High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS)


HAMS is NOT taking place in 2021

Due to the fact that HAMS 2020 was halted because of COVID, the HAMS instructors have decided to focus Winter 2021 on helping the HAMS 2020 students complete the course and do their grad climb.

We look forward to a new HAMS Class in January 2022.

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 rock, snow, and anchor 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 CMC’s Alpine Climbing School or equivalent.
  • Successful completion of Basic Anchors. ALL STUDENTS must know how to build a SERENE anchor. An understanding of how to transfer the load and extend the anchor if needed is paramount.
  • A high peak alpine snow climb (as required for ACS certificate), e.g. Longs Peak via Lamb’s Slide and the Clark’s Arrow route.
  • Ideally, all applicants 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). A single, incomplete couloir attempt is not sufficient to qualify for admission to HAMS. 

–  While not a pre-requisite, AIARE 1 and Rock Rescue are highly recommended for all applicants.

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 two couloir climbs after HAMS, 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

2020 HAMS Schedule

The 2020 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. Every year students do not graduate HAMS due to lack of attendance.

Monday, Jan 6 2020: Lecture 1, at AMC at 6pm MST

Wednesday, Jan 15 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 2at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Saturday, Jan 18 2020: Field Day at St Mary’s

Wednesday, Jan 22 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 3, at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Wednesday, Jan 29 2020: HAMS Basic Ice module wall night, at AMC at 6:30pm MST
Friday – Sunday, Jan 31 – Feb 2 2020: HAMS Basic Ice module field trip, at Ouray Ice Park. Students must pay for their own accommodation.

Wednesday, Feb 5 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 4, at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Saturday, Feb 8 2020: Field Day at St Mary’s

Wednesday Feb 19 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 5, at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Saturday, Feb 22 2020: High Ridge Training Trip

Wednesday, Feb 26 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 6, at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Wednesday, March 04 2020: Lecture/Practice Session 7,  at 6:30pm MST

Wednesday, March 11 2020: Grad Climb Planning Meeting, at AMC at 6:30pm MST

Friday Night – Sat – Sunday,  March 20-21-22 2020: Expedition Camping Weekend Field Trip (2 nights),  
***(This weekend is required of ALL students so please reserve the ENTIRE weekend. Crevasse rescue final exam will take place during the weekend.)

Wednesday, March 25 2020: Final Lecture/Graduation Session 8, 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 participate on 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:  No HAMS graduates will be allowed to participate on a HAMS affiliated grad climb (e.g. Mt. Rainier) unless they have climbed at least two couloirs after the end of HAMS and prior to the grad climb.


HAMS Class Lectures, Practice Sessions, Ouray Weekend, and Expedition Camping:

Registrations on or before December 1, 2019: $600

Registrations after December 1, 2019: $650

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, 2019 !  Class size will be limited.
Once approved by the Director, you will be provided a registration link.

For more info, please contact the 2020 HAMS Director, Brandon Daniell at [email protected]

HAMS Application Form:

Applicants will be notified of acceptance starting in September 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