Posted by Doug Sr, 01-15-06
I talked with several guide companies last season and felt a very short class to explain and teach the basic skills of snow travel was needed. With the winter coverage the course could be taught near many cities.

My thought was bring the skill level to the point where the person would know advanced skills would be needed to travel across steep terrain ie ice ax crampons snowshoes and winter survial skills. Similar to a hiker that travels on developed trails and decides to start cross country travel including third class scrambling.

This would be a great service to the spring hikers in the Sierra and a tool for people that want to enjoy winter travel.

I read of many accidents during the winter that appear the person had very limited or any snow skill training and is caught unable to return to the car and spends the night out.

The Southern Ca. mountains are great in the winter but are real winter mountaineering challenges, as we see from the trip reports and the accidents covered in the papers.

If any one knows of courses please post Thanks Doug

Posted by Ken, 01-15-06
Doug, that is a great concept. Last year, I went to the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO), near the border with Mexico.

As we know, last year was a heavier than average snow year, and I was profoundly impressed by the number of people about to head into the wilds of snow, lacking even the most basic skills in snow.

I talked to the organizers, and also to Kurt, to see if there was some way to have a clinic, perhaps the day before the gathering for 2006. Still in process. Location is an issue.
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.

Posted by gregf, 01-15-06
Follow on to Doug's question - I need to take such a course and am hoping someone can recommend a guide school in the Salt Lake area, where I'll be, 2nd week of March.

Posted by Hiiker, 01-15-06
This may answer your question's. Go to the below link. I don't know anything about this outfit, maybe there's others out there that can tell us a little bit about them.


Posted by Gusto, 01-15-06
Doug and Fellow Winter Explorers,

The Sierra Club runs a course called WTC, which covers basic snow travel with snowshoes, how to traverse somewhat steeper slopes using your poles across your body, and how to stay "in balance," all accompanied with basic winter camping/backpacking skills. This is just one of the features of the WTC outfit. All instructors are volunteers, and all that I have met show a genuine interest in instructing their students. Classes are offered all around different parts of Los Angeles and Orange County. Here is the link:

For those people wanting to learn basic snow travel with ice axe and crampons, the aforementioned link to Sierra Mountaineering International is a good choice.

Kurt Wedberg leads this outfit and he, along with his staff, are very competent in what they teach. As a bonus for WTC graduates, in the past the folks at SMI have offered their introductory mountaineering course at a discount (last year it was $150 for a 2 day course - this was the discounted price). This covered basic rope travel, running belays, how to travel with crampons, self arrest, and basic crevasse rescue.

In essence, for those people looking for the "basics" of travel, the WTC course is a gem. 10 weeks of instruction, plus outings, for right around $200 is a steal. Anyone who thinks otherwise should look for a private guide who will instruct them for 2 hours per week AND take them on 2 weekend trips AND a 3 day winter backpacking trip in the Sierra (all covered under the ~ $200). If anyone finds a guide willing to do this, make sure to post it on this board.

I am not saying that the SMI courses are overpriced either. They are worth every penny. The material learned from both courses is, in my eyes, very valuable for the backcountry traveler.

I write this as a former participant in both of these courses. You can read "Mountaineering:Freedom of the Hills" all you want, but nothing matches hands-on instruction from people who are competent in that field. I highly recommend either of these two for anyone interested in backcountry travel.

Hope that helps!


Posted by Sierra Cement, 01-16-06
Doug, Ken, and others:

It looks like Kurt is giving some Mt. Whitney clinics at Adventure 16 stores starting tomorrow night. Perhaps he will have information with him about some Snow Travel courses. Reading his web site it looks like SMI offers a couple great options depending on what people want to do: everything from one day snow travel and/or snow anchors and crevasse rescue, to 5 day mountaineering skills seminars. They even do backcountry skiing courses, which seems to be a big topic on other threads here:

If you are referring to some other course that what is listed I would think if you came to the clinic you could talk to him and he could probably design a custom course, or at least offer the same course on a certain date if it is not advertised.

It is just a thought but he seems to accommodate lots of groups and special requests. He also seems to really care about answering all the questions he gets at his shows too.

See you all at the clinics!

Posted by AsABat, 01-16-06
Ken and all,
I would be very open to having Kurt or someone similarly qualified make a presentation on safe snow travel at the ADZPCTKO. It would fit our mission perfectly. The only downside is there won't be any snow there. Still, let me know and I'll put you in touch with our presentation coordinator.

Posted by Ken, 01-16-06
I talked with Strider last year and still think it is a good idea. As I discussed it with Kurt, the issue of the snow came up....only thing we could think of was doing it on San Jacinto the day before the Kick-off, for those who had an interest.

Posted by AsABat, 01-16-06
Ken, I'll follow up off list.

Posted by gregf, 01-20-06
Those of you lucky enough to be near Kurt, Sierra Mountaineering and the Sierra Range are living charmed lives.

For everyone else it's a different story. Here in the DFW area there's only one legitimate backcountry / mountaineering group and no mountains or snow. The local mountaineering group is very skilled and credentialed and they suggested these schools (to get the skills Doug recommends and I need) if you're unable to get to Kurt-land:

American Alpine Inst. - Pac Northwest -
Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School - eastern US -
RMI - Pac Northwest -

My problem is none of them operate in Salt Lake where I'll be in March.

These schools say they operate in / near Salt Lake. Does anyone know anything about them???

Colorado Mountain School -
Exum Utah Mountain Adventures -
Front Range Climbing Company -
Paragon Climbing -
Tower Guides -


Posted by Kurt Wedberg, 01-20-06

I personally know a couple of the guides who work at Colorado Mountain School. I don't know everyone on their staff but the ones I do know are solid. I don't know what they're scheduled is for your time period but I can help you find out. Drop me an email and I can follow up with you and put you in touch with someone who can take care of you.

All the best,

Kurt Wedberg

Posted by cloudrippr, 01-21-06
FYI ........... the Sierra Club WTC does not teach axe and crampon useage due to insurance issues. However, some of the WTC instructors provide training to students from WTC with axe and crampons outside of the Sierra Club umbrella. After getting some training and practice, you might check out the S.C. Angeles Chapter practice sessions for those that are preparing for the Snow portion of 'M' level leader qualifying. Check out their web page for the schedule. You will be required to provide a resume prior to acceptance to the practice sessions.

Posted by 67brickie, 01-23-06
gregf - don't know about mountaineering schools in SLC (so obviously take Kurt's advice and input) but do be sure to eat at the Old Salt City Jail while you're there - it's a great steak house set up on a bluff overlooking the city, and it really is housed in the old city jail with neat historic items and trivia.
And listen, since I'm responsible for putting you on to the June AHS Whitney trip, you be darn sure you're fully informed, adequately skilled and stay safe! I hope to see some smiling-face photos from the Summit as your reward....good luck friend.

Posted by gregf, 01-24-06
brickie - thanks for the suggestions (all) and I'm with you completely on training and safety skills.

Soon the board will be peppered with questions as to whether or not crampons are necessary. I noticed a pattern, having searched the board since inception (including the instance of the guy who died glissading last fall). Most people have the sense to turn back on the way up if conditions begin to threaten, but a lot of problems seem to occur after someone gets to a dangerous spot, conditions change, and then they can't get down.

In past posts, the experienced mountaineers clearly understand the "cost / benefit" of crampons / appropriate skills. If you were traveling and had a choice of Bus A, with a 10% chance of a fatal crash, and Bus B with essentially no chance of a crash who would get on Bus A? The cost is some training, equipment rental / purchase, a little bit of added weight on your back. The benefit is your life.

This is surely the reason Doug started this thread. The right training can save lives and enhance an already mystical experience.

Posted by walt, 01-24-06

Prolific words...


Posted by gregf, 02-07-06
More info on various winter training schools in different places...

Thanks to Kurt's suggestions I contacted one of his recommendations, Colorado Mountain School. For anyone living in Colorado or visiting there, this is an excellent choice. They are the Rocky Mountain National Park's exclusive climbing concessionaire and the largest climbing guide service in Colorado. They are American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) accredited and many of their guides are AMGA certified. They regularly climb Eldorado Canyon, the Flatirons, Boulder Canyon, Estes Park and Lumpy Ridge, and a variety of venues in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Unfortunately, they do not operate in Utah. However, CMS recommended Exum Guides. ( Exum Mountain Guides is an authorized concession and a permittee of Grand Teton National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming State Parks and Historical Sites, Custer State Park, City of Rocks National Monument, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The biographies of their guides (online) are extraordinary and they also operate out of Salt Lake, although their headquarters is in Moose, Wyoming.

I wish I could have rescheduled my calendar and gone instead to Bishop and visited Kurt...maybe next year.

If anyone knows of other places to learn, please post. We have a lot of coverage in this thread from the east to the Pac northwest and lots in the middle. I'll post my experience with Exum but if anyone has anything to add it can only help.

Posted by Sierra Sam, 02-07-06

I've met and climbed with some of the Exum guides and they were first rate. There was an article about Exum in Outside Mag last year that will give you a good sense of what they are about:

Posted by gregf, 02-15-06
Having spent a good bit of time trying to price and schedule non-Sierra training (Exum and CMS) and after reading the thread "Kurt's Avi Clinic 2/11-12, Bishop" by Ken, the conclusion is simple...take Kurt's courses. It's pretty clear this is the best deal, high quality, and also suports a significant contributor to this community.

I'm stunned by the number of people I meet here in Texas who've never been to the Sierra who say "I've heard of {{fill in the blank - Doug, Bob R, Kurt}}". The comments are all good. The peers in the Rockies all say the same thing. I wish I'd been able to schedule the 2/11-12 clinic instead of what I'm wrestling with now.

Kurt - what would be really helpful is a long term schedule on your web site, or an email broadcast, etc. Do you have any similar training courses scheduled for the near future?

Posted by Kurt Wedberg, 02-15-06

I have an email list that I'll be happy to put you on. Please send me an email to

For the short term we still have avalanche courses scheduled. The next one is March 4-5.

For dates on future courses... look at the SMI web site and figure out what you are interested in and when you want to do them. I'll make sure our future calendar includes whatever date(s) you want and that will be part of our upcoming offerings.

Let me know your thoughts and I'll look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,


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