Alpine Scrambling Course

2018 Alpine Scrambling Course (ASC)

ASC Mission

To provide the skills necessary for CMC members to safely climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks.

Click here to register for the Alpine Scrambling Course (ASC)

Should the course fill, CMC members can get on the Wait List by going through the standard enrollment process.  No tuition money will be paid until that member is moved to the official Participant List.  Should there be an opening, moving to the Participant List is not automatic but will be done by the course director.  Individuals will be notified by email and will be asked to contact the CMC office to now pay their enrollment tuition.

Beginning in 2018 there will be a reconfiguration of the traditional curriculum: The new ASC Program now consists of two parts:  The ASC Course and the Elective Scrambles.
ASC Course:

Safety Lecture #1:      Thu, May 17       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
Safety Lecture #2:      Thu, May 24       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
Contingency Day:      Thu, May 31       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
Skills Field Day:       Students select Sat, June 2 or Sun, June 3    Location: TBD   Time: 5:00am – 6:00pm

Alternate Field Day in case of bad weather:  Sat, June 9

Attendance at both Safety Lectures and the Skills Field Day are a prerequisite to participate in the Elective Scrambles field days.  Within the current session there is no provision to make-up a missed ASC Course event so please ensure you are available for these dates.

Elective Scrambles:

Throughout the summer, students that successfully complete the ASC Course will be provided the opportunity to participate with the Elective Scrambles.  Successful completion of at least three, each progressively more challenging, Elective Scrambles will be required for the student to complete the ASC Program.  Completing the ASC Program will then be noted in the student’s CMC profile under “My Schools.”

The Elective Scrambles will be arranged so that the month of June will be dedicated to easier scrambles which will help the student immerse more gradually as well as helping the instructor team determine suitability for the more challenging follow-on scrambles.  July will be dedicated to scrambles of moderate difficulty and August will be focused on the harder more challenging scrambles.  Students are expected to work through this progression in a sequential logical manner.  On a best-effort basis there may be make-up opportunities throughout the summer.

The Elective Scrambles will typically be rated at the Denver Group hard C hiking classification level, but some may even be in the easy D classification range.  C classified trips can be up to 15 miles roundtrip and/or up to 3,500 feet in elevation gain; D trips can be over 15 miles roundtrip and/or over 3,500 feet in elevation gain.


  • Course Tuition:  $115 for Denver Group and non-Denver Group members

Required Equipment:  Approximately $260

  • Ice axe with waist leash – $80
  • Adjustable climbing helmet – $60
  • Seat harness – $65
  • Locking carabineers (one large and one small) – $25
  • Webbing and accessory cord – $13
  • Text book:  A Hiker’s Guide to Scrambling Safely by Tom Morin – (Hardcopy book out of print; E-book available at no additional cost once accepted into the ASC Course)
  • Guide book:  Colorado Scrambles by Dave Cooper – $21 at the CMC office – (The guidebook will be an important aid during the Elective Scrambles)

The required equipment will be discussed in the first student meeting so please refrain from buying until after that date.  However, if you get an REI 20% coupon and would like to purchase early, then consult the Supplemental Equipment Information document (link below).  The last page in this document provides specific brand and model equipment recommendations.


  • CMC Wilderness Trekking School (WTS) with successful ice axe self-arrest during WTS snow day
  • Denver Group C hiking classification (contact the CMC office with questions)
  • Very good physical condition (refer to the ASC Self-Evaluation Process link below)
  • Age 14 or older


Course Overview

Alpine scrambling is a form of mountaineering that primarily involves off-trail travel.  Off-trail travel can consist of steep rock, loose rock, loose talus, scree, low angle snow, stream crossings, and bushwhacking; sometimes all on one trip.

Since most Colorado summits are only accessible by scramble routes, the skills acquired in this course will provide the means to reach the summits of the Colorado 14ers as well as hundreds of other peaks.  The Alpine Scrambling Course is also a great choice for those interested in climbing semi-technical non-standard routes.

While much of the enjoyment of scrambling is freedom from technical gear and complicated rock climbing techniques, unroped scrambling in exposed situations is potentially one of the more dangerous aspects of mountaineering.  For this reason, education and training specific to scrambling is important for safe and confident climbing.

The ASC student will practice elementary technical techniques in preparation for the more challenging scrambles.  An initial review of ice axe self-arrest, basic map and compass, and fit-and-usage of the seat harness and helmet will all provide for a more confident and safe climbing environment.

Leaders of scrambling trips will carry a rope and some protection gear during the field days.  The technical gear may be used for security on exposed sections, or to facilitate a safer retreat in case of difficulty.  Sustained use of the technical gear is not taught in this course.  ASC students need to be comfortable, or plan on getting comfortable, with exposure since that is a significant aspect of scrambling.

Although many find the ASC a comfortable bridge between WTS and the harder modules within the Technical Climbing School, others find the ASC an end in itself.  For those with modest goals and aspirations, the ASC will provide a rewarding experience.  For those with more lofty ambitions, the ASC will add skills, confidence, and conditioning in anticipation of moving to the TCS program.

In addition, CMC members currently taking TCS modules, or for graduates of the TCS, the ASC also offers real-world scrambling experience allowing those individuals that prefer to learn while doing an additional opportunity to broaden their suite of skills.

And as a few final comments, the physical and mental demands of the ASC are not to be underestimated.  A typical 4:00am meet time, long approach hikes while carrying a 20 lb pack, challenging scrambles with exposed climbing, and a late afternoon return to the trailhead, can take its toll on the mind and body.  Please consider this when applying.

For those individuals who have never scrambled or believe they may have issues overcoming their concerns with exposure, you are highly encouraged to keep an open and flexible weekend schedule.  The scrambling team leaders will schedule easier scrambles earlier in the season allowing students to gradually increase their comfort level with this new activity.  Missing one of these early easier scrambles may result in attempting a later and more difficult climb before you are mentally prepared for it.  This can be discouraging, and has led past students to resign prematurely.
Learn More

You may consider the following sources of information beneficial:

For additional information, please contact the ASC Director, Rich McAdams:

Home: 303.697.6344

Support Aid for Leader Training (SALT)

If you are a Denver Group trip leader, working toward becoming a trip leader, or an instructor in a Denver Group school, you may be eligible for free tuition for this course under the SALT program.  Click the link for more information as well as to access the SALT application form.  Please note, for this tuition assistance you will receive a promotional code from SALT that you will use to enroll in this school Click here for more information.

1-Ascending 2-Crossing Snowfield 3-Summit Success 4-Descending