High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS)


2019 HAMS Registration is now OPEN. 

The High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS) is for CMC members who are interested in learning and practicing the alpine skills that are needed to safely climb and enjoy high, glaciated mountains, including Mt. Rainier, Denali, the Andes, and the Himalayas! HAMS culminates in a high peak climb of Mt. Rainier, Mt Baker, Mt Adams or a similar high, glaciated peak.

The HAMS curriculum consists of a series of lectures and practice sessions on “Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions” module. The lectures and practices sessions are held at the AMC building in Golden, CO. Several training days for glacier travel, crevasse rescue, and glacier camping practice are also put on the calendar.  Students who complete HAMS will be able to demonstrate proficiency with advanced mountaineering technical skills, including:

  • roped glacier travel (including ice ax and crampon technique for ascending and descending, self-arrest, building snow anchors, executing a running belay, and using ascenders on fixed ropes)
  • crevasse rescue
  • glacier camping
  • basic ice climbing

The skills covered in the Glacier Travel module in the lectures and practice sessions can be applied during the training trips in January, February, and March  (refer to the schedule below). To complete HAMS , students must also complete a co-requisite module, HAMS Basic Ice Climbing; they must participate in an Expedition Camping and Couloir Climbing weekend in the spring; they must have climbed at least three Colorado snow couloirs; and they must participate on a high peak expedition trip, typically Mt. Rainier.

In addition to the technical skills associated with glacier travel that were listed above, the HAMS program will teach you what it takes to mount a successful expedition: planning, logistics, conditioning, nutrition, awareness of high-altitude medical issues, backcountry risk management, and most importantly, TEAMWORK.

All HAMS Senior Instructors have been on multiple expeditions to climb high, glaciated peaks – learn from those who have been there!

HAMS Pre-requisites:

This is not a school for beginners!  HAMS students should have BMS-equivalent rock and snow experience:  i.e., you must be proficient with climbing knots, belaying, rappelling, navigation, crampon and ice ax technique, self-arrest, glissading, and ascending a rope.
Most importantly, you must have proficiency climbing hard-snow couloirs, setting snow anchors, walking in crampons, executing a self arrest, and tying all relevant knots. 

The formal pre-requisites for admission to HAMS are:

  • Successful completion of the Basic Mountaineering Certificate or equivalent.  In particular, students must have completed the following modules (or have equivalent experience) from the CMC’s Technical Climbing School:
    • Navigation 2
    • Intermediate Rock
    • Technical Snow
    • Rock Self Rescue Level 1 (Intermediate Mountaineering Certificate course), since you must know how to ascend a rope.  Note that if Rock Self Rescue is your only missing pre-requisite, we will consider conducting a make-up class to cover the critical skill of ascending a rope.
  • A high peak alpine snow climb (as required for Basic Mountaineering certificate), e.g. Longs Peak via Lamb’s Slide and the Clark’s Arrow route.
  • Ideally, all HAMS students should have climbed at least three couloirs, but at a bare minimum we require at least one completed couloir climb (as required for Technical Snow), with the understanding that no students will be allowed to participate on a grad climb (e.g. Mt. Rainier) unless they have climbed at least three couloirs prior to the grad climb.  A single, incomplete couloir attempt is not sufficient to qualify for admission to HAMS.

HAMS Graduation and Alpinist Certification:

To graduate from HAMS, a student must complete the “Glacier Travel / High Peak Expeditions” module, demonstrate proficiency at crevasse rescue and glacier camping, complete at least three couloir climbs, and participate on a self-led (or “lightly-led”) expedition to a high glaciated peak, such as Mt. Rainier.  However, we feel that an accomplished high-peak alpinist should also have basic first aid training and avalanche training, so we award a HAMS Alpinist certificate to HAMS graduates who also achieve the following:

  •  A “D” hiking classification or equivalent experience
  • Completion of Wilderness First Aid course (which also happens to be required to achieve a “D” classification)
  • Completion of AIARE 1 avalanche training

2019 HAMS Schedule

The 2019 HAMS schedule will include the following lecture and field dates. Note that we may need to adjust the order of lecture topics based on availability of guest speakers.  Dates are FIXED and are not subject to change irrespective of weather or conditions. Please do NOT apply for HAMS if you cannot make the dates as scheduled. If a student misses more than one lecture or field day (unless written permission is given by the Director), the student may not be allowed to participate on a HAMS grad climb.

Lecture 1, Monday, Jan 7 2019 at AMC at 6pm MST

  • Introduction to HAMS
  • Understanding the Risks
  • Knot test
  • Group formation and Equipment/Gear (needed early so students can begin to plan to purchase gear needed for the class)

Lecture/Practice Session 2, Wednesday, Jan 16 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST

  • Training and Fitness
  • Roping up (divide ropes; kiwi coil), basics of roped travel
  • Review self-arrest
  • Review snow anchors
  • Intro to crevasse rescue

CMC Training Trip 1, Saturday, Jan 19 2019

  • Rope up
  • Roped travel
  • Self arrest
  • Snow anchors
  • Crevasse Rescue (if time allows)

Lecture/Practice Session 3, Wednesday, Jan 23 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST

  • Field Day 1 Debrief
  • Nutrition
  • Crevasse rescue practice
HAMS Basic Ice module wall night, Wednesday, Jan 30 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST
HAMS Basic Ice module field trip, Friday – Sunday, Feb 1-3 2019 at Ouray Ice Park
Note:  a HAMS-specific Basic Ice module will be taught by HAMS, so do not register for this module at this time. (N.B. Cost of the HAMS basic module is separate from the HAMS lecture series fee)

Lecture/Practice Session 4, Wednesday, Feb 6 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST

  • Running belay / passing pro
  • Anchors
  • Sleds
  • Crevasse rescue practice

CMC Training Trip 2, Saturday, Feb 9 2019

  • Rope up
  • Roped travel with belay to cross a snow bridge
  • Running belay
  • Ascend / descend a fixed line
  • Crevasse Rescue

Lecture/Practice Session 5, Wednesday Feb 20 2019 at AMC  at 6:30pm MST

  • Team Dynamics
  • Lessons Learned in the Backcountry
  • Crevasse rescue practice

CMC Training Trip 3,  Saturday, Feb 23 2019

  • High peak ridge climb
  • Glacier travel skills practice

Lecture/Practice Session , Wednesday, Feb 27 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST

  • Expedition planning (including guided vs. unguided)
  • Z Haul Practice
  • Intro to advanced techniques

Lecture/Practice Session 7,  Wednesday, March 06 at 6:30pm MST

Grad Climb Planning Meeting:  Wednesday, March 13 2019 at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Expedition Camping Weekend Field Trip (2 nights),  Friday Night – Sat – Sunday,  March 22-23-24 2019
(This class is required of ALL students so please reserve the ENTIRE weekend. Crevasse rescue final exam will take place during the weekend)

Final Lecture/Graduation Session 8,  Wednesday, March 27 2019 at 6:30pm MST


Activities AFTER the conclusion of the HAMS Lecture Series:

Couloir Climbs:  Grad Climb training climbs – April through June, trip schedule TBD (and weather-dependent).                      Note:  to qualify for a grad climb, you must have climbed at least two couloirs with the teammates and trip leaders on your grad trip.

HAMS Glaciated Peak Grad Climb (N.B. cost of grad climb is SEPARATE from the HAMS lecture series fee)

  • High Glaciated Peak expedition, e.g. Mt. Rainier, Mt Adams, etc:  June or July 2019



HAMS Class Lectures, Practice Sessions, HAMS Basic Ice Module, and Expedition Camping:

Registrations on or before December 1, 2018: $500

Registrations after December 1, 2018: $550


HAMS Glaciated Peak Grad Climb: TBD (N.B. cost of grad climb is separate from the HAMS lecture series fee)

ALL applications must be submitted by December 31, 2018 !  Class size will be limited.
Once approved by the Director, you will be provided a registration link.

For more info, please contact the 2019 HAMS Director, Brandon Daniell at [email protected]

HAMS Application Form:

Applicants will be notified of acceptance starting in October 2019 and thereafter.

Application Form – MS Word format (preferred)

Application Form – PDF format

Other Links:

CO Avalanche Info Center

CMC Denver Group

Backcountry Snowsports Initiative