The Many Seasons of CMS

The Colorado Mountain School has available guides year-round for any and all objectives you can dream of that takes place in the Front Range. But just because there’s snow doesn’t necessarily mean rock climbing is out of the picture or that mountaineering is the best way to spend your weekend. Planning for a summer ascent of Mt. Rainier? Or perhaps you’re eager to hone your rock skills for a spring trip to Red Rock? Maybe you’d like to learn how to shred steep couloirs on your shred sticks? Whatever the activity, whatever the season, here’s a simple guide to choosing the right course for your intended goals!Mountaineering

One of Andy’s clients enjoying a snow couloir climb on the North Face of Flattop Mountain.

March-May

Spring time, in my opinion, is the best season in the Front Range for most mountain activities. The temps are warm enough for rock climbing in Eldorado Canyon and cool enough to provide great snow conditions for alpine climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s also a great time to get out, or keep out, your skis as spring snow conditions are generally more stable than in winter. The weather is usually stable enough to allow you to stay out all day without threat of thunderstorms as is the case later in the year.

Some courses CMS offers that are ideal in this season are Intro to Mountaineering, Ski Mountaineering Weekend, Multipitch Clinic, Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Crevasse Rescue. Generally speaking the snow conditions throughout this season provide stability, ideal anchor snow and the weather is warm and stable. In addition to teaching these courses, CMS guides love to guide the classic routes in Lumpy Ridge, Eldorado Canyon and the Flatirons because of the cooler temperatures. This is also prime time to climb big alpine routes like Dreamweaver, Martha and Hallett Chimney.

Rock Climbing Lumpy Ridge
Andy leading the classic “Backflip” on the Left Book in Lumpy Ridge.

June-August 

Summer time brings sweltering temps in and around Boulder but that doesn’t mean rock climbing is totally out of the picture. Often times CMS guides look for shaded routes or higher elevations to provide conducive learning conditions and more comfortable temperatures for the clients. Although the weather in the Front Range can be unstable, this season still provides the best temperatures and conditions for alpine rock climbing and even some alpine snow or ice climbs. Although snow conditions are deteriorating throughout this season, June can still be a great time to ski in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A few courses that are ideal in this season are our Crack Climbing Clinic in Lumpy Ridge, Vedauwoo Intermediate Climbing Clinic, Mountain Navigation, Crevasse Rescue and Intro to Mountaineering. But of course Private Guiding is always an option and, if you’re preparing for an ascent of the Grand Teton or Mt. Baker, this time of year provides ideal conditions for prepping for either of those mountains.

Climbing Vedauwoo
Andy leading a classic Vedauwoo 5.10 in June of 2014.

September-November

With the cooler temps and the changing of the seasons comes “Sendtember” and “Rocktober.” This may very well be our rock climbing oriented guides’ favorite season because of the favorable and stable conditions. Cool temps means you won’t be slipping off the credit card crimps of your newest Boulder Canyon project! And once you’ve sent your project you can shift gears and focus on alpine ice climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. October and November are often times the best months to climb Alexander’s Chimney. The lack of snow yet cold overnight temps is ideal for natural forming ice and approaching climbs with minimal slogging.

We love the fall guiding season in the Front Range! The Flatirons that were closed most of the season because of raptor nesting re-open and these provide some of the most classic, moderately long, multipitch rock climbs in Boulder. A Flatirons or Eldorado Canyon Classic Climb would be an ideal course to take in this season. This is also a great season to enroll in Learn to Lead Trad and Learn to Lead Sport. Comprehensive Rock Rescue, an extremely valuable skill to possess as a climber, is also a great way to spend an autumn weekend. And if you’ve been looking to climb Alexander’s Chimney… this is also the season to tick off a Front Range mega-classic alpine ice route!

Ice Climbing
Andy leading some thin and superficial ice on an early-season day ice climbing in Vail.

December-February

Frigid temps and the prospect of snow get us thinking more and more about skiing and ice climbing. These few months are technically the driest throughout the year but what moisture does fall comes in the form of snow. This new snow allows us to run AIARE courses every weekend starting in December and running through March and into the beginning of April. This is the season to get into backcountry skiing and prepare yourself for said activity by enrolling in an AIARE Level 1 or Level 2. Along with backcountry skiing, this is the season to climb some Front Range ice! The ice in the Front Range comes in around the beginning of December and hangs in there for a few months afterward.

Intro to Ice Climbing, Vertical Ice and Mixed Climbing and AIARE courses are ideal for this season. Courses that are still valuable but are not ideal to enroll in are Intro to Mountaineering. We do have great snow conditions for climbing snow, but often times the snow is unconsolidated and potentially avalanche prone… think Spring for Intro to Mountaineering! Private Guiding is also an option any time of the year and if you’re stoked to climb All Mixed Up, another mega-classic alpine ice route, then this would be the season to do so! Vail is also a popular destination that has regularly consistent ice ready for you to climb!

5 Andy and Gina
Andy and Gina enjoying some early season Vail Ice.