Mountaineering and Denali Prep Course in Telluride, Colorado

Colorado offers excellent terrain to teach mountaineering skills applicable to a big, glaciated peak and it is (for most people) much easier to get to than Alaska. While the mountains surrounding Telluride don’t hold glaciers on their flanks, we can still practice glacier travel, rescue and risk mitigation technique in slightly lower consequence terrain in a high alpine setting. The San Juans also offer a great opportunity for you to test your fitness at high altitude and practice many of the essential skills you will use on your next big objective.

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Our highly experienced, AMGA-track guides share knowledge that they have learned over years guiding mountains in Alaska, South America, and the Himalaya, to teach a curriculum designed to help the beginner or novice mountaineer learn the skills to travel competently in an alpine environment. Climbers are welcome to travel on either backcountry skis, split-board, or snowshoes.

Our Basic Mountaineering Course includes four days of instruction, covering the following:

  • Camp selection and fortification, campcraft, 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

  • Introduction to anchors and belay techniques

  • Roped travel, 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


**Mountain Trip operates under a special use permit in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

Mountain Trip provides services and employment opportunities regardless of an individual’s ethnic or cultural heritage, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or physical handicap.

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 on the trail. Please plan ahead with clothing and boots purchased for your course so you can be certain that your gear fits you well.  Descending a peak is not the place to discover that your old shell is no longer waterproof, or that your boots give you blisters.

Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides.  We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your adventure.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion 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.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking SocksTrekking socks do not need to be as thick or warm as mountaineering socks. Most trekkers prefer a light to medium weight, wool or wool/synthetic blend sock for use with trekking shoes. Make certain that your socks do not make your trekking shoes too tight, as this will result in cold toes. Aconcagua climbers should bring 2 - 3 pair for the trekking portion of the climb. Nepal trekkers should bring 3-4 pair for the trip. For a one-day climb or hike, you'll only need the one pair.

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
Soft Shell PantsSoft Shell pants are the workhorse on Denali, you'll be wearing these day in and day out on most expeditions. On peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, you can wear them in lieu of your hard shell pants for much of the expedition.
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.

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. Whether you choose a self inflating pad or one that requires some pumping to inflate, select a pad that is warm and comfortable.

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 60-70 liter backpack will fork well for overnight and multi-day treks. Light is right! Look for a pack weighing around five pounds.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing HarnessAn aspect of technical climbing is hanging in a harness. Having a padded, comfortable harness will make you much happier than will a thinly padded, alpine harness, and, should you find yourself at a semi hanging belay, your legs are less likely to fall asleep from lack of circulation.
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!!!
CameraSmall, light weight point and shoot cameras are most popular among climbers. Be sure to bring extra memory and batteries!
Personal Music/Video DeviceiPhones or iPods and the like are really nice on a long trip. Consider how you will keep it charged, and bring whatever is necessary to keep you in time to the beat.
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
Water BottlesThe ability to carry 2 liters of water will help you stay hydrated throughout the day.
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, and navigation.

Day one is meant to lay a framework upon which we will build 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 hills 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 and 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 days 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.


Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for guests who must cancel climbs which they have planned for a long time. Guests must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning trips and contracting guides for specific dates, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in organizing our excursions. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all guests. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all excursions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• We require payment in full for all of our Colorado excursions.  Submission of payment constitutes your agreement to our Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• Any cancellation 7+ days before your scheduled date to climb will receive a 50% refund of all fees paid to Mountain Trip.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 7 days prior to your scheduled trip date.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel an excursion prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that climb shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.


Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides

• Meals during the course while in the field.

• All necessary protective equipment for the trip (harness, climbing helmet, ice axe, crampons, etc)

• Assistance arranging for post-trip activities in the area


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Travel to and from Telluride.

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list (please, just ask us if you need anything!)

• Accommodation in Colorado

• Travel and/or rescue insurance (The COSAR card is an inexpensive way to reimburse local rescue groups for costs incurred during a rescue in Colorado – for more information, click HERE)

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the climbing area due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides

• Costs as a result of force majeure


General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for an outing with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on a climb in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific meeting time and place for your excursion. Transportation to the meeting point is to be provided by you, unless otherwise arranged with Mountain Trip. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your climb.

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the excursion and choosing an excursion that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your excursion.

While on the trip, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from an excursion.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave a climb due to an illness.