Mountaineering and Denali Prep Course

Colorado offers excellent terrain in which to teach mountaineering skills applicable to a big, glaciated peak—and (for most people) it’s much easier to access than Alaska. While the high alpine mountains surrounding Telluride don’t hold glaciers on their flanks, we can still practice glacier travel, rescue, and risk mitigation techniques in slightly lower consequence terrain. The San Juan Mountains also offer a great opportunity to test fitness at altitude and practice many of the skills necessary for a big mountain objective.

Our highly experienced, AMGA trained or certified guides share knowledge they have learned over years guiding mountains in Alaska, South America, and the Himalaya to teach a curriculum designed to help the novice mountaineers learn the skills required to travel competently in an alpine environment. Climbers are welcome to travel on either backcountry skis, splitboard or snowshoes.

Skills and Topics Covered:

  • Camp selection and fortification, winter camp craft, Leave No Trace ethics

  • Movement and efficiency when snow climbing

  • Ice axe and crampon use, and techniques when traveling in different terrain

  • Self-arrest techniques

  • Intro to anchors and belay techniques

  • Roped travel and roped team management

  • Route planning, navigation, and route finding

  • Avalanche hazard assessment and mitigation considerations

  • Glaciology discussion

  • Crevasse rescue

  • Personal maintenance in cold environments

  • Survival techniques

To make a reservation, please inquire with the Mountain Trip office at [email protected] or (970) 369-1153.

The following is a general list of required gear for Mountaineering Courses in Colorado with Mountain Trip. Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience in the mountains. Please plan the purchase of clothing and boots ahead of your course so you can be certain everything fits and functions correctly. Descending a peak is not the place to discover your old shell is no longer waterproof or your boots give you blisters.

Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides. We have used and have faith in all of the gear below.

Please follow this list closely and feel free to reach out for clarifications about anything you are considering. There is a good selection of gear available in Telluride, but if you plan to purchase items from local shops, please plan ahead and order any items that are size-specific. Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your course.

Print Equipment


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking SocksMost trekkers prefer a light to medium weight, wool or wool/synthetic blend sock for use with trekking shoes. For longer treks bring a pair to change into every 2-3 days.
Trekking Shoes or Boots for ColoradoComfortable, well broken in trekking shoes or lightweight boots will work for approaching climbs, the Telluride Via Ferrata or climbing 14ers. Good traction is important for all of the above. Contact our office for more detailed advice!

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers. Long sleeve or short sleeve base layers work well.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece hoody and wind shell, and it is often layered underneath your expedition parka. Synthetic is easier to deal with and not worry about getting wet than a similar down filled layer. A hood on this layer in mandatory! *** Guides Tip! Use two lightweight puffy layers in the early season or if you are worried about being cold. A Micro or Nano Puff jacket with a Ultra Light Down Jacket or Vest allows versatile layering options.
“T” or Sun ShirtSynthetic or synthetic/cotton blend shirts are nice for hiding from the sun. Long sleeve "sun hoodies" are becoming increasingly popular, as they provide a high level of sun protection. Other people favor ventilated, button up shirts- either long or short-sleeved. Whatever you choose, consider it as part of your system, and try it out before your trip.
Rain Jacket for ColoradoA rain shell can be your most important layer as we often experience afternoon showers during the summer months in Colorado. It should be packable and in good working order meaning that, in addition to being waterproof, it still has a functional water repellent finish and beads water on the surface of the fabric.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Hard Shell, Waterproof PantsWhen it's raining a soft shell pant just isn't enough and you'll need a waterproof "hard shell" pant, meaning Gore-Tex or equivalent. These should be as light weight as possible. Fully separating side zippers will help you get them on without taking off your boots. On some peaks, you might carry hard shell pants for the lower mountain, but switch to soft shell pants for the colder and drier upper mountain.
UnderwearConsider synthetic or Merino wool for your underwear. Most longer trips, such as Aconcagua or Denali, typically require 3-4 pair, but choose your quantity based on your personal level of comfort.
Lightweight Softshell Trekking PantsA lightweight synthetic softshell pant is a great layer that you'll wear every day on a trek or for an ascent of a peak. These are water resistant, breathable and comfortable in a wide range of weather and temps.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Light Weight GlovesWhen the sun comes out on a glacier, the temperature can soar. Light weight, soft shell gloves are great for keeping the sun off your hands, while still giving you a bit of protection from the wind and cold.
Buff Neck GaiterBuff is a brand of light weight neck gaiters that have grown to become a staple of every guide's kit. These are amazingly versatile, and can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter or pulled over your face for protection from the wind or sun. They come in many thicknesses nowadays, but we prefer the original weight for its versatility.
Warm HatBring one warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or fleece are fine, but your hat must provide ear protection from the cold.
Sun HatBaseball type or wide brimmed sun hats are required for protection against the intense sunshine found on many peaks. You can combine a baseball hat with a BUFF for good sun protection or go for a wide brimmed version to protect your face, ears and neck.
SunglassesSunglasses are essential in the mountains. Choose a pair that are comfortable and provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.

Sleeping Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Inflatable Sleeping PadInflatable pads have improved tremendously in recent years, they are the foundation of a warm and comfortable night!
0 degree Sleeping BagYou'll want a bag rated to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer if you tend to sleep cold. Down or synthetic will work fine, although down is lighter and more compact for traveling and packing.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking BackpackYour pack size will ultimately be dependent on the length of your intended trip, but in general, a 45-60 liter backpack will fork well for overnight and multi-day treks. Light is right! Look for a pack weighing around five pounds or LESS.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking Poles(Lightweight)Trekking poles can be helpful for long days on the trail and help take some strain off of aching joints going downhill! These are typically lighter weight than a ski pole, and have a smaller basket as you don't use them in deep snow.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Stuff SacksWe are fans of the very light stiff sacks made from Sil Nylon fabric. Bring enough for your clothes and personal items. Light, zippered stuff bags are really nice for toiletries.
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
Large Plastic BowlBowls are much easier to use and are much more versatile than are plates. Bring a 2-4 cup camping bowl or a plastic "Rubbermaid" style container for your mountain dining.
Insulated Cup or MugA 12 - 16 ounce (350-500 Ml) mug with an attached lid will help keep you hydrated. The Kleen Kanteen Insulated Bottle with the "Cafe Cap" is pretty nifty, as it is a mug and a thermos all in one!
Lexan SpoonA soup spoon made from Lexan will survive most trips and is more useful and versatile than a fork or even a "spork." Mark your spoon with your initials to keep spoon rustlers at bay.
Toiletry KitTooth brush & paste, dental floss, Handi-wipes (1 per day on average), a small bottle of hand sanitizer, perhaps some foot powder… keep it small!!!
CameraMost climbers these days use their phone as a camera, but if you plan to bring a dedicated camera, consider a small, light weight point and shoot camera. If you are a photography buff and really want to bring a DSLR, plan for that extra weight with your training!
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
SunscreenThe sun can be intense in Colorado, so please apply high SPF sunscreen prior to your trip and bring a small tube along to reapply during the day.
HeadlampBring an extra set of batteries, as well. Lithium batteries work the best in cold weather!! For some trips (Carstensz, Everest, Cho Oyu) where we will be frequently climbing at night a second headlamp is a good idea, and always bring extra batteries!

Day 1 – Goals: Introduction to anchors and belay techniques, route planning, navigation.

Day one is meant to lay a framework upon which we will build upon in the following days. It is primarily meant as a skills day and to allow less acclimatized climbers to acclimate a bit to the altitude before heading into the mountains the following day. The focus will be on a learning a variety of knots, belay techniques, anchor construction, crampon technique, and how to apply these skills in different mountain environments.

After our session during the day, we will recess to a Forest Service cabin for the night, where we will have an evening lesson covering route planning and basic navigation. Our focus in the evening will be on planning our ascents in the following days. The techniques we will use for tour planning and time estimation can be used in a variety of mountainous areas. We will double check our gear, develop a plan for the following day, and eat a great dinner while enjoying being in the mountains in our rustic cabin.

Day 2 – Goals: Camp selection and fortification, camp craft, Leave No Trace ethics, ice axe and crampon use, travel techniques for different different terrain, self arrest techniques, avalanche hazard assessment, mitigation considerations.

Today we will wake up early and get a jump on the day, moving up into the mountains to establish a high camp in the San Juan Range. This will be a big day in which we will cover a large amount of information en route to camp.

Our evening discussion will focus on preparing for the following day’s ascent of a nearby peak and how we will approach the act of climbing the mountain. Our goal as guides and educators is to let the participants make as many of the decisions as possible and help participants apply the skills they have learned or are working on.

Day 3Goals: Movement and efficiency when snow climbing, roped travel, roped team management, personal maintenance in cold environments, crevasse rescue.

Our plan for this day is to attempt our chosen objective and apply the skills we have been learning to have a great time climbing a big, cold mountain! This will involve an early start and a full day of skill application en route to a classic San Juan summit. Depending on weather and motivation levels, we might be able to head for another objective in the afternoon.

Day 4Goals: Glaciology discussion, survival techniques.

Our final day will also give us a chance to answer any lingering questions about what was covered in the previous day’s instruction. We will review some survival skills that are good to have in your tool kit, break down camp, and head back down to the trailhead.

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