Alaska Mountaineering School
" Everything was great — I learned more over the past week than in 10 years of climbing with other guide services. "
— Eric Beyer, 6 day Mountaineering Course
" Fantastic course! Instructors were amazing... learned a tremendous amount of skills for the backcountry. Looking forward to Denali! "
— Ken White, 6 Day Mountaineering Course
" I felt 100% comfortable with my guides even when dangling 15 feet below the lip of a crevasse. My only complaint... I should have taken the 12 day course. "
— Stuart Pearce, 6 day MTC

6 Day Mountaineering Course

The six-day mountaineering course introduces people with little or no climbing experience to mountaineering in a challenging and remote glaciated environment. Moving and building camps, roped glacier travel and crevasse rescue, avalanche transceiver searches, and mountain climbing techniques are all on the agenda. During this course participants will learn how to live comfortably in mountainous snow covered glaciated terrain and have an understanding of what it takes to pursue longer climbs in the Alaska Range. Six days is a short amount of time to cover a large number of topics, move camp, and climb a peak, so prepare to be a sponge for information.

COURSE SPECIFICATIONS

Deposit: $500 (Balance Due: 60 days prior to the starting date.)

Group Limit: 9 students, 3 Instructors

Tuition Includes: Instruction, glacier flight, food and fuel, group camping equipment, group climbing equipment, camping at AMS in Talkeetna.

You are responsible for: Transportation to and from Talkeetna, lodging in Talkeetna, National Park Service Entrance Fee ($10), travelers' cancellation insurance, personal equipment and clothing.

FEATURES OF THIS COURSE

  • 1:3 instructor/student ratio, up to 9 students
  • Mountaineering skills progression: anchors, belaying, self-arrest, snow climbing
  • Crevasse rescue, roped glacier travel, and moving camp
  • One summit attempt
  • Glacier camping, winter survival skills
  • Avalanche awareness, rescue, and route finding
  • Leadership, expedition planning, and group dynamics

EXPEDITION STYLE AND REMOTENESS

AMS mountaineering courses are self-reliant expeditions that travel in a remote location in Denali National Park and Preserve. We do not have a standard location where we go every time. We prefer going to pristine areas where there are no other parties. There are more learning opportunities. It is difficult to teach about route finding when there is already a trail in place from the last group. It is only possible to have this agenda with the most experienced instructors whose judgment you can trust. Once the plane drops you off, if weather becomes unflyable, evacuation to modern medical facilities may take several days. Throughout the expedition students learn to enjoy living in a glaciated mountain environment, prepare awesome meals, care for themselves and each other, and climb "harder than they look" Alaskan mountains. AMS course format emphasizes hands-on learning and the application of new skills in a variety of terrain. AMS courses model climbing and camping techniques that prepare students to pursue mountaineering in the most severe environments.

ENVIRONMENT AND COURSE LOCATION

Denali National Park and Preserve is home to America's biggest and wildest mountains. Two days prior to the start date, your instructors decide their first choice glacier for the course. The decision is based on snow conditions and the best peaks to climb at the given time. There are many excellent locations in the Park, some first explored by AMS, so finding a suitable location to fulfill course goals is not difficult. Each course area, with its variety of terrain, beauty, and isolation, is challenging and demands respect. Climbing routes are chosen to fit the progression, gradually increasing in difficulty. Expect to be on snow and ice for the duration. Weather is extremely variable and changes without warning. Expect sun, wind, snow, even rain, and expect them all on the same day.

COURSE PROGRESSION

The goal of this course is to develop the skills and judgment necessary to pursue mountaineering in a remote glaciated environment. We want to prepare students to return to the Alaska Range without instructors and repeat what they accomplished during the course. Accordingly, instructors have an extensive class list and carefully thought out course progression to fulfill this goal. The transference of skills leads to the transference of responsibility, and by the end of the course, students are leading rope teams and making route finding decisions under their instructor's watchful eye.

FOOD

AMS provides all of the food for this course. Your instructors spend a day packing rations at AMS' rations facility. We believe that cooking nutritious meals you would also eat at home is an important part of expedition life. Looking forward to breakfast is a good start to any day; and looking forward to dinner helps you push harder. While there will be plenty of food, we recommend that you bring one pound of your favorite trail food, like deep fried bugs, as insurance that you have something you really like to eat.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

Each course is unique due to variables such as course area, participants, and environmental conditions. Working within these variables, our goal is for each student to accomplish the following objectives.

SAFETY AND JUDGMENT

AMS teaches mountaineering skills, which promote the health and safety of all expedition members. Each graduate is expected to:

  • manage the hazards of traveling and camping in a glaciated mountain environment
  • understand avalanche mechanics and techniques to avoid being caught
  • recognize and prevent cold injuries and altitude-related illnesses
  • display knowledge of personal limitations, and the judgment to stay within them

LEADERSHIP AND TEAMWORK

Students are exposed to techniques of outdoor leadership, teamwork, and expedition behavior. Each graduate is expected to:

  • display understanding of instructors' decision-making processes through discussion and clarification
  • model good expedition behavior: positive attitude, solution oriented, and desire to achieve group goals
  • effectively communicate ideas and concerns with individuals and within the group
  • participate and give 100% towards a safe expedition

ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

An important part of every course is to maintain minimum-impact techniques into our expedition strategy. Each graduate is expected to:

  • perform minimum-impact living and traveling skills appropriate to a glaciated environment
  • recognize the concern for maintaining pristine quality in wilderness areas

WINTER CAMPING

AMS courses teach and practice minimum-impact backcountry skills that are safe for the individual and the environment. Each graduate is expected to:

  • select a campsite, probe it, and build a fortified perimeter camp
  • maintain personal and group strength with effective camping, cooking, dressing, and personal hygiene skills
  • be organized, care and repair personal and group equipment
  • incorporate Leave No Trace techniques wherever possible

MOUNTAINEERING SKILLS

AMS has a responsibility to help build a solid foundation in climbing that will lead to a lifetime of enjoyment. Each graduate is expected to:

  • learn how to dress knots, coil a rope, and care for climbing equipment
  • place snow protection and build a bomb-proof anchor
  • demonstrate using a rope for a belay in a variety of situations
  • lay out a rope for glacier travel
  • know how to travel roped on a glacier and what to do in case of a crevasse fall
  • understand and build raising and lowering systems
  • demonstrate snow and ice climbing techniques and self arrest with an ice axe

SAMPLE ITINERARY

Below is a sample 6-day mountaineering course itinerary. Actual day to day activities of any course vary depending on course location, weather, and snow conditions.

Day 1 Activities: Meet 8am at AMS in Talkeetna with your instructors, muffins/tea/coffee provided, course orientation, individual gear check, lunch at AMS, register with NPS, climb fixed lines, final pack up and dress for the mountains, fly, build camp. Classes in Talkeetna: harnesses, basic knots, fixed line ascension, what to wear and how to pack for the plane; classes on glacier: scene safety, hygiene and sanitation, campsite selection, probing, perimeter camping, shovel use and care, tent platforms and walls, group outdoor kitchen, food id, stove use, basic cooking, evening class on "bomb proofing" camp, sleeping warm.

Day 2 Activities: Group breakfast, set up kitchen megamids, climbing ground school, basic crevasse fall scenarios, glacier tour/scout tomorrow's crevasse. Classes: Rope id and care, climbing protection, anchors, belaying, roping up for glacier travel, self-arrest with ski poles, crevasse fall scenarios, transferring the load to an anchor, snow shoeing, glacier travel techniques; evening discussion: altitude-related injuries, what to bring in a day pack, weather observations.

Day 3 Activities: Rope up and head to crevasse for the day, probe out and establish crevasse rescue training area, build anchors, lower and raise each other out of crevasse, ascend climbing rope out of crevasse, student-led rope teams. Classes: Lowering, tying off, transferring the load, raising systems, what to do with pack and sled; evening discussion: avalanche mechanics & classification, weather observations.

Day 4 Activities: Break down camp, pack sleds, travel to new location and build camp, prepare for peak ascent. Classes: Packing packs and sleds, caching, roping up with sleds, navigation & route finding, transceiver searches; evening discussion: cold injuries, weather observations.

Day 5 Activities: Weather observations, stability tests, summit attempt. Classes: Snow climbing techniques, running protection/belays, crampon use, snow stability tests, route finding; evening discussion on expedition behavior and leadership.

Day 6 Activities: Alpine start, pack up and return to airstrip, student led rope teams, prepare runway, fly back to Talkeetna, de-issue equipment. Classes: Packing runway, where to go from here.