The five-day Mountaineering Development Series course is the perfect introduction to mountaineering. Don’t let the winter months keep you inside. With plenty of climbing and skills work, individuals will learn the basic of mountaineering. Start with snow travel skills – such as travelling as a roped team, techniques for walking in crampons, using a mountaineering axe properly and self-arresting a fall. – and end the course doing a big mountaineering route in Rocky Mountain National Park. This course is a great first step towards winter ascents, glaciated peaks, and expeditions.
All of our courses can be run as custom outings. If you’re interested in a course, but it doesn’t fit into your schedule, please check out our custom guiding options.
Rocky Mountain National Park provides excellent terrain for learning mountaineering skills at any time of the year. Depending on your own personal goals, climbing conditions may affect which time of year you decide to enroll.
May through early July: The best time for snow climbing in Colorado. The mountaineering program this time of year is prime for alpine snow and couloir climbing.
July through November: Much of the seasonal snow has melted by this time of year and all that remains are the perennial snowfields. Largely, the mountaineering courses during this time are centered on rock skills with 3rd/4th class terrain management being the focus. Snow can still be found at times, but can sometimes be difficult to reach and is never guaranteed.
December through February: Winter in the Colorado Front Range. The focus of the mountaineering program during this time is winter travel skills. Often times snow conditions are 1) Too unconsolidated to provide any option for true snow climbing and 2) Too dangerous from an avalanche hazard perspective to venture onto steep snow slopes. The course is centered on mixed rock, snow and ice objectives in a wintry environment.
March and April: March and April can be hit or miss for prime snow conditions. Often times the Front Range receives large spring storms that can make snow climbing unreasonable or we can benefit from warmer temperatures creating good snow climbing conditions on particular aspects. This time of year, the focus of the program could be on snow climbing or rock-centric depending on conditions, which are often quite variable.
Day 1: Snow travel skills – Learn how to travel as a roped team, including belaying, techniques for efficient travel in crampons and using a mountaineering axe.
Day 2: Climb a route – We’ve covered a lot of great skills on day one, now let’s put them to use. We’ll head out and climb a route that best suits the group and conditions.
Day 3: Rock climbing skills or ice climbing – If ice is available, the group will learn the skills needed to climb technical ice. If ice hasn’t formed, we’ll focus on skills needed to climb rock and mixed routes in winter conditions.
Day 4: Navigation/route preparation – After three days of climbing and working on skills, it is time for a bit of a break (physically). Navigation is a necessary skill to have if you plan on spending any time in the mountains. We’ll work on map and compass skills and prep for our big climb the next day.
Day 5: Mountaineering Objective – Time to head in and do a big mountaineering route. We’ll utilize all the skills we learned over the past 4 days.
Colorado Mountain School
341 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517
If you require lodging at our Estes Park Adventure Hostel, please make your reservations online in advance. Beds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Our hostel features 16 beds in 3 rooms, bathrooms, showers, a full kitchen with appliances, dishes and utensils, wi-fi, ping-pong table, and a lounge area. Please be considerate of others lodgers during your stay.
We believe that your training is best taught by combining theoretical concepts and experiential learning. Some topics are best learned in a comfortable classroom setting and others in the mountains, moving through terrain. You’ll have both.
The first portion of your course will be conducted in a classroom setting. In the interest of health and safety for our students and instructors, classroom format for the 2020/21 season may include e-learning and/or group video discussions in an effort to limit close contact in closed spaces.
The majority of your course will take place in the mountains where we will learn in an open-air environment. You should be prepared, mentally and physically, to stay immersed in the backcountry for up to eight hours. You will be assigned to a small pod consisting of one Instructor and a maximum of six students to allow intimate instruction and physical distancing.The nature of this pandemic requires us to be flexible and adaptable in how we deliver a quality training experience. Rest assured, from the moment you enroll all the way up to your course field day(s) and beyond, our instructors will be a part of your learning progression and will provide you with the tools and resources you need to best prepare for your training. If you’d like to learn more about what we are doing to manage COVID-19 risk for our students and guides, please view our FAQ page.
All Upcoming Dates and Locations:
- November 18, 2023 - November 22, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- December 2, 2023 - December 6, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- December 16, 2023 - December 20, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- January 6, 2024 - January 10, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- February 3, 2024 - February 7, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- February 24, 2024 - February 28, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- March 23, 2024 - March 27, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- April 20, 2024 - April 24, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- May 4, 2024 - May 8, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- May 18, 2024 - May 22, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- May 25, 2024 - May 29, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- June 1, 2024 - June 5, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- June 15, 2024 - June 19, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- June 29, 2024 - July 3, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- July 13, 2024 - July 17, 2024 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- June 3, 2023 - June 7, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- June 17, 2023 - June 21, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- July 1, 2023 - July 5, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
- July 15, 2023 - July 19, 2023 - Mountaineering Development Series: Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
welmakerj (verified owner) –
This course was amazing! I took it during the last week in May and the conditions were perfect. It is a great introduction course for mountaineering. My guide was Mia Tucholke. She was a true professional and very knowledgeable in this field. If you are looking to hire a guide, I would definitely go with her!
Sanjee Choudhuri (verified owner) –
Overview: I did the 5-day Mountaineering Development Series Level 1 course through the Colorado Mountain School led by Max Lurie and found it to be an incredible introductory course to learn the basics of snow climbing, technical rock climbing, and other soft skills such as navigation, knowledge of tools/equipment in a relatively safe and controlled manner while still pushing our limits to learn more. If you are someone interested in learning about mountaineering in a hands-on environment I cannot recommend the 5-day course enough.
Full Review: I took the Mountaineering Development Series Level 1 course in May 2021 and found the experience very useful and rewarding. I have been hiking, including thru-hiking, for a few years but I have never seriously rock climbed or snow climbed and signed up for the course to learn more with some goals of climbing Mt. Rainer or similar peaks. Our class size was six people ranging from completely new beginners to people with some snow climbing experience. During the course, we varied the topics from the basics of technical rock climbing (tieing in, rappelling, etc) to, basics of snow climbing (mountain ax usage, basic motions, and steps, self-arresting) and then progressed to climbing different gulleys/couloirs in RMNP. I found all of the guides and instructors to have an incredible depth of experience and knowledge. Our lead guide/instructor was Max Lurie, who was able to create a great learning environment where he taught us the basics and gave guidance when necessary but also allowed the space to try things independently and learn at our own pace while practicing skills. When doing more technical/challenging climbs we were joined by a host of other guides: Joey, Tyler, and Ben. By having so many guides we were able to receive individualized help and attention while climbing and helped to mitigate any lack of security or safety that could occur with new climbers. During the entirety of the course, there was not a single moment where I felt unsafe – Max helped to ensure that we were well equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary for everything we did and talked us through the multiple redundancies in place to keep us safe. I climbed specifically with both Joey and Ben as well and found that they were both fantastic guides who were able to answer any questions I had and also were able to even individualize parts of the climb themselves. For example, Ben realized that our rope team enjoyed technical rock climbing so he took us on an alternate route that had more rock climbing on it which ended up being my most exciting and enjoyable moment! Finally, at the end of the course, Max provided great next steps on how to continue our education and possible future goals. After the conclusion of this course, I now feel like I have been equipped with the knowledge necessary to do the following: walk into any outdoor store and know what equipment I need for an objective, climb some simple objectives with like-minded people, and prepare for and climb more difficult objectives with a trained guide (such as Mt. Rainer). These outcomes were more than I expected to receive from just a 5-day course, but that speaks to the experience of the guides not just as climbers but as instructors and teachers. I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in mountaineering from a first-time beginner to a moderately experienced hiker such as myself. Thank you to Max, Joey, Ben, and Tyler for such a great experience!
Jud Strong (verified owner) –
I took the mountaineering level 1 course starting Dec 4, 2021 and found it to be outstanding. My guide, Buster Jesick, a pinned mountaineer was fantastic. Buster’s attention to detail gave me confidence at all times that I was never in great danger. He was very clear and concise as to the proper methods for anchoring, belaying, rappelling, etc. as well as being a thoroughly pleasant and friendly person. With the lack of snow in early winter we focused mostly on rock climbing (my primary interest) and ice climbing. What a challenge and thrill! Everyone I came in contact with was very helpful and friendly and I cannot recommend CMS (and Buster) any more highly! Thank you, I will be back in the spring for the Level 2!