If we are feeling ambitious we’ll head into Huntington Ravine and climb one of the classic gullies all the way up to the Alpine Garden. This could be anything from mostly snow climbing in Central gully, to the 900-foot Damnation gully, which has everything from steep snow, to ice to easy mixed – all within a gun barrel of a couloir which will make you feel like you are in the Rockies or the Alps. From the Alpine Garden we will head straight up the summit cone, using lots of French Technique.
Alternate routes we could take to the summit include Tuckerman Ravine (by any of the gullies or even an ice line up center headwall) or the Lion’s Head Winter Route (see the description in the course listings). After what will hopefully be a successful trip to the summit, we’ll descend via the Lion’s Head trail back our camp, break it down, then continue on to Pinkham Notch.
** It is important to note that often times during the winter the avalanche conditions can be unreasonably high in both Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine. At these times it is usually still possible to climb Mt. Washington via Lion’s Head, but the gullies in the ravines will be off limits. Under these circumstances, we can either choose to continue with the ascent via Lion’s Head or we can always bail on Mt. Washington and conduct days two and three in Crawford Notch. There are many excellent options in Crawford Notch including Frankenstein Cliff, the gullies of Mt. Webster and the multi-pitch alpine climbs on Mt. Willard such as Cinema Gully, Hitchcock Gully, Cauliflower Gully, or the East Face Slabs. One itinerary I particularly enjoy is an ascent of Cinema Gully, finishing with the east face slabs which we follow to the summit of Mt. Willard. From the summit we pick up a trail which goes down the backside via a 1.5 mile trail which takes us right back to the car. Another great option when the snow conditions are good is Central Couloir, a 2000-foot gully with everything from steep snow to ice, with a long descent down the Webster Cliff trail. There are also many great spots in Crawford Notch where we can work extensively on crevasse rescue. **
Our rates are done by the day and are directly related to the number of people in your group. Heres is the breakdown:
Private (one person): $275
Group of two: $185 each
Group of three: $155 each
Group of four: $140 each
Group of five: $125 each
Although our most popular version of this course is the three day, please note that this course can also be done as two days. If your course includes an overnight, there is an additional fee, which breaks down as follows:
Private: $125 per person, per night
Group of two: $100 pp
Group of three: $75 pp
Group of four: $60 pp
Group of five: $50 pp
Overnight fees includes a guide, the loan of tents, stoves, fuel, the forest service camping fee, plus one dinner and breakfast. Overnight fees do not include sleeping bags and pads. SMG has 0F down bags available for $15/night. Ensolite pads are $5/night. You are responsible for your lunch and snack food. If you are unsure what kind of food to bring, contact us and we’ll help you make a food list.
It is not always possible to guarantee how many people will sign up for a given course, so it is best for us if you can be somewhat flexible in terms of the participant to guide ratio, and the course cost. If you do choose to join a group course, rest assured we will do our absolute best to team you up with people with whom you will be compatible. But also know that this can be challenging, particularly when working with people who we haven't met before. Please contact us for more info.
Other Mountaineering Courses: